Future is bright for borough's youth

Children tackle a climbing wall at Future Youth Zone, Dagenham

The Youth Zone is a purpose-built facility designed to show young people they can dream big about their futures. - Credit: Future Youth Zone

When I first walked into my local youth club as a teenager, you would probably have forgiven me for walking straight back out.

The youth club was based in a neglected building that wasn’t fit for a game of indoor bowls let alone 20 or so teenagers looking for something to do on a Friday night. The pool table was wonky, the table tennis bats falling apart and the CD player (probably playing Return of the Mack) would stutter every time someone got near to it.

However, there was one reason I went back every week. The volunteers who ran the youth club were incredible.

They listened to us when it felt like nobody else would, they supported us when we faced challenges and they provided opportunities that helped us to develop.

I grew into a confident, independent and ambitious person because of the youth club and the people who committed their time to supporting me. That experience has driven me to want to ensure that every young person has access to positive places to go.

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Fast forward a few years and I feel privileged to be the chief executive of Future Youth Zone in Barking and Dagenham.

The Youth Zone is a purpose-built facility designed to show young people that they can dream big about their futures. Members can take part in more than 20 activities every evening, from beat boxing to boxing, nail art to fine art and cooking to climbing.

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The building is incomparable to the youth club I went to as a teenager but there is one thing that remains the same.

Young people come back time after time because of the positive relationships they build with youth workers who are passionate about ensuring young people have the very best future.

Since we opened in May 2019 more than 7,700 young people have become members of the Youth Zone. I view that as 7,700 opportunities to positively transform young people’s lives in exactly the same way that mine was.

Thanks to Barking and Dagenham Post for providing some space each month for me to champion young people and share my views and thoughts on the youth sector. If you’re interested in our work please feel free to get in touch via enquiries@futureyouthzone.org

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