YMCA tackles youth issues

THE behaviour of some troublesome Clevedon teens has been improved thanks to the work of a youth organisation in the town.

Every Friday evening since August last year, the YMCA in Marson Road has been opening its doors to teenagers to give them a safe place in which to meet up with friends.

As a result, problems with teenagers gathering in the town centre have been reduced and the behaviour of some youths has been completely changed for the better.

As part of Y Fridays, volunteers and staff put on activities including basketball, table football and games.

However, the majority of the youths will go to the YMCA just to sit and chat with their friends, an opportunity some do not get at home.

Youth worker Neil Wylie said: “During the winter we could have anything up to 80 young people coming and going through the doors in one evening.

“Some just sit in the lobby and watch TV. They may just come for a couple of hours and be together.

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“They have established we are a safe place and that they can trust us. Some of them will also come on a Friday specifically if they have got something to talk about.”

Clevedon’s police team has welcomed the Y Friday sessions, which are for youngsters in school years nine and above, and the PCSOs make regular visits to keep in contact with the youngsters attending.

PCSO Caroline Harris said: “The problems we have with youngsters gathering during the evenings have not been cleared completely but the kids having somewhere to go has had a positive effect on their behaviour on a Friday night.

“90 per cent of the children that are out are not causing any problems - they are just meeting in groups.”

The YMCA has 40 volunteers, each giving up one or two Friday evenings a month to help run the sessions along with one paid staff member.

Neil said: “It is creating a community cohesion. When the kids see the volunteers around town they will say hello to them.

“We would not be able to stay open if it wasn’t for our volunteers.”

As well as providing teenagers with somewhere to go, the YMCA has also been able to help some youths on a more personal basis, for example, by helping them with college applications or helping those who are homeless.

With the lighter evenings and recent warmer weather, the numbers attending the Y Friday sessions have reduced, with youngsters keen to get together outside.

In the hope of continuing their engagement with the teenagers, the YMCA staff and volunteers now plan to visit the groups gathering in different locations around Clevedon to carry out activities with them and still give them the chance to talk to someone if they need to.

* The YMCA is hoping to encourage more people to volunteer as well as help raise funds for the organisation this year.

The staff need to raise �15,000 for the period leading to April 2012 to allow the YMCA to continue the wealth of activities and sessions it puts on both for youngsters and other groups within the community.

Neil Wylie said: “This is going to be a challenging year. We will always survive but we want to prosper.

“We are reliant on volunteers. Our staff also dedicate their free time to the YMCA.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or helping to raise funds can call Clevedon YMCA on 01275 878405.

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