Gallery: Busy time ahead for Felixstowe’s Level Two youth project
IN the past decade, the lives of thousands of youngsters have been touched by the youth workers of the Level Two project in Felixstowe.
Children of all ages have attended holiday clubs, a wide range of exciting fun activities, or drop-in sessions to just meet friends and chill-out after-school.
Others have used its services to help them deal with problems which can otherwise blight young lives – gaining advice and support on a variety of sensitive and personal matters such as health, careers, sexual health and education, homelessness, exclusion from school, unemployment and debt, or to learn vital life skills.
Others take advantage of its facilities as a safe and peaceful place to do homework away from the hurly burly of some home environments.
Youth workers regularly meet with young people in and around the town, while doing detached youth work, and its youth workers have also carried out outreach work, including the Mums and Tums group for young parents.
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Its programme content is drawn up in response to identified needs and feedback from young people.
On average between 20 and 40 young people attend the open access youth club sessions.
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Last year, the total number of contacts with young people was 4,963, compared to 2,945 in 2010 – an increase of 60 per cent.
The number of different young people helped was 364, of whom 237 visited on three or more occasions, a 70pc increase.
The team has been there for every youngster who has needed its help, and now after ten years is not only celebrating a special anniversary but looking forward to pressing ahead with new ideas to help even more young people. They team has appointed a new project manager, Shez Southernwood and is trying to secure more lottery funding to help with its running costs.
Level Two is run by the Felixstowe Youth Development Group, which has a vision “to promote the welfare of young people aged 11 to 19 through supportive relationships and positive experiences designed to enhance their personal and social development”.
The group first ran a drop-in project in 1994 called The Zone in premises next to Felixstowe Town Hall.
Then in 2002 – thanks to lottery backing – it launched Level Two in premises above Tesco in the town centre.
It was a highly-successful base for the project, enabling it to help about 800 youngsters every year.
However, when the recession hit the project was one of many left fighting for diminishing funds available from trusts, councils and foundations with its struggle for funding even leaving it facing the threat of closure at one point.
In the end the management team took the decision to move – relocating to a smaller base in Walton House in High Street, Walton.
Although smaller than their previous home, the new premises has office space and rooms set aside for one-to-one mentoring for teenagers, and officials say the move has been a success and enabled them to expand the services offered.
The youth group also now uses the youth and community education centre in the grounds of Felixstowe Academy’s Maidstone Campus, Maidstone Road, for open sessions and activities requiring more space.
Chairman David Rowe said: “The past year has seen Level Two as the main provider of youth work in Felixstowe.
“We continue to provide a wide range of services and activities for young people including open sessions at the Community Education Centre, mentoring, advice and support, dance sessions, health matters drop-in at the academy, Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme and a number of special events and projects. The numbers of young people has grown, particularly at the open sessions.
“The management board has been strengthened with a number of new members. This has broadened our skill base and places the project in a very strong position to continue to move forward.
“As predicted last year, finances have been tight but we have continued to attract funding from local councils and other public sector bodies as well as securing funding from a number of trusts. We are also fortunate to be well supported by the local community who continue to assist with our financial needs.”
Next year is again set to be a challenge as funding cuts continue to have an effect, but the board firmly believes there continues to be a need for Level Two’s work and is looking forward to developing the project to meet the needs of the town’s young people.
SUPPORTERS of Level Two are being encouraged to help boost the project’s funds by using its new Localgiving.com webpage.
Localgiving is launching a new campaign called Grow Your Tenner to encourage new supporters to make a one-time or ongoing monthly donations via the website by matching up to �10 per donation.
From September 25, there will be a pot of �500,000 to match donations.
The Community Foundation Network scheme will match the cash up to �10 – making �10 donations worth �20 – until the pot is gone, raising awareness and funds for local charities and community groups across England.
NEW project manager at Felixstowe’s Level Two, Shez Southernwood says she is very excited about her new role – and developing the youth centre’s work.
A former Miss East Anglia, Shez began her working life in 1984 as a performer, enjoying performing worldwide alongside many household names on cruise ships and at international cabaret venues.
In 1993, she opened Southernwood Stage School and gave her time and energy to teaching rather than globetrotting.
More recently Shez has been working as principal coach of the highly-successful cheer squad Team Spirit.
Shez – a mum of three and a grandmother to four-year-old Joshua – wanted to use her care, passion and drive to make a positive difference in the lives of young people and so in 2002 began a professional career in youth work.
She started out working for Suffolk County Council, before moving into the private sector. Over the past decade, she has worked successfully in many youth work settings, including with young travellers, and in schools.
“Over the last ten years I have seen many changes in the provision of services for young people in Suffolk,” said Shez.
“I am really excited about the future for young people in Felixstowe and the surrounding area.
“This new opportunity will enable me to work closely with the Felixstowe Academy as it develops over the coming months, and also to give a voice for our young people in the exciting plans that are developing in our town.
“We are also delighted to be included as one of the Mayor’s Charities for the year.”
n To donate, visit www.localgiving.com/leveltwoyouthproject
n New members are being sought for the Level Two management board. The team is specifically looking for someone to assist with the website and also people interested in helping with fundraising.
n For further information contact company secretary Roy Yates on 01394 272521 or e-mail email@example.com