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Newham summer projects making a 'huge difference' win five-figure grant

PUBLISHED: 09:00 18 August 2016

Students with their go-karts at Beckton Skills Centre

Students with their go-karts at Beckton Skills Centre

Archant

Sports, building go-karts and leadership training are all set to continue after a five-figure grant was agreed for youth groups.

Dreams come true for budding mechanics

Mike Fitzpatrick – who has worked as a mechanic for longer than he can remember – tutors young people at the Beckton Skills Centre.

The summer project consists of learning how to fix up go-karts and ends with a grand finale of a race – with young workers put behind the wheels of the karts they focused on.

“It gives them a chance to get their hands dirty and see what it’s all about,” Mike, 54, said.

“If they show an aptitude for it, we can help them get onto an apprenticeship scheme and they can do it full-time.”

One keen young mechanic interested in taking the offer of a career is Amaan Hussain, 15, who lives in Barking Road, East Ham.

“I’ve always wanted to be a mechanic,” the former New Directions student said.

“I’ve been playing with spanners and things all my life – it’s great to be able to use my hands like this.”

Amaan said he always struggled at school – finding it hard to “sit still for so long” – and said it’s not a problem for him to sacrifice his summer holidays.

“It’s better than sitting at home by myself,” he said.

Another boy happy to have dirty hands is Amaan Azhar, 16, who lives in Ilford. “I’m really excited about the race,” he said. “I hope to have my own garage in the future.”

The announcement was made as East End Community Foundation (EECF) members visited two of the 10 sites that will benefit from an £80,000 fund focused on providing training and fun for young people during the school summer holidays.

Through Newham Giving – which brings together EECF, Mayor Sir Robin Wales’s vision and the donations of Northern Trust, Berwin Leighton & Paisner and the Bank of Nova Scotia – programmes are sponsored to help youngsters into careers and keep them out of trouble.

EECF CEO Tracey Walsh, who joined funders on a tour of two projects on Thursday last week, said: “This is about getting young people involved in positive summer activities.

“We’re aiming at boosting their chances of finding a job, reducing anti-social behaviour and improving life chances.”

Changing lives by winning respect

The secret to bringing down crime, breaking gangs and building a better future is simple – gain respect and offer plenty to do.

That’s the philosophy of Steve Allgood, youth and community manager at West Silvertown Village Community Foundation.

“When we first came here, crime was through the roof,” Steve, who lives in East Ham, said.

“There were gangs around, muggings were common – it had one of the highest crime rates in Newham.”

But now – after years of hard work – Steve is happy to say the area is safe.

“We’ve got a very strong community here – almost all the young people have been through the door at some point in their lives.”

With sports, chess, self-defence classes and more on offer, the young people are rarely bored – a critical component in keeping down crime in the area.

“I’m cheap compared to the police, courts and the rest,” Steve said. “It’s the long-term work we do that’s essential.”

Milan Nwosisi, a towering 16-year-old attendee, is someone Steve has watched grow up at the foundation.

“The most fun we have is playing with the younger kids,” Milan said.

“I’m going to go to college and study physical education and economics – I really want to be a physiotherapist for athletes.

“Just growing up with my friends here, I’ve seen things change a lot.”

One project the scheme, which has been running for three years, is funding is the Beckton Skills Centre, in Hillcroft Road, where young people are taught how to build go-karts.

Another is the West Silvertown Village Community Foundation, in Evelyn Road, where people aged between 14 and 19 are encouraged to create and lead a programme of activities for younger children.

Speaking at the Beckton centre, which has been awarded £9.500, Tracey said: “This project gives young people the opportunity to learn some skills, have fun and give something new a try.

“What’s great is they don’t need to keep doing it – they can have a taste and, if they like it, go to college knowing they want to do it rather than ending up dropping out.”

Basketball in the Britannia VillageBasketball in the Britannia Village

In West Silvertown, which has received £9,000 from the foundation, as many as 100 children a day come along to play football, learn about animals and be trained in how to organise events.

“We started in 2008,” Dave Mann, development director at the Britannia Village community centre, said. “Crime halved – and our work is largely responsible.

“Everything we do is about creating positivity – we work with the children from the age of seven or eight and we earn their respect.”

The 52-year-old, who lives in Gatcombe Road – a short walk from the centre – said he was thrilled new funding had been secured.

Amaan Azhar, Vikaash Patel, Amaan Hussain and Mike FitzpatrickAmaan Azhar, Vikaash Patel, Amaan Hussain and Mike Fitzpatrick

“We can make a huge difference to their lives, and if you look at this area now, it’s improved so much,” he said.

“I’m sure the work we do saves many times more money than it costs to run.”

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