Lawrence Weston charity smoothing the way for youth
David Clensy discovers how a juice and smoothie bar is transforming the lives of young people in Lawrence Weston
IT may just look like a fruit smoothie cafe – not the most common sight on the ranks of shops in Lawrence Weston, but not that unexceptional in the city – yet in truth, there is far more being squeezed than the oranges and lemons behind the counter.
In fact, lives are being changed and shaped for the better beyond the doors of the Juicy Blitz juice and smoothie bar.
The "youth involvement scheme", which is run by the Bread Youth Project charity, is currently celebrating 10 years, nestled between the local shops of Ridingleaze on the north Bristol estate.
Miele S8390 Silence "Best Buy" Vacuum Cleaner - FREE BAGS Worth...View details
The Miele S8390 Silence Solution cylinder vacuum cleaner offers an 'Silent System Plus' 1200 watt motor and Miele's AirTeQ floorhead.
Best Buy Vacuum Cleaner with FREE pack of bags - Worth £15.
Terms: Limited Stock Offer - FREE 24 - 48 Hour Delivery to most UK Postcodes - 1 Hour delivery slot with tracking.
Contact: 01664 491439
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The team of youth workers that run the project are celebrating the anniversary in the best possible way – they are marking their decade of service to the young people of Lawrence Weston with news of the renewal of Lottery funding, which will allow the organisation to keep going despite the economic climate.
The organisation has been awarded £486,277 from the lottery's "Reaching Communities" fund – which will enable the project to continue until at least 2017.
"The juice bar was opened in 2002, initially by YOUR – Youth Owning Urban Regeneration, and was later taken on by the Bread Youth Project," explains project manager Emma Rigby.
"But when the initial SRB – single regeneration budget – funding dried up in 2006, we were forced to close for 18 months, until the Lottery stepped in and gave us £498,000 in 2007 – which was great news for the charity and for the young people of Lawrence Weston, which comes out as one of the worst areas in the South West in terms of social deprivation – especially in matters of education, employment and health."
But times have changed since 2007, and with the onset of the recession, Emma and her fellow youth workers were understandably concerned for the future of the project when the 2007 lottery money finally ran out this year.
"We were concerned – the four other Bread Youth Projects around the city have already had to close because of lack of funding, so it was a very real possibility that the same might happen to us.
"But we were rescued by the lottery. Firstly they awarded us £10,000 to keep us going until August 2013, and then last month we discovered the wonderful news that we were to receive this £468,277 cheque to allow us to continue our work from 2013 until 2017. It was a huge relief."After all, the project really is far more than a smoothie bar – it is a series of youth empowerment schemes run around the "hub" of the smoothie bar – which was designed to encourage healthier living.
"We target 11 to 21-year-olds, though 62 per cent are between 13 and 16. The young people around here were used to the idea of larger youth centres – we have two youth centres on the estate, but they always involved large numbers of teenagers gathering together for activities.
"By keeping sessions down to small groups, we have been able to connect with vulnerable youngsters who would have been too shy to engage with large groups of their peers."
The project plays host to 270 young people on average each year, with 25 of the older teenagers acting as project leaders.
"The idea of involving the young people themselves in the running of the clubs is an essential part of what we do," Emma says.
"It's our way of empowering young people to develop all sorts of organisational abilities and to be able to take increasing levels of responsibility – it gives them a range of skills that equips them for their future in the workplace."
For youngsters like 17-year-old Amy Hawourth, the centre has had an important impact.
"I didn't have much confidence socially before I started coming here five years ago," she says. "I used to get into a lot of trouble at school, and was kicked out of five different schools in a single year when I was in Year 10.
"But my naughtiness in class was largely down to my lack of confidence – being disruptive was my way of covering my lack of confidence.
"That's why I went on to volunteer as a leader within the project, so I could help the younger people who were just starting out."
Now Amy has got her life back on track – she has returned to college to catch up on the elementary maths and English that she missed during her chaotic school career, and harbours dreams of doing voluntary work in Third World countries.
It's a similar story for Blue James, 17, who also found living in Lawrence Weston oppressive as he was growing up.
"I was the victim of homophobic bullying at school," he explains. "And my way of deflecting it was by playing up a lot in class. I even turned to bullying others myself. In 2007 I was given 'early study leave' – that is, I was basically kicked out of school.
"I started coming here because I didn't have any friends outside of school, and one of my school friends told me about this place. So I thought I should give it a go.
"Immediately it felt like walking into a room full of mates, and it's always been like that – I love it here."
Blue also changed his behaviour, taking on the responsibility of becoming a leader on the project, and has now taken up a place at college studying beauty therapies.
Since joining the project three years ago, Blue has given more than 500 hours to running activities, and was recognised for the progress he has made with an award at the Avon and Somerset Constabulary's Children and Young People awards earlier this year.
Self-confidence was also an issue for 19-year-old John Denver, who grew up in the care system, but came out of his shell when he started attending the Juicy Blitz cafe.
"It's been a place where I have been able to receive a lot of emotional support," says John. "I have been particularly involved in helping to run one of the healthy living projects, PHEW – Physical Health Equals Well-being – which has given me a real confidence boost, as well as providing me with useful experience that may help me in the future. It's been a great place for me."
The project is currently looking for voluntary trustees. For more details about how you can help, visit the website at www.breadyouthproject.org.uk.