A charitable youth service in Walthamstow is looking for help after being forced to leave its premises, writes Steve Barnabis
After my cousin was stabbed to death, I decided to do something to help young people in Walthamstow avoid a life of crime.
The Soul Project was created in February 2006 – the ‘soul’ standing for Support Our Unique Londoners.
Its main aim is engaging young people in positive activities, to promote social inclusion, and diverting them away from anti-social and offending behaviour.
We provided a safe place for young people to meet with their friends, have fun, and take part in activities that would help develop employability skills and raise their educational attainment.
Our Family Activity Centre in Wood Street had a music/video studio, radio station, events hall, youth space, and mentoring and counselling rooms. Located on the ground floor was Tumble In The Jungle, a soft play area for children under eight years and their families. It had a place for children’s birthday parties, themed events, a sensory room, and so much more.
Tumble In The Jungle generated an income so that we could provide the activities for the older children for free. This community space had been going for twelve years, with more than 3,000 young people benefiting from our youth engagement programmes. We had 400 families visiting the centre each week – demand for our services were high.
Unfortunately, our landlords sold the building we were renting to property developers, without our knowledge. The new owners of the building then asked us to vacate the building for the development of luxury apartments. After a three-year battle to try and stay, we have now been kicked out.
While I understand the need for regeneration and more housing I don’t believe there is enough joined-up thinking or planning, looking at the real needs of the community. I believe that it is much more than a coincidence that with the reduction in youth centres, safe spaces for young people, and the wider community, there has been an increase in knife and violent crimes locally, as recently reported by Waltham Forest Echo.
We are currently working with Waltham Forest Council to find a new space within the Walthamstow area to establish a new venue where the Family Activity Centre can continue to be run from.
As we are committed to continuing to provide services for young people within the borough, we will be moving into temporary offices in the meantime. From there we will hire various venues to continue our activities.
This will not be cheap, and we are trying to raise £10,000 to help keep our services going while we find a new permanent base. We are also always looking for volunteers to support our fundraising efforts or to assist with running activities for young people.
If you can help, please get in touch with me on the details below. We hope The Soul Project can continue for many more years to come.
To donate to The Soul Project or to find out more about how you can help:
Email [email protected]