Members of our young people branded ‘Game Changers’ once again emphasised their passion for spreading the Youth Zone message nationally by attended Barking and Dagenham Council’s 50 years of youth work parade event on Saturday.

The parade included hundreds of young people, who work, volunteer and excel in a range of activities across the borough – including our London based Game Changers.

The group made up from young people from The Factory, Blackburn and Mahdlo Youth Zone’s as well as our Ambassador group based in London, set up their own stall as part of the parade.

They handed out leaflets and talked to the general public about OnSide Youth Zones plans for London – highlighting their leadership, communication and community cohesion skills.

There was clear evidence the group are becoming leaders in their field. As part of the parade, the group provided the entertainment to the large watching crowd and communicated with the public to highlight the benefit Barking and Dagenham Youth Zone, London’s first OnSide Youth Zone, will have on the local community.

Nikita Walker, a young Game Changer from The Factory who attended the trip said: “I found the trip really fun, it was good to see everyone again and have a catch up with them. I learnt to be more confident when talking to the public about Youth Zones. It’s important to spread the word about Youth Zone’s in London because lots of young people seemed really interested in what it was and they wanted to know if there would be more around London. The importance of young people having a voice means we can get our point across and see that change happen. It’s vital  young people know that their voices are actually being heard so that they continue to share their ideas. If our views don’t get listened to the ideas will stop and Youth Zones won’t benefit.”

Wayne Carter, Youth Engagement Worker, heads up the Game Changers project and he was delighted with the hard work the group put in during the weekend, he said:

“I want to pay a huge thanks to the Game Changers group for their fantastic efforts over the weekend. As well as developing the young people’s personal skills, our aim for this residential was to develop the Game Changers as an inclusive group and so we invited, three members from two different Youth Zones who are members of an inclusion group. This enabled staff to challenge some stereotypes in regards to disability resulting in all members being included and supported, understood and being able to express themselves. Over the weekend, all the Game Changers began to understand the differences within the group and the process has started to give all young people a voice. In addition to this there will be inclusion awareness training on the Carlisle Ambassador Residential trip in October.”

The Council’s Cabinet unanimously backed proposals for the state-of-the-art £6million Barking and Dagenham Youth Zone at a meeting held back in July – marking the starting point for the project.

Barnet Youth Zone has also been given the green light recently.

The exciting plans will see a purpose-built Youth Zone open seven-days-a-week, with more than 20 activities on offer every session for young people aged 8-19, or up to 25 for those with a disability. The aim of the Youth Zone is to raise the aspirations, enhance prospects and improve health and well-being for young people in Barking and Dagenham, by providing affordable access to a wide range of programmes, services and activities including sports, arts, music, employability and mentoring.

Barking and Dagenham Council is due to invest £3million towards the Youth Zone development costs as well as providing the site. The project is also being made possible thanks to significant financial investment from The Queen’s Trust and Jack Petchey Foundation. The Queen’s Trust is investing £2.1million towards both the capital and revenue costs of the Youth Zone and Jack Petchey Foundation is contributing £1.5million of match funding towards the building costs.

A big thanks must go to the team at Caius House in Battersea who enabled the group to stay over within their Youth Centre.

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