By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
Croydon’s newest youth centre was forced to make radical adjustments when the coronavirus lockdown hit just six months after it opened.
Staff at Legacy Youth Zone had to think of new ways to connect with young people across the borough and even started a food bank, handing out more than 7,000 parcels in the past few months.
Now the centre has been reopen for six weeks, but already things are looking a bit different.
Chief executive at Legacy, Barnabas Shelbourne, said: “When we closed our team was on the phones calling young people checking in that they were okay.
“One of our supporters gave us funding to provide 45 laptops to young people who were struggling at home and we sent out activity packs for the juniors with drawing, cards and books.
“These are essentials, especially for young kids, but some people just don’t have them.”
The lockdown was a difficult time for children and parents alike – something staff realised when putting on online classes.
“We noticed a lot of parents were struggling with their kids, one of our team members is a trainee counsellor so she was able to provide support for them,” said Barnabas.
“Schools closed, and the fact that young people couldn’t see their friends any more was having a detrimental impact on their mental health.
“I think the uncertainty of Covid has been tough for everybody but especially for young people.
“After months without school or being able to see their friends, I think being able to come to the youth centre, go to the park and do some positive things was really important for young people.
“I think they were most excited about seeing their friends. One of our members was saying she didn’t realise how good it was at Legacy until she wasn’t able to come anymore.”
At the moment a fully booked holiday club is running with 50 young people a day, and evening sessions are running with capacity for up to 70.
It all has to be booked online first to ensure social distancing, and everyone is temperature checked on the way in and offered a face mask – which is optional for over 12s and not necessary for those younger.
This month after-school sessions from 4pm will resume, and in October a new library will open with computers and a space for young people to work.
Sessions will still need to be booked online or over the phone for the foreseeable future. Visit www.legacyyouthzone.org for more information.
Legacy Youth Zone is funded by a combination of businesses, philanthropists and Croydon council.
Pictured top: All change at Legacy Youth Zone in Croydon
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