A Coventry project, which helped young people improve their life opportunities, has been praised by community reform campaigner Baroness Newlove during her visit to the city.
The Government’s Champion of Active, Safer Communities and member of the House of Lords Baroness Newlove celebrated the opening of a memorial garden at Wellington Gardens in Spon End.
The memorial garden has been redesigned and rejuvenated with help and ideas from young people, who took part in Whitefriars Housing’s Boot Camp.
The boot camp course involved youngsters, some of, but not all of whom, had been involved in low level anti-social behaviour or were known to the Youth Offending Service, taking part in a week of activities with the housing association. These included physical challenges, CV writing, interview skills, and fundraising and community projects.
The course, which was the first of its kind to be run by a housing association, aimed to help young people to improve their life chances, with the most-improved going on to secure apprenticeship opportunities with Whitefriars.
Representatives from Whitefriars Housing met Baroness Newlove at the Rose Community Centre, in Hope Street, where they watched a DVD showing the success of Boot Camp, including the young people’s journeys through the week and what they wanted to do after the project.
Baroness Newlove said: “Young people have a really important role to play in helping to create stronger happier and safer communities. Instead of looking at them as part of the problem, it’s far better to include them as part of the solution. They need only to be channelled in the right direction to release all their positive energy. Their bright ideas, creativity and enthusiasm can make a real and positive difference to their local neighbourhood.
“It’s so heart warming to see projects such as those run by Whitefriars Housing. Their belief in the potential of young people to turn their lives around and make a positive contribution to the local area has not only led to the creation of this wonderful memorial garden that can be enjoyed by the whole community but it has also given these young people new skills that will help them on their way to a brighter future.“
The memorial garden includes a sculpture from renowned Coventry-born sculptor Walter Ritchie, who died in 1997. Walter’s partner Sally Taylor attended the official opening and was presented with flowers.
Kevin Rodgers, deputy chief executive of WM Housing, of which Whitefriars Housing is a part, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the success of boot camp, which was just one of many projects Whitefriars has used to positively engage with young people and help them realise and reach their potential.
“It is an honour that Baroness Newlove was able to see first-hand the success of boot camp by opening the memorial garden but also by meeting the young people who have done the hard work.”
Seventeen-year-old Katy O'Beirne, from Cheylesmore, was named the winner of boot camp and is now a housing apprentice with Whitefriars. At the event she said: “Boot camp gave me an opportunity to turn my life around and I really enjoyed the things we did.
“I love being an apprentice and I want to work hard because I really value the opportunity I have been given.”
After attending the opening of the memorial garden Baroness Newlove went on to attend the Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group annual conference in the St John’s Hotel in Solihull.