We are very excited to be working closely with Uptown Youth services, a youth centre based in Colliers Wood that helps young people that have had difficult backgrounds and struggle with learning disabilities. Uptown runs activities three nights a week, with the aim of these sessions being to help improve the confidence and social skills of many young members in the Merton community. These fun activities range from sporting activities such as football and Ping Pong, to music and dance and are regularly enjoyed by members of the community.
Having operated in Merton for over 25 years, Uptown presents young members in the area to a safe and enjoyable environment where they can learn from positive role models, make friends and feel part of the Merton community.
Their services over the past 25 years have and continue to provide much needed support to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. These beneficial services are designed for children aged between 11-17, and additionally for those up to 25 with disabilities. There is a further separate group for younger children. Normally, around 30 – 40 youth members attend a session, while over the duration of a year, around 250 young people would typically have participated in the activity’s Uptown runs.
Sessions are organised and run by Joan Simms, the founder and CEO of Uptown Youth Services. Joan is assisted by five or six qualified youth workers and volunteers, who are all very determined and passionate about providing support to young people in their community. Joan has been a huge driving factor in Uptown’s history and success, being a very well-respected member of the Merton community, but the help these youth workers deliver is crucial for Uptown’s continued success.
The main ethos of Uptown has been to offer mentoring to young members in the Merton community. Moreover, their main aim looking forward is to continue to provide young people with positive role models as they transition into adulthood and can therefore make better life choices.
Uptown hopes to help young people gain more confidence and help build up their CVs through accessing courses and undertaking volunteering work to improve and help their career prospects down the line. Joan stated that this is the main outcome they hope to see from their members. To see young people in the community be active and safe is incredibly important and will help them go on and achieve great success in future job opportunities.
Youth culture now has many issues revolving around drugs and gangs, presenting many young people with constant dangers. This terrible issue that is growing only adds to the importance of Uptown, offering to keep young people in the community away from these dangers and into a safe and welcoming environment.
This is why the importance of Uptown cannot be dismissed, offering young people stability and care in a safe environment where they not only have fun but also receive much needed mentoring. The weekly sessions they provide are used to check their members’ mental and physical wellbeing.
After hearing about all the great work Uptown has done over the years, the Little Lives UK charity sought to help out where we could. The financial impact of Covid-19 is affecting many industries, not least the volunteering sector. As a result of Covid-19, Uptown has consequently been unable to operate under its normal format. Online chats during lockdown has been followed by socially distanced outreach work in local communities, helping their young members deal with the growing issues we are now facing. The work they do has increased in significance due to young people losing family members or struggling in education because of the virus. Uptown now dedicates a lot of time to educating the children about the dangers of the virus, underlying the importance of wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing.
Joan mentioned how Uptown were looking for extra funding so that more young people can access these valuable services that they offer. The Little Lives UK charity donated £5,000 to help out with the funding, but also contributed many useful items to help with the activities run by Uptown. These resources included new footballs, basketballs, board games, a PS4, along with a number of fun console games that we hope will make sure these young people enjoy these activities even more. 10 iPads were also donated, which Joan stated were of huge significance as many of these iPads were offered to young people from low income families who did not have any access to modern technology. These iPads are being used to help support the children with training and education, whilst in socially distanced groups they can take turns enjoying fun games on them.
The Little Lives UK charity feels very privileged to have helped Uptown Youth Services through this difficult time. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of youth services like this for many young people, who now can have access to and talk with other young people with similar issues and have fun with them.