Young People Matter (YPM) are a charity based in Stockwell Gardens. They create and run programs based around the needs of youth and the community. Aiming to provide a variety of different programs from after school clubs and summer camps to helping with employment and skills training.
In November 2015, YPM received £400 from the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s local micro-grants scheme. The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales (our monthly community lottery), sale of B£ merchandise in the Brixton Pound Shop, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So – whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping fund local groups like the Young People Matter.
We spoke with two members of YPM: Kemi, the group’s founder, who started YPM in 2007 through setting up and running a 4 week summer program for kids, and Marcus, who has been part of YPM from the beginning, first as a director and then stepping down to have a more hands on role.
Whilst I was at university studying psychology and sociology, I was doing some work with a youth club in Kingston, and later in Thornton Heath. At the time I used to put together booklets of things I wanted to do when I was older, for example activities for young people, basically things that where missing from what I was doing. But I had always wanted to wait till I was older to put on something myself.
However at the time there were a lot of things going on in my estate, five young people had been killed in the space of a week. And so it was like, do I wait or do I do something about it now. We applied for some money from the youth opportunity fund and found out two weeks before that we had got it. We had to rush around a bit to get it together but we had a really good turnout with about 50 people signing up for the first session. Eventually I decided to leave my job and pursue YPM full time as I saw there was a real need for something like this.
At the time in 2007 when YPM started a lot of gun violence was happening and it was still big in the news. We weren’t as desensitized to it then as we are now. We take it for granted even though we hear about it so much. But back then in 2007 it was still shock news. So Kemi applied for funding to do something with the kids on her estate because the kids just said: we don’t have anything to do. And from there it just grew.
More people heard about it, more programs came from it, and eventually it turned into this. With a premises on Stockwell Garden estate, seven full time employed staff, and moving on to maybe twenty staff when we are busier.
What we do has always depended on what the needs were within the community at the time. So when we first moved here we came to do a youth club and a drama program. From there, there were a lot of people who couldn’t speak English as their first language and wanted a homework club for their kids to support them. It started out as homework club, and then it developed into an after school club and to include different schools and areas. Another example – some girls who wanted to do a youth club for just females, and that’s how girls night and boys night developed. So it all comes from things people have said or what was needed.
All of our programs go hand in hand and help to service the other programs. For example our employment program helps to move people from long term unemployment to employment, but some of the barriers in the way of this were: if I do get a full time job, what do I do with my children?
So our after school clubs came about because there are working parents that wouldn’t be able to work without it, and it benefits the children themselves by providing them activities. Another example is the summer camps that we run. We had one and it was very successful, from there it spread from school to school and we are at four now. Everything we do just grows organically.
It’s hard to monetize it and grow when you do this kind of social work – it doesn’t work like that. The community tells us their needs and if it fits into our ethos, then we will work together. We have been going for nine years now, and even in a time when there are big budget cuts we are still here now and are grateful for that.
The Brixton Fund money is going to be used to offer young children free space and access to the after school club. For parents who don’t work, their children wouldn’t usually be able to access the after school club, so this allows for them to do so. Just because their parents don’t work it doesn’t mean their children don’t need to use it. Kids need to have something to do, and their parents might not be able to afford this for their kids normally. Parents themselves need some spare time and a break from childcare.
We have three different after school clubs however; I was thinking, what about the kids who I see after school with their parents that don’t get to attend the after clubs. They are kids that we might not to be able to engage with because they don’t get this opportunity. So I looked at the barriers to this and the possibility of funding to see how they could get the opportunity to do this. It was great to be successful in this funding application, its going to have a big impact.
Whenever you buy a Brixton Bonus ticket, spend electronic Brixton Pounds, or buy from the B£ Shop, you are contributing to the Brixton Fund which supports groups like Young People Matter. One more reason to get involved!
This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.