The trustees of Hogarth Youth Centre held a meeting last week to which they invited the great and the good of Chiswick, including councillors and parliamentary candidates, to impress upon them that they need the community’s help. A show of hands demonstrated that the majority of the audience had never been there before, which is unsurprising since they’d been invited for their fundraising ability, whereas the people who use the centre are some of the most vulnerable and deprived kids not only in the borough of Hounslow but in the whole of London.
Unless you have cause to use it, not many people even know where it is, tucked away at the end of Dukes Rd, in between St Mary’s RC Primary school and The William Hogarth School. But those who do use it, regard it as a lifeline, as speaker after speaker testified.
Carol, a grandparent, has two grandchildren who use the centre. Forty years ago her two sons used it; now she is kinship carer for her two grandchildren. The centre runs sessions after school four days a week for 8 – 11 year olds and teenagers, and during school holidays takes them on outings and residential trips.
“It’s not as easy as it was 40 years ago” said Carol. “If this wasn’t here, I don’t know whether I’d still be looking after my grandchildren. I get really tired, and this is my respite”.
Clare has three children who use the centre. She described her eldest girl as very shy and terrified of going out after the terrorist attacks in central London. “The youth worker would come and pick her up from home. She has really brought her out of herself and got her to talk to people and make friends”.
Her youngest has Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Aspergers syndrome. When he was having problems at school, Denny, the lead youth worker, got to know the child well, went with her to meetings and helped them change school. “Denny was a rock for me. I don’t know what I would have done without him. My kids love all the staff here and if it went, I don’t know what I’d do”.
Denny Anthony came to the Hogarth 15 years ago as a full time youth worker for Hounslow. “Youth work is informal education” he says, “supporting young people to make positive decisions, building trust and giving them support”. When Hounslow council withdrew the funding at the end of last year, he was made redundant, but the trustees hired him and with assistant youth worker Naomi Alleyne and the help of volunteers, he is able to provide social sessions for between 300 and 350 children.
Hounslow gave them transitional funding to see them through this year. They have the building on a peppercorn rent, and bring in money by licencing rooms for a variety of activities, but they need to bring in more money. “Studies suggest that for every £1 put in to funding youth services, society is repaid seven or eight fold in economic and social benefit” said Trust Chairman Fred Lucas. Less street crime, better performance at school, greater employability, better parenting skills. Not investing in youth services is a false economy.
Could you donate? Become a friend of Hogarth Youth Centre? Do you need a venue for a party or classes? Would you like to hire one of the rooms? Do you have useful skills such as fund-raising or teaching? Would you be prepared to become a trustee or a volunteer? Maybe you could help them out with IT knowledge.
Contact the Hogarth Community Centre, Duke Road, Chiswick W4 2JR / Tel: 0208 747 1999 / Email Fred Lucas: firstname.lastname@example.org
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See also: Chiswick’s best kept secret