Turning a corner
15 October 2019 | Wales
How 7Corners charity is using a caravan to help youngsters
The 7Corners centre is so much more than somewhere to hang out. Based in Seven Corners Lane, in Abergavenny, the charity offers young people a place where they can come both to relax and get support.
That means that alongside a café, a chill-out room and free wi-fi they can also seek help with alcohol and drug addiction, debt advice and homelessness.
For those reluctant to come to the centre, they're reached in other ways. A couple of times a month, a team head out in a specially-adapted caravan to some of the more challenged areas to engage with those who are falling by the wayside and who could do with some encouragement and support.
Nicknamed the ‘Hotspot’ caravan, they visit Bailey Park, Abergavenny Castle and a local skate park on Hereford Road.
“For us to meet the young people out in the community is an important part of our outreach programme in the community,” explains Ange Sampson, who runs the youth centre. “We take chairs, tables, hot chocolate and cake. We just come to chat, we come to help and offer a way out and a path forward.”
Meeting mostly young people no longer in the education system and who are not working or being trained for work, the intervention has proved very successful.
“There was one young man who came for the first time, he turned up high on drugs,” recalls Ange. He was very difficult, and argumentative, it was desperate. We spoke to him. He kept on coming, and the last time he came he was normal, engaging and he asked for help. It was beautiful to see.”
And they also help those who come along to complete their CVs and have phones to ring potential employers and set up interviews. Funded by the Bridge to Cross Charitable Trust, 7Corners is dedicated to offering hope and hospitality to all young people. They have a core of 40 who attend every week, and are in regular contact with 80 youngsters.
“We like to think we are like a second home to these youngsters, we are very accepting of all who come along. That is not to say we don’t set boundaries. In fact they work better with boundaries, at first they kick back but suddenly something happens and they realise that we in fact care about them. Through our commitment, trust is built. That means the young person is able to open up to us, which is so important. Lots of young people are damaged, but if you just spend a little time with them you can break down barriers. If you can build confidence, they will break out of their boxes and any restrictions they feel.”
Ange Sampson is seen as a hero to many of the young people who meet her. “She saved me through the hardest time and I'm sure there are many who have been touched by her kindness,” said one.
And she knows better what many of them are going through. “I have a history of addiction, alcohol and substance misuse. I drank from a very early age. I have been clean for 15 years but it does mean I can say to some of the kids, I know what you are going through. I can sense your vulnerability.”
She is so proud of her success stories, and rightly so. “I’ll never forget one lad. He arrived full of swearing and attitude. He had a difficult and chaotic background. But he kept coming.”
That boy was with the charity for five years, and went on to become a volunteer, helping with admin, projects and fundraising. The structure, and the sense of responsibility had an overwhelming effect on him. At school, he blossomed to the point he was appointed head boy. “I couldn’t be prouder,” says Ange.