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Norfolk youth group provides safe space for children

PUBLISHED: 17:22 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:22 31 July 2019

The Swan Project in Downham Market provides a safe space and social group for children. Picture: Sarah Hussain

The Swan Project in Downham Market provides a safe space and social group for children. Picture: Sarah Hussain

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A west Norfolk youth group provides a space for children to "escape the troubles" outside and meet socially.

Peer mentors, Calleigh Steeles (left), Hollie Page-Heyes, Brooke Barratt (right). Picture: Sarah HussainPeer mentors, Calleigh Steeles (left), Hollie Page-Heyes, Brooke Barratt (right). Picture: Sarah Hussain

The Swan Youth project in Downham Market offers advice, guidance and social activities for young people aged eight to 18.

Set up in 2011, the group provides support for children in the town and nearby villages and gives them a place to socialise.

Anna Foster, project manager, said: "We're the only youth provision run group in the area. There's such a demand for it in Downham as there isn't much for the children to do in the town.

"We run three days a week and we're totally rammed with work. The children that come to us have a range of issues, some suffer with mental health, bullying, harassment and low aspiration and we do our best to help them by delivering advice, guidance and workshops."

The Swan Project in Downham Market provides a safe space and social group for children. Picture: Sarah HussainThe Swan Project in Downham Market provides a safe space and social group for children. Picture: Sarah Hussain

The group, which needs around £60,000 a year to run, supports itself through grants and fundraising.

It has recently launched a young carers workshop and is running theatre groups during the summer holidays.

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Cameron Barrow, who's been coming to the group for six years, said: "It's a place outside of my house that I can come to, as there isn't much to do anywhere else.

The centre has three rooms that allow children to socialise, including a music studio. Picture: Sarah HussainThe centre has three rooms that allow children to socialise, including a music studio. Picture: Sarah Hussain

"I used to get in trouble in school and I found it hard to listen but coming here and being supported by everyone has really helped me."

The centre provides children with activities and entertainment, offering them a games room, movie area and a music studio.

Matthew Almond, 14, said: "It's a place free of harassment and judgement and is somewhere I can come to hang out with people I wouldn't normally come across, it's really helped me be more confident."

Children have also been inspired with career prospects after the introduction of a peer mentor scheme, which enables them to support one another.

Brooke Barratt, 12, said: "I was bullied at school and others coming to the group have been bullied as well, being here helps us escape troubles from outside and allows us to meet and talk.

"I like listening and helping others and after being a peer mentor I'm thinking of being a therapist."

Open access youth groups run on Tuesdays and Fridays from 5pm to 7pm at the Swan Youth project on Paradise Road.

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