SUNDERLAND’S XL Youth Village has won the hearts of Wearside’s youth – and a top award.
The unique young people’s project claimed the Best Youth Partnership Award at the inaugural North East Youth Work Awards.
The event, organised by the Regional Youth Work Unit, took place at the Stadium of Light with awards being presented to the groups who produced the best results in the region.
Youth Villages were launched on Wearside in 2008 and were aimed to get young people involved in activities such as sport, dance and music as well as discussing issues they may be concerned about such as relationships.
The project takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings and provides a safe environment for 13 to 19-year-olds to enjoy themselves away from alcohol and drugs.
Jim Ferry, Project Manager of the A690 Youth Initiative who helped launch the scheme, said: “It’s nice to win an award but the success of the Youth Village is mainly down to the young people. Without their input it wouldn’t have achieved so much.”
He added: “We’re trying to change the image people may have of some areas around the city and we’re trying to offer young people different opportunities and encouragement.
“Some of them have gone into employment with us or into higher education which we’re delighted with.
“We’re always trying to reinvent the project with new ideas, at the start we offered mix decks and skate parks but now we’re launching live bands and this wouldn’t have happened without feedback from the kids that come along.
“It’s providing an alternative for them to get away from alcohol and drugs and we’re pleased with what we’re seeing so far.”
Leon Mexter, chief executive of the Regional Youth Work Unit, said: “I am extremely proud to have hosted the first ever North East Youth Work Awards.
“For over 20 years, we have worked with Local Authority youth services and the voluntary youth sector in the region with the aim of improving the lives of young people in the North East. This sector is truly remarkable.”