A MUCH-LOVED youth scheme that has helped hundreds of people is to close after funding dried up.
Youngsters have been left in tears at the news that Seaham Youth Initiative (SYI) is due to shut within days.
The project started in 2003 and provides a range of activities to keep kids off the streets, such as rock climbing, surfing, BMX riding, gymnastics, canoeing and fishing.
In the last year, about 120 youngsters, aged up to 16, have used the scheme.
SYI in Jobling House, Vane Terrace, also provides a drop-in point for teenagers to discuss issues such as sexual health and quitting smoking.
It has mainly been funded by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and the BBC’s Children in Need. The initiative is due to close on March 31 when funding from the two organisations ends.
There has also been a gradual withdrawal of trustees with no replacement volunteers coming forward.
The project was receiving £115,000 a year, which paid for running costs, six part-time members of staff and one full-time member – youth project manager Mickey Waters.
Mr Waters said: “We don’t do things for the young people, we help them to do things for themselves.
“They can come in for anything they want to discuss. What we can’t help with, we find someone who can. We never turn people away. I think it will be a big miss.
“One of the young people said we’re not just youth workers, we’re more like a family. The project is not the work, it’s the young people.”
Gillian Dickinson, whose 15 year-old daughter Toni Ann is a member of the scheme, is unhappy with the situation. Toni has had problems in the past, but has put them behind her, thanks partly to the SYI.
Mrs Dickinson said: “She’s miles better now. The youth group really helps the kids by getting them out and doing things. Toni is really happy at the group, she goes there straight from school and I know where she is.
“The kids are really upset, because there’s nothing else for them round here. They’ve been crying about it in my house.”
Coalfields Regeneration Trust assistant director Andy Lock said: “The trust supports the positive difference made by Seaham Youth Initiative, and we have invested £188,626 in their project work since 2002.
“This has created opportunities for hundreds of children and young people to participate in activities that have built confidence, developed new skills and tackled health issues.
“The trust recognises the challenges many community organisations currently face and will continue to work collaboratively to support the needs of coalfield communities.”