Since opening in 1972, Shalom Youth Centre has welcomed over 4,000 children and teenagers through its doors, giving them a warm, safe place to play, learn and ‘keep off the street’. It was founded by Canon John Ellis, who still runs the project today with a caring, dedicated team of key workers and volunteers. In January, John launched a lifesaving fundraising campaign for Shalom with a target of £40,000 to keep the centre open for another year. You can find out more: Here
Tell us about your charity and what it does to help the area?
Shalom works with young people at risk in Grimsby’s East Marsh, the ward with the highest deprivation in Greater Lincolnshire and in the bottom 3% nationally. Our work is long term; we may be working with a group of young people for ten years. We work through building sustained, consistent relationships that hold when ‘they sing out of tune’ – we don’t walk out on them!
The bread and butter of our work is an open access youth centre. This is the last such centre in North East Lincolnshire following government cuts, and we find it difficult to fund our work because funding is increasingly hard to come by, and also because of the long term nature of our work. Outcomes are only apparent after years of work.
If a visitor were to walk into the centre on a typical club evening, they would be at a loss to understand the significance of what was before their eyes – a lot of young, noisy people enjoying themselves with their friends. But, of course, the point is that they are seeing a tiny snapshot in a process taken years to come to fruition. They don’t see the delicate cobwebs of relationship and trust being slowly established between the adults and the young people.
Shalom featured in TV’s Skint – tell us about this decision and did you have any doubts about it?
There had been a previous series filmed in Scunthorpe and while I did not see this programme, I understand it was felt that it was very contrived and sensational. There was, therefore, a great deal of opposition locally to a follow-on series being made featuring Grimsby.
We were approached by Skint to take part as were all other agencies in the East Marsh – which was the focus of the programmes. Our Trustees met with the film company and after a lengthy discussion around safeguarding young people and the regulations surrounding juveniles and filming, we agreed to take part. We were the only local provider that agreed to do so. This was a great pity as the programme would have portrayed a more positive picture of the area if others had participated.
Our experience of working with the film company Keo Films was extremely positive. They were not the company who made the Scunthorpe programme. They were highly professional and the young people had a great time working with them. During the course of the filming they put on a workshop for the young people, allowing them to use all their equipment. An hilarious spoof of ‘Jeremy Kyle’ was the end product. We were delighted with how we were portrayed in the programmes and received over £12,000 in donations from all over the UK. Two donors continue to support us with a monthly direct debit. This funding has been a lifeline.
What are the most inspiring parts of your daily work?
What I enjoy most about what I do is helping people to understand and appreciate the Bible. I spent four years in Uni studying Hebrew and the Old Testament and two years studying Greek and New Testament. I just enjoy so much making it come alive for people. It gives me a real buzz and it is great when I see people from this community really taking on board what I am teaching them.
I always treat people as intelligent human beings. I don’t dumb stuff down but go into the Bible at the same depth as if I were talking to university students. People in this community are ‘non – academic’ and that is mistakenly assumed to equate to ‘not intelligent’ which, of course, is a nonsense.
What do the young people enjoy the most about the Project?
The young people enjoy most a safe, secure and warm environment in which to meet with their friends. They also always mention that they enjoy interacting with the staff.
And just for a bit of fun, would you rather your shirts always be 2 sizes too big or 1 size too small?
Definitely 2 sizes too large!
What’s next on the cards for you?
At the age of 76 the possibilities for the future are limited. My intention is to continue to work for the Project for as long as I am fit and well enough to do so.