Building Lives Project – supporting young people in Chelmsford
Young people at risk of taking the wrong path in life are being given access to music lessons, life skills and a free gym to help them to build a positive future.
Gavin McKenna grew up in London without a stable home life or good people to guide him.
His mission now, as a husband and father, is to ensure young people can access all the support they need to avoid crime and to build positive lives.
Building Lives Project supports vulnerable young people at risk of crime, serious violence and criminal exploitation.
The Community Interest Company offers one to one mentoring sessions and life skills coaching from its hub, The Base, in Chelmsford.
The centre gives young people a safe space to gather regularly with role models and mentors, to relax and engage in positive activities which keep them off of the streets and away from trouble.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £10,400 to Building Lives Project from the 2022-23 Crime Prevention Fund to develop The Base further.
As a result, The Base now offers a recording studio and music lessons; a creative room where young people can create their own logos and print them onto t-shirts; a DIY room where they can learn life skills for running their own home; and a gym.
Young people can also use the TV, laptops – for schoolwork, CV writing and job hunting – and games console and play table tennis, pool and the keyboard.
Around the walls, words suggested by young people – including “respect”, “trust”, “patience” and “role model” – have been spray-painted as a reminder of what The Base stands for.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said: “We work with people who have lived experience because they know exactly how to tap in and provide the support vulnerable and at-risk people need.
“Gavin has turned his own negative personal experiences into the most wonderful positive for the young people of Chelmsford and surrounding areas. He knows a little nurturing and positive role modelling goes a long way in providing a young person with the confidence and knowledge to follow the right path in life.
“I, personally, cannot wait to see how many lives are turned around by this wonderful project.”
Gavin, operations manager, said: “The idea is for The Base to be run by young people and overseen by adults. We are giving them a sense of belonging. This is their space; it is how they wanted it to look. They got stuck in and helped to do the work. All young people being mentored by us will have access to it all.
“I do not just want a fancy building; what’s the point? I am excited and happy it is here, but I can’t help but look forward and say I want it full.”
Long-term, it is hoped The Base will become an alternative provision facility; a place where troubled students can spend time away from their mainstream school while they receive the support they need, with a view to returning when they are ready.
The charity is already working with Writtle College sports science department, offering an eight-week course focusing on fitness and life skills for those at risk of crime.
Gavin said: “Not every young person wants to do mechanics or building; they want to make music or play sports. Not every young person has the means to access a gym. We are giving them the space they can access for free. They are not coming to our gym to get big; they will come here to learn about nutrition and healthy living and working with a budget.
“Everything we do is bespoke. There will be programmes they can engage with.”
It is also hoped The Base will be able to host young people over school holidays and after school, with the ambition of having a city centre unit to help spread the word.