Yesterday I was invited to go to one of the Kids Co centres at Kenbury Street in South London. I do wonder what the neighbours thought when I left home wheeling a large suitcase and also a large laundry bag! I had three large double cellular blankets in the laundry bag and the suitcase had 11 sets of fairy lights cushioned by one more double cellular blanket and some of my knitted hats, scarves and gloves.
I reached the local station and then found an out of order lift to the platform I needed!! I managed to get the suitcase up the steps one by one but not sure how I did; that suitcase was so heavy. All went well until I needed to change trains at Blackfriars ..... yes, another lift out of order!! I didn't have long to wait for the train to Loughborough Junction and yes, I needed to carry the suitcase downstairs; at least it was easier to carry down than up.
A 10 minute walk and then I turned into Kenbury Street, wondering what I was going to find. I soon saw the entrance and signed in with security whilst I waited for the lady I was going to meet. What a busy place; Mum's were leaving with little ones in tow or in buggies, staff were coming to and fro between the buildings here and a similar place over the road. There were several brightly painted sheds and small buildings in the yard and then the main building itself. The buildings and area have seen better days but the murals on the yard walls, the bright colours and the enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers helped make this a place of laughter and safe haven for children.
I was taken over to the office section over the road to unload my goodies and they were so gratefully received. The blankets will be used in the chill out rooms when kids want to relax and be quiet or when even to hide away under them when they don't feel sociable. The fairy lights will be used to create an ambience in the chill out rooms; they had only expected a couple of sets of lights so the extra ones will enable them to use them in other areas too. I joined in a planning session with the two group leaders for the after school group I was joining that afternoon.
The office section was very busy; keyworkers were updating records on the computers, meeting parents and planning work . I am sure that only touches of the surface of what they do. Originally they had planned to use that building as an extension of the centre over the road, but planning was not approved. Meanwhile it is easily identified as it is painted in the same bright colours as the centre.
We went back over the road and there were children queuing to get into the yard; there was plenty of laughter, pushing and shoving but there was also those who were standing alone or were withdrawn. There were friendly smiles and words of comfort as we walked by them. Inside the main building were sign up tables for the different activities that were going on; cooking, girls club, table games, gym, IT, music to name but a few. The children soon came in and it was a hive of activity and over exuberance.
The cooks were busy in the kitchen having only just finished clearing up after the lunchtime meals they had provided; fruit snacks were ready on the table for the kids and preparations were underway for the meals that would be served to them at the end of the after school sessions.
Different groups met in the rooms in the building or the sheds in the yard and some are held in rooms donated in local business premises. The small group I was with was taken by minibus to premises 5 minutes away and we spent an hour with three 10 year olds doing games and activities based on "self care". We were collected by the minibus to be taken back to the centre where most of the kids were perched on seating around the walls or at tables and were tucking into their meals.
It was then time to say goodbye and start the long journey home. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on what I had seen and heard. So many young enthusiastic keyworkers, professionals and volunteers trying to make a difference to so many young lives; lives that have been damaged by trauma in different ways. I hope my contributions will help to heal those lives too.