Growing up in Christchurch:
Echo reporter joins charity keeping a caring eye on teenagers
Wednesday 23rd June 2010 By Katie Clark »
AS a teenager growing up in Christchurch around 10 years ago, I will admit I was one of the many who partied at Highcliffe beach once exams were over.Despite the views of some local residents, we weren’t causing trouble, just letting off some steam after revision and exams. Too old for youth clubs but too young for pubs and bars, there wasn’t really anywhere for us to meet up with friends. Of course alcohol was brought along and yes, we were legally too young to be drinking it, and yes, looking back I can now see how dangerous the combination of drunken teenagers and a wide expanse of water is.But at that age, all you want to do is be 18 and have somewhere to go.So when I was invited by a Christchurch charity to go out with them on a Friday night visiting teenage haunts throughout the borough, I jumped at the chance because I, like many people my age, have a selective memory about some things we used to get up to.Run by Mike Yates and other volunteers, the charity Impact, affiliated with the Christchurch Fellowship of Churches, go out and about in their van on a Friday night keeping an eye on the youngsters around the borough, making sure they’re safe. And before sceptics scoff at the thought of Christians trundling around in a van preaching to drunken teenagers, that is not what they do.
“I don’t want to ram my faith down their throats,” Mike said.
“If they want to ask why I’m doing this then they are more than welcome.
“If they ask, I’ll tell them but I’m not going to go out preaching or I’m going to be told where to go pretty sharpish.
“It’s about them.
“It’s not about spreading what I believe in.”
Working in partnership with Shadows – the alcohol and drug advisory service in Dorset – the team, including Christian Summers from Shadows, set out for the usual Friday hotspots, sometimes tipped off by Facebook or a local rumour. From their base at the Steam Café in Barrack Road – a hangout for 11-19-year-olds after school and on Friday nights – we head to Christchurch Quay, where it seems to be fairly quiet. Next, onto Two Riversmeet where a new skate park and BMX track has just been built and there are a few people hanging out enjoying the sunshine. Expecting them to be hostile and suspicious, I’m quite taken aback when these well-mannered and friendly kids greet Mike politely as he asks how they’ve all been doing. A couple have clearly been drinking but they’re not causing any trouble and after checking they’re okay and watching a few BMX tricks, we move on. En route to Somerford, Mike spots a couple of familiar faces outside the chip shop in Purewell.They’re more hostile, telling Mike to leave them alone – or words to that effect. We stop briefly at Waterman’s Park in Dorset Road before heading up to the Crow’s Nest at Highcliffe. There are quite a few teenagers here and as we approach, some try to hide their bottles of cider, wine and vodka, but most clutch the booze as if their lives depend on it. Again, Mike is greeted like an old friend, especially when out of the back of the van he produces a box full of cakes, which are consumed in no time, soaking up the alcohol. He and Christian check they’re okay and ask if they need any help and we’re gone after about 20 minutes, leaving the large group now somewhat dispersed. It may have been a quiet night but sometimes things do get a bit out of hand and they need to alert the police. Back at the cafe at the end of the night, Mike reiterates:
“These are not bad kids.
“The majority of them are great.
“Yes, some may cause a problem every so often, but we’re here to make sure they’ve got the right advice.
“Some of them haven’t got a lot and most are doing the best they can in a much tougher world than I grew up in.”
Article courtsey of The Bournemouth Echo www.bournemouthecho.co.uk