‘This is awesome’ was the verdict from 24 young people who attended the opening of RAF Wittering’s refurbished youth facility.
The Youth Drop-In Centre, renamed The Place at No. Eighteen, is a safe environment for young people to meet and enjoy pool, table-top football, computer games and arts and crafts.
An extended kitchen has been created so young people can gain independence by learning to cook for themselves.
Likewise, the dedicated music room is an opportunity for young people to develop their musical skills.
A meeting hut with outdoor furniture, a picnic area, sports facilities and a raised vegetable garden is outside, along with the flowering borders already being tended by the young people.
The project was led from the beginning by RAF Wittering but the new Youth Drop-In Centre is not just for service children and is open to every 11 to 18 year-old in the village.
The centre will be open for two nights every week from 6.30pm and will be staffed by Action for Children youth workers.
Wing Commander Lizzy Nicholl (then Officer Commanding Support Wing) was the driving force behind the project and, with community development worker Mark Davis, arranged over £40,000 in funding to completely refit and refurbish the buildings and provide new equipment.
Young people from the village led the project and worked with the team to shape the new centre.
Their enthusiasm really impressed Mark Davis, who said: “Brilliant! We worked with the young people of Wittering through every stage and at no point did we ever have to overrule anything they wanted. They were fantastic.”
Grants came from the MoD Community Covenant, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund and the Wittering Parish Room Fund. The major donor was the RAF Wittering Children’s and Young People’s Board.
RAF Wittering’s Commanding Officer Group Captain Rich Pratley said: “I’ve seen the new Drop-in Centre for myself and the quality of the work is outstanding.
“This is exactly what the Community Covenant is for –it enables the military to work with its neighbours to produce something that benefits us both. The partner organisations in this project have been very generous and talented people have contributed to the Youth Drop-In Centre. It gets a huge thank you from me because this is community engagement at its best.”