We are delighted to announce that Paula Hawkins, the author of the best-selling thriller The Girl on The Train, has become Barking and Dagenham, Future Youth Zone’s first Founder Patron.
As the film adaption of her globally successful novel hits the big screens this week, the Zimbabwe-born writer committed to helping with the £1million per year running cost of the facility, which will be located in Parsloes Park. Earlier this year, young people from the borough voted for it to be named Future Youth Zone.
The facility, which will provide activities ranging from sports to cooking and music to art, will open in 2018, offering young people in the borough somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.
Future Youth Zone is being developed by OnSide with Barking and Dagenham Council as a strategic partner along with the Jack Petchey Foundation and the Queen’s Trust to make it a reality.
Paula, who moved to London when she was 17, has spoken passionately about why she has decided to support the Youth Zone and how important OnSide’s presence in London will be as more are built across the capital. After being blown away during a tour of Wigan Youth Zone, she was desperate to help with what will be London’s first Youth Zone.
She said: “I saw all the amazing facilities they’ve got up there and I spoke to some of the young people who use those facilities. I was just incredibly impressed not just by the range of activities on offer but the support that is being provided and how enthusiastic those kids were. I thought straight away it would be something I would be interested in helping with.
“This is a very young city with a lot of relatively disadvantaged areas. If you are a middle class kid who goes to a really nice middle class school, you will probably have these things available to you, or your parents can pay for them. It’s absolutely wrong that other kids shouldn’t get to try their hand at some of these things.
“There’s also the element of support from help with homework to help with getting from education into jobs.”
Paula also called on the whole of Barking and Dagenham to come together to support Future Youth Zone, which will be funded by a mixture of the public and private sectors.
She added: “If you can, go and take a look at what OnSide is doing, visit one of the centres or get some literature on it because I think people will be amazed by just how great the facilities are and the scope of the charity’s ambition.”
Young people can access everything Future Youth Zone has to offer for just £5 a year to be a member and then 50p per visit.
With the generous support of people like Paula, OnSide aims to one day have a Youth Zone accessible for every young person aged eight to 19 (or up to 25 with a disability).
Future Youth Zone chairman Charles Mindenhall said: “To have the support of somebody like Paula is absolutely wonderful. To hear just how passionate and optimistic she is about Future Youth Zone shows how brilliant a place it will be.
“We are so grateful for her amazing show of generosity at what is an incredibly busy time for her with The Girl on the Train just hitting the cinemas. We hope that this example of kindness will inspire others to help too.
“This will be an amazing facility offering something so brilliant yet so affordable to the young people of Barking and Dagenham.”