We were pleased to host OnSide’s annual National Conference at Unitas Youth Zone in Barnet, North London yesterday. It was a fantastic opportunity to bring together supporters and representatives from the ever-growing OnSide Network of Youth Zones. OnSide Youth Zones now has a growing network of 13 Youth Zones, with over 50,000 members and over 600,000 visits per year.
Mike Roe, CEO of Brighton Youth Centre:
“We’re a charity that runs a big youth centre in Brighton and we are looking to join the OnSide Network. I really like the idea of young people having opportunities to learn from a big team of youth workers and meet with young people from different places. It has been really nice meeting people today and looking forward to what goes on in the future.”
There were inspirational speeches from Unitas Youth Zone Chair, Keith Black, OnSide founder Bill Holroyd CBE DL and Unitas Young Person Development member, turned staff member, Jordan.
OnSide Founder, Bill Holroyd CBE DL:
“One of the biggest things we have learnt on the way, which we didn’t know at the beginning, is the power of the Network. By working together we provide a platform across the country to work with young people.”
Unitas Chair, Keith Black:
“So here we are. Shiny new lovely building. We’re filling it with care, with love, with people who genuinely want to help people. The staff that we have employed are absolutely delivering on that. This is a very caring place where we really look after the youth.”
Jordan, 20, spoke of his moving experience of joining the Young People’s Development Group as a shy teen, to becoming a confident staff member helping young people find their own path.
He said “if you had told a 16-year-old me, that I would be working with 200 young people every night, for the rest of my life, I would say ‘nah mate – never going to happen. You’re chatting garbage.’. But that is not the only reason I wanted to join Unitas. I wanted to have the same effect on the young people today that OnSide had on me.”
Following the formal speeches, a number of workshops took place enabling OnSide CEOs and board members the opportunity to share best practice and discuss their thoughts and plans which were shared for the benefit of the network.
The response from those who attended the conference was extremely positive. We have a short selection of the feedback below:
Michael Rosenberg OBE, a supporter of Unitas Youth Zone:
“I think the word to use is ‘inspirational’. It inspires those who come and it really makes a difference in their lives.”
Ross Alexander, Aston Villa Foundation:
‘It’s been a great day, amazing to see such fantastic facilities and the support that has come from not only the young people, but also the local community members and the funders who have contributed so heavily to make this happen.”
Tony Colville, Aston Villa Foundation and Urban Splash:
“Unitas is the equivalent of an Apple Store for Youth Centres. They should all look like this.”
Rupa Patel, Trustee and Founder Patron for Legacy Youth Zone:
“I am so excited to see Unitas Youth Zone today, what a fantastic building, but what really brings this to life are the young people, the volunteers and the staff here.”
Ummar a member of the Young People’s Development Group from Legacy:
“I found today really interesting. I was able to meet a lot of great people. It’s been quite a journey with OnSide and it was great to see what we have accomplished in such a short period of time.”
David Hemery, Ambassador for OnSide Youth Zones:
“I think this is such a fantastic opportunity to make a difference with young people. This provides people with a chance to take a step back and take better control of their lives and choices. It has been terrific to meet these young ambassadors and I will continue to support this project because I think it is fantastic.”
It was a truly brilliant day, celebrating the wonderful supporters and staff who make up the OnSide network who are helping to create happier, healthier young people with brighter futures, for generations of young people, right across the country.