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Love Kingston appeal: working with disadvantaged young people
Until about a year ago, there was a rather bland-looking concrete space within the Cambridge Road estate in Norbiton.
Today, it is a colourful communal area following a makeover by young volunteers from youth charity Oxygen.
It is this project that Oxygen director John Trend cites as an example of what the organisation does best.
He said: "We had some young people come from all over the world through a programme called Youth With A Mission.
"It was very positive. Young people from the estate joined in and we had parents phoning up saying ‘My son’s working with you. Thank you. I’ve been trying to get him off the Playstation.'
“Just by doing something simple like that you find the whole community wants to get involved."
Young people working for the good of the community is at the heart of Oxygen.
Launched in 2001 by a group of Kingston churches, the charity co-ordinates a series of programmes across the borough, including Street Pastors and I Love Kingsnympton, which reaches out to disadvantaged youths on the Kingston Hill estate.
Although by definition a Christian organisation, John said Oxygen was willing to work with people of all beliefs and faiths.
He said: "We never preach to people. We’re clear about who we are and if people are interested in getting involved we tell them more about us.
"We’re just trying to make an impact in the communities we’re working in.
"There’s always challenges, working with young people with no aspirations or hope, and we’re trying to be a stable factor in their lives.”
Oxygen is currently looking to launch a new mentoring scheme, encouraging volunteers to befriend a young person and support their development for at least two years.
It is also overseeing the Man & Boy project, which gives young boys the chance to spend time with the significant man in their lives, to develop better relationships.
All of which costs time and money, and is why John is so pleased Oxygen has been chosen as one of Love Kingston’s five charities.
He said: “We have a mixture of funding from churches and organisations, but at this moment we’re feeling the pinch – it’s tough.
“We’ve got £12,000 to find by the end of the year in order to continue to develop without having to worry day in day out about funding.
“To be selected as one of the charities is a godsend.
“It’s quite a privilege to be chosen and in some ways is recognition of the contribution we make, and the potential contribution we can make.
“I watch things like Comic Relief with great inspiration and hope when they manage to raise so much money from the Great British public.
“To have something like Love Kingston that taps into that same sense of generosity is great and it’s what we haven’t been able to do in the past.”
For more information about Oxygen, visit oxygen-online.org.
The Surrey Comet is backing the Love Kingston initiative, which is supporting battered women, troubled teenagers, families without food on the table and debtors in the pockets of loan sharks.
Love Kingston supports five charities – youth project Oxygen, Kingston Foodbank, women’s refuge Hestia, credit union Kingston Savers and Kingston Churches Action Against Homelessness.
If you love Kingston you can give at love-kingston.org.uk
Love Kingston Day
The inaugural Love Kingston Day is taking shape, with several business, organisations and individuals giving their hearts to the borough this Valentine’s Day.
On February 14, it is hoped residents will show how they really feel about the place they live by organising a fundraising event for Love Kingston charity appeal.
So far, Kingston Voluntary Action is taking a day off to hold a team-building excercise aimed at raising cash for Kingston.
Meanwhile Go Kingston will hold a “speed volunteering” event at the Market House in Market Place matching up would-be volunteers with their perfect good cause.
Love Kingston co-ordinator Elaine Miller said: "I’m hugely excited about this. Everyone’s so enthusiastic."