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Lowestoft community centre makeover helps young people develop skills and confidence

Young people in Yarmouth and Waveney are working with mental health therapists to develop new skills and confidence through the refurbishment of a Lowestoft community centre.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's coastal Youth Mental health team is working with young people and charities. The project was developed by occupational therapists Catherine Kilbey and Claire Moran.

Catherine said: "We were looking for a way of bringing together a group of young people, to help promote teamwork, boost confidence and social skills. I've worked in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Youth Team as an Occupational Therapist for nearly eight months now. When I first started the job, I was pretty excited to learn about an opportunity that would really make a difference to young people in the area.

The project is Boston Lodge - a large community centre in Lowestoft managed by the charity, Ormiston Families. The centre is used by a wide range of groups and members of the public, as well as being a valuable meeting point for organisations such as Mind and the NHS. However, Boston Lodge is quite dated in places and was in need of a revamp.

Catherine added: "It was instantly clear to us that we could use this as a positive opportunity - and so began the Boston Lodge 'make-over' project. The aim of the Boston Lodge project is to be a therapeutic intervention, to increase confidence, social skills, routine and structure, time keeping and team work. Each young person sets goals for what they would like to gain from the project and these are reviewed regularly. The make-over of the building is just a product and means of trying to achieve these goals.

"We hope this will bring young people together who may be isolated or struggling with their mental health. The young people in this project will benefit from being part of a team, as well as getting to work independently.

"Teamwork is a fundamental skill and it can really help a person grow in confidence. This will then encourage independence in decision-making, a great skill in life to have – in school, college or work (paid and voluntary).

"By being involved in the Boston Lodge project, we hope that many of the young people involved will gain skills in confidence, socialising, planning, budgeting, working as a team and making decisions together as well as the practical aspects of the project – painting, DIY, making mosaics and much more."

The project involves people aged 14-25 years and involved with the NHS Youth team, Early Intervention Team or the charities Young People in Mind or Ormiston Families.

The Boston Lodge project last year won a Suffolk County Council Joint Working Award, an awards programme promoting closer working between voluntary sector organisations and with public and private sector organisations.

Award winners had to demonstrate achieving outstanding outcomes, which were better than would have been achieved had the organisation not worked with others.

Sharon Tejada-Jimenez Service Manager at Boston Lodge for Ormiston Families said: "The young people and staff who have worked on this project have worked tremendously hard and have worked extremely well as a team."

"It's been great to see the progress each young person has through learning new skills and growing in self-confidence."

"By deciding to create a mural of Lowestoft's coastline they have managed to capture our vision for Boston Lodge as an accessible community asset for the town. "

"We've had a very positive reaction from everyone who uses Boston lodge when they see what the young people involved in the project have achieved. The project has also benefited from the support of local businesses who have generously supplied the equipment for the project."

"I am very excited to see what finished article will look like and listening to any other ideas they might have."

Catherine and some of the team are also blogging about developments in the project. By sharing progress they hope to give some of the young volunteers 'a voice' and hopefully it will inspire or provide a support network for these young people.

You can read the blog about Boston Lodge at:


Picture caption: Left to right: Gary Pitcher (Community Support Worker, Youth Service, NSFT), Jane Harding (Young People in Mind), Kurt (Service User), Catherine Kilbey (Occupational Therapist, Youth Service, NSFT), Karah (Service User) and Claire Moran (Occupational Therapist, Youth Service, NSFT).