A brand new youth and community centre has opened its doors with the aim of providing a “safe space” for young people.
The founder of the centre, Eli’s Haven, has said that “people are happy that something like that has come to life” and will ensure that community “remains at the heart” of their operations.
It is a much awaited result for founder Morayo Olasunkanmi, who spoke to CoventryLive last August about her hopes for opening up a space for young people.
Speaking to us in August 2019, Ms Olasunkanmi said: “Unfortunately, there has a been a rise in knife and gun crimes in Coventry recently and this has been taking our young people’s lives.
“Our main goal now is to change this by building a fun, happier and safer community for children and young people; to establish themselves from a young age with the right confidence to being successful and outstanding citizens in future.”
And now, one year later, after months of hard work, they have secured premises in Earlsdon in Coventry and opened up for their first sessions this month.
CoventryLive caught up with Ms Olasunkanmi fresh from the centre’s launch, she said: “The main aim is to be able to create a safe haven for children to come and relax, a home away from home, where they can be themselves.
“A games room, entertainment, games consoles, computer rooms for the older kids to look for jobs, apply for universities and education.
“They would get advice on what to do next, and we had a lot of calls on results day asking us how we could help them.”
The name of the club is a reference to Eli in the Bible, who created a home for Samuel and nurtured him into who he was and gave him a home from home.
For Ms Olasunkanmi, a former Stoke Park teacher, the need for youth clubs in the area is vital, and she has linked with other local groups so they can work together to target the needs of young people in Coventry.
“I remember children saying that youth centres were closed down, and there was nothing to them, I thought it would be nice for me to have a place for them, but last year I thought I should actually get my own place for young people to come, so we registered as a community interest company.”
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It is not the first community centre to open its doors during the past few months.
Since lockdown began in March, the city has seen a new employment hub open up in Coundon, as well as the refurbishment of existing facilities open to the community in areas such as Bell Green and Foleshill.
And as the fallout from Covid-19 remains everpresent, and uncertainty surrounding employment and education lingers, centres like Eli’s Haven will be instrumental in helping guide local young minds.
Ms Olasunkanmi added: “There will also be a tutor room where ages 5-18 will be taught in maths, English and science.”
The pastoral side of things has not been neglected, with plans to provide guidance on sex, relationships and mental health.
So far, numbers have been limited due to social distancing, but the early signs are promising: “It’s been great, we’ve had lots of kids in and had arts and crafts, the most numbers we have had is through the tutoring is around 50 kids because parents are worrying about their kids missing school.”
Their grand opening was run in different time slots to accommodate social distancing guidelines.
Eli’s Haven is a community interest company, which operates as a private company with the purpose of benefiting the community, and ensuring they use that commercial value to fund their activities.
Ms Olasunkanmi said: “We got a grant from the council to run [the club] and it was generally funded from people’s support, the grant, and our funding page. “
How will they ensure they can run the club in the long term? “The tutoring side of things generates income, and we hope to get more members to keep going and applying for grants.”
Ms Olasunkanmi said the purpose of the club being in Earlsdon, is to ensure that children from all CV postcodes can attend as it sits on or near to most major bus routes.
She added: “We want people from all the CV codes to be able to get a straight bus over.
“Our aim is to spread around Coventry, and aim for a bigger place, the hope is with different branches it will be more accessible.
“We’re open and we’re ready to help as many young people as possible.”
Eli’s Haven is based at Westwood House, Westwood Road, CV5 6GF.
The centre is open from Monday to Friday from 4-8pm, and on Saturday 12-5pm.
They are running extended hours over the school holidays.