Vandal-hit youth club gets a fresh start in new premises

A YOUTH club which was driven from its home by vandal and arson attacks has moved into a new base thanks to a £100,000 donation from a rugby charity.

Ex-Scotland rugby star Gavin Hastings will open the "bfriends" project's new home in Craigmillar on Thursday, 18 months after it was forced to quit its old home.

A series of vandal attacks culminating in a serious fire led the youth club, which is run by the Children 1st charity, to leave its old base at the Jack Kane Centre.

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Since then, the group has been forced to use makeshift accommodation in a former woodwork and metalwork classroom.

Now, the 100 or so five to 16-year-olds who use the club have moved into new premises at the Castlebrae Business Centre.

The former industrial unit has been fitted out with 100,000 presented by the Wooden Spoon foundation, whose honorary president is Mr Hastings.

The cash has also enabled the club to buy a 17-seat minibus - a replacement for one that was torched by vandals two years ago.

Youngsters at the centre have been involved in its planning for more than a year, and have chosen all the designs for its interior. They have also specified what equipment they want in the club.

More than 30 children use the centre daily and work together with older volunteers in shared activities and excursions.

Neil Mathers, bfriends' service manager, said: "We're absolutely delighted to be in this fantastic base. For 18 months, we've been in a temporary unit that used to get used by people learning carpentry and metalwork.

"It has been completely overhauled and we are already seeing the centre being used by more and more youngsters in the area.

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He added: "We've seen a big change in the atmosphere of the place. Young people want to come here and the feedback we have got from everyone so far has been great. The centre has been a big investment, but it will really help the service to develop."

The bfriends club has been running in Craigmillar for the past 20 years and spent nine years at the Jack Kane Centre before it was relocated to Castlebrae. A special plaque will be unveiled by officials from Wooden Spoon and Children 1st during the centre's official opening.

Mr Hastings said: "Wooden Spoon exists to help improve the quality of life for disadvantaged young people and we are very pleased to have been able to support this very worthwhile project.

"The bfriends initiative is making a real difference to young lives, and Children 1st will now be able to build on their achievements. I'm sure everyone involved will benefit from the welcoming environment at Castlebrae."

The Wooden Spoon charity was set up by a group of England rugby fans following the 1983 Five Nations championships, when their team finished in last place.

It is now an official rugby-backed charity supporting mentally, physically and socially disadvantaged children and young people. Supported by current and former players, it has raised more 11 million for projects for children and young people.

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