A youth club has begun meeting again in the Sandwick area and received start-up funding from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.
Sandwick Youth Club meets in the Sandwick Community Hall and is for all youngsters aged eight to 12 who live within the SHARE (Sandwick Hall and Recreation Enterprise) Association area, which covers Steinish through to Melbost.
The youth club meets on a Friday night during term time and all youngsters are welcome to come along and join by just filling in a form. All parents are welcome to stay too and share any ideas they may have for activities.
The club makes use of all the upstairs rooms in the Sandwick Hall, from 6.30pm to 8pm, and is attended by around 20 young people each night, although around 35 young people are members.
It is run by a committee of eight with a further 10 parent helpers assisting on a rota basis.
The focus is on games and activities plus arts and crafts and music. There is also unstructured play time, where young people can just hang out, and there is a tuck shop and free fresh fruit.
The small amount of profit the tuck shop makes goes back into paying for other club activities, such as a Halloween party, and the club is about to start buying games equipment, having done some canvassing of opinion and taken advice from Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs Association on what would be suitable.
Sandy Morrison, deputy chair of SHARE, said it was obvious from all the red faces at the end of every Friday night that the youngsters “love” the youth club.
In general, he said, half of them will “gravitate to the hall and kick a football” but no one is forced to play sport if they don’t want to. The club has acquired an electronic drum kit, keyboards and a nail varnish kit to help entertain some of the others.
The youth club restarted in April 2019 after a break of a few years, triggered by renovations being carried out on the hall. And the start-up grant of £1,000 from Point and Sandwick Trust, which operates the award-winning Beinn Ghrideag wind farm for the benefit of the community, meant the club started off on a good footing.
Sandy said: “The money from Point and Sandwick got us started up without a financial burden over our heads – that’s the basics of it. We could have started without their support but we would have been worrying about having a couple of pounds for this and a couple of pounds for that.
“Their start-up fund will allow us to run for a year but we still want the children to go out and do their own fundraising – bag packing or whatever – so that they’re raising the money themselves for their outings and trips.”
Sandy said the youth club was a great antidote to excessive use of technology such as mobile phones. “We’ve only seen one child pick up a mobile phone in the whole time and that was only to charge it. To me, keeping the kids away from gadgets is brilliant.”
He added that clubs like this recreated a little bit of what island life used to be like for youngsters.
“We didn’t realise how lucky we were growing up,” he said. “We had the YM and the Acres open every night. Now, you’ve got a lot more structured activities in the town but the only place they’ve got to just hang out is The Shed. There’s nothing open all the time for them.”
He added: “There’s so much more we could do if we had more support. Everything is doable – it just costs money.”
Donald John MacSween, General Manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “Point and Sandwick Trust is delighted that Sandwick YC has started up again, offering a range of youth-related activities in excellent facilities at Sandwick Hall.
“Sandy and his team have successfully reinvigorated the club and it is attracting an encouraging attendance of young people on a weekly basis. The club will go from strength to strength with such committed support from the community, and PST are so committed to helping the club prosper.”