The North East Small Charity of the Year has taken its first major step in its plans to reach hundreds more young people with its life changing work.

Kids Kabin, which this year celebrated its 25th birthday, marked the milestone by announcing it was in the process of setting up a permanent presence in Middlesbrough, before going on to be named Small Charity of the Year at the North East Charity Awards 2019.

The charity, which has worked with thousands of children and young people in deprived areas of Newcastle since it was founded in an empty shop unit in Walker, has now acquired a Middlesbrough premises to call its own, a significant breakthrough that will help accelerate its work in the town.

The development, in Grove Hill, where Kids Kabin based its pilot expansion project, is thanks to support from local social housing provider Thirteen Group.

Sue McBride, Kids Kabin’s Project Manager in Middlesbrough explained: “We’re so fortunate to have had such incredible support from local infrastructure organisations, and in particular from Thirteen Group, which has offered us one of its properties to use as a base.

“This all came from a joint fun day we held in the summer, during which we got talking about the potential to make use of an untenanted space. It’s ideal because the children and young people we’re working with live very close by, so we’ve already been adopted by the local community, who are taking real ownership of the place. It’s a blank canvas at the moment, but we’re getting there, and everyone knows each other so it has a real community spirit.”

Currently, Kids Kabin Middlesbrough’s regular sessions are held between 3pm and 6pm on Mondays and Fridays, with more sessions likely to be added as the project develops, depending on the availability of support partners, additional venue providers and volunteers. And the property, at Laurel Avenue, has been kitted out with a new boiler, fridge freezer, washing machine and cooker, along with industrial linoleum flooring, with Thirteen Group covering all running costs.

Sue went on: “It’s quite amazing what they’ve done and has allowed us to think about next steps, such as hiring sessional workers to help us run bigger sessions more regularly. But we’re already beginning to think about adding a second venue to the town because we’ve seen such a positive impact, with many parents coming along to see what we’re up to.

“The kids, who start with us at age seven, are full of ideas about how to make the space their own, like making a Christmas tree from surplus wood, making coat hooks and garden seats, painting wall and window murals, and using old wellies as planters for the front garden.

“They really are building it all themselves and are all keen to have their say on how the rooms can be used and transformed. We can’t thank the community enough for how we’ve been welcomed and embraced.”

Jane McLone, Thirteen’s neighbourhood co-ordinator in Grove Hill, said: “It’s really great to see so many families getting involved with Kids Kabin activities as we always want to help projects in our local community where we can, and thought the Laurel Avenue flat was ideally located for the areas’s families.

“There’s been a huge amount of interest and the project has been a great success so far, so I’m really pleased we could help. I hope it’ll continue to succeed well into the future.”

As many as 15 children and young people at a time can currently enjoy Kids Kabin sessions at Laurel Avenue, which include activities such as woodworking, art, bicycle repair, cookery, pottery, and gardening. However, many more are reached through the charity’s mobile work, which uses specially-created trailers to work with youngsters in the streets and communities in which they live – areas of real need where a lack of investment means there’s often little for them to do.

Kids Kabin Manager Will Benson said: “Thousands of children live in disadvantaged communities in the North East of England. Challenging and sometimes chaotic lives can limit their opportunities for achievement in education and employment. Our work helps to improve opportunity by enabling children to achieve and explore new skills in a safe, sociable, peer-led environment.”

That peer-led approach means that when young attendees reach 13, they can choose to become young volunteers at Kids Kabin, gradually taking on responsibility to teach others some of the skills they’ve learnt. Many volunteers remain involved for years, such as Noor Amer, who was named Young Charity Champion of the Year at the North East Charity Awards on a glittering night for the organisation earlier this year.

Will added: “It really has been an incredible year for Kids Kabin and we’re delighted that young people, in Newcastle and now in Middlesbrough too, have been able to feel the benefit of that. We’re so proud of everything that’s already been achieved in Middlesbrough and the amazing work that’s being done every day by Sue and her team to raise awareness and reach even more young people in the local area.”

Kids Kabin Middlesbrough will be opening its doors next week at a community open day to show local people more about the charity and its work. The event will be held at 36 Laurel Avenue, TS4 3BN between 3.30pm and 6pm on Monday, December 9th. To register attendance, please contact Sue at sue.kidskabin@gmail.com or on 07581 891 581.

Kids Kabin Middlesbrough is also keen to receive donations to help its young people put their own stamp on the premises. Please get in touch with Sue with gifts of old wellies, surplus wood, craft materials and storage boxes. And if you’re keen to join Kids Kabin Middlesbrough, as a team member or as a volunteer, Sue would also be keen to hear from you.

Kids Kabin is also recruiting for a part-time Business Support Manager. Visit kidskabin.org.uk/work-with-us to find out more. Or for further details about the charity, visit kidskabin.org.uk or email admin@kidskabin.org.uk.