Our Intrepid Reporter: So, tell us a little about Lift.
Judith: I’m Judith Samuel, and I’m the Senior Youth Manager of the Lift Youth Hub. I’ve been working with Islington Council and Lift for the last thirty-four years, working with young people aged thirteen to twenty-five. Lift is one of the largest youth hubs in that it caters for all young people. It doesn’t matter where they’re from, what their demographics are or what they do. We work with young people that could be on the edge of getting into trouble, those who are in work, those who are leaving care. We work with every single young person and we work in partnership with schools, social services, counselling services, you name it! We’re the vehicle that everyone taps into. When a young person walks through the door, we want them to feel secure, warm, and welcome, no matter their situation.
It’s a big building! Four stories, with many floors. There we have social activities, we have table tennis, we have a well-equipped gym, we have dance studios, recording studios, kitchens, you name it! All sorts of spaces that young people can come and feel comfortable and develop and grow.
OIR: And what is your current goal?
Judith: Right now we’re working with Ukrainian young people and those from the Afghan community. They’ve come to England under traumatic circumstances, and they’re not here by choice. So when they’ve come into an environment like this, we want to help them adapt and make them feel comfortable, and that’s what we do. Doesn’t matter where you’re from, we’ll make it work. We’ll make sure you get the same reception as every other person that comes in through the door.
OIR: Do you find that language barriers can be a challenge?
Judith: Funnily enough, these new smartphones are brilliant! With the Ukrainian young people a lot of translation is done using the phones.
OIR: What does an average day look like at Lift?
Judith: We run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from three ‘till nine. It doesn’t mean that people can’t come in before that though, as we have sessions for study spaces - anyone who wants to come in and have a quiet space to study, they can get a laptop and a room from nine o’clock in the morning. But from three o’clock we’re open for activities.
We’re not a school, we’re a very informal setting. You’re coming into a hub where this is your downtime. This is where you have choices. This is where you can be who you want to be. We have young people from every community coming here. People don’t really understand how we make that work, but it’s because of the ethos we bring. People aren’t going to be stared at, or discriminated against because of the way they look or speak. We don’t have that here. It’s beautiful to be able to walk in and feel like you can be yourself - no one’s going to judge you.
People start coming in from three o’clock, and they can do afrobeats classes, boxing, archery, cooking, we’ve got so many different things.
And we feed people! We find that when you’re eating, it changes how a young person feels. They’re not thinking, ‘oh, that person’s eating and I can’t afford to eat’. Everyone’s treated equally. We can all sit around a table, gather together and have conversations. It’s lovely.
We have emotional wellbeing workers as well. The waiting lists for counsellors can be so long, so we provide people they can talk to. We have a sexual health clinic. And we have careers teams, for those who want to create a CV, look for a job or apply for college. We’ve got it all under one roof!
OIR: Last year, clueQuest gave you a Nintendo Switch. Has that been enjoyed?
Judith: That console is still so brand new! It’s unbelievable. And when I say brand new, I mean that they take such care of it. It’s made lots of young people gel together who wouldn’t normally gel. That’s because the games we buy are very interactive ones you all play together. It’s a way of getting people to talk to each other, to know each other without doing formal introductions.
It’s all about giving them a common goal. And they don’t pay anything, it’s free.
OIR: In an ideal world, what would you want Lift to be able to do next?
Judith: I want us to start doing more residentials, because it changes young people’s lives. It takes them out of their comfort zone, they’re having to manage themselves in a different area. They learn so much from each other, and there’s challenges in that, going into the countryside or going abroad. It changes their mindsets.
OIR: And lastly, if you had to sum up in a sentence what Lift means to these young people, what would it be?
Judith: When I talk to young people about Lift, they say it’s a place they come to to be themselves. It’s a safe haven. It feels like home. They say they don’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have Lift.
It changes lives.