“Save our Fusion” - Huntingdon youngsters’ plea for more funding

YOUNGSTERS whose lives have been turned around by a Huntingdon summer activity scheme are appealing to the town to help secure its future in the face of a funding crisis.

Just a matter of weeks ago fears were that Fusion, a four-week activity scheme for young people aged eight to 18, may have to fold after its core funding was axed because of Government cuts.

Its demise would have left at least 400 children, many from deprived or disadvantaged families, with nowhere to go and nothing to do during the summer holidays.

And inevitably there would have been repercussions for Huntingdon and Oxmoor – at best more youngsters on the streets and a rise in anti-social behaviour, at worst an increase in crime.

An 11th hour funding deal put together by Cambridgeshire county councillors Laine Kadic and Sir Peter Brown, as reported last week by The Hunts Post, has saved the scheme based at Huntingdon Youth Centre for this summer at least.

But funding fears still loom. With just enough in the coffers for October half-term, attention is now turning to next summer.

Shannon Fox is one of many young people who say their experience at Fusion has turned their lives around.

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Shannon, a student of St Peter’s School, attended the very first Fusion course when she was just eight. Shannon’s older sister attended the scheme and her younger one also goes there.

Now 15, Shannon is a volunteer worker at the scheme and credits it with helping her overcome anger management issues, and inspiring her to pursue a career in youth work.

She said: “Before Fusion, there was nothing to do, just going to the park and playing on the streets. Here it is always nice and friendly. It is like a family, everybody knows each other.

“It gives people a chance to meet people and grow their confidence. I never had a problem with my confidence, but I used to be a trouble maker.

“Fusion has helped me and I want to give something to Huntingdon Youth Centre. They have really helped me and my family.”

Youth worker Jeanine Bennett, of The Whaddons, says she has found her vocation thanks to Fusion. The 20-year-old began volunteering at the scheme when she was 14.

She became a youth worker three years ago, though government cuts has seen her hours drop from full-time to relief.

She is worried for the future. “There have been so many rumours that the council couldn’t fund us anymore and that they are going to shut us down.

“We will always try and find some funding and get the money we need to keep going. There are not a lot of activities for young people to do around here.

“This is their home. Otherwise they would be out their causing havoc. People would moan because they would make noise.

“It [Fusion] is important to the community. It is nice to see the children smile. They do not have a lot else.”

Volunteer admin assistant Lynn Wright is also keen to sing the praises of the scheme. She is disabled and has been involved with the centre since first undertaking a placement there in 2005.

The Humber Road resident says Fusion has helped to make the area feel safer.

“Personally I feel safer because all the young people here know me and respect the fact that I am a disabled person – they all say hello to me so I don’t ever feel intimidated.”

Around �20,000 is needed to run the scheme each summer. Cutbacks this year has led to reduced activities at Coneygear Park where outdoor activities are normally laid on for local children.

Work is underway to set up Fusion as a voluntary organisation in the hope that will attract extra funding.

Youth development co-ordinator for Huntingdon Kerrie Tonks said: “Since Fusion started there has been a 47 per cent drop in anti-social behaviour. I have never been involved in a single project which has reduced anti-social behaviour to such an extent.

“It is so important that young people have somewhere to socialise in a safe environment. If they weren’t here they would be on the streets or in their bedrooms on computers and that has its own dangers.

“If we didn’t have this, you would have social isolation, increasing possibility of young people finding themselves in an unsafe environment and a community fed up with anti-social behaviour and petty crime.”


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