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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In memory of Helena Parobij

A very moving ceremony last night as I attended the KPC Youth Centre in Pyle, Bridgend for the unveiling of a memorial bench for Helena Parobij, who founded the centre.

Helena was a quite remarkable woman, who following the drug-related death of her 18 year old son effectively squatted on a parcel of Council land at the rear of her house, enlisted the help of local businesses, moved the old canteen from Parc Prison there and opened up a youth club. She did all of this without any help from the local authority and , through a series of grants expanded it into a major facility. Tragically, she died of cancer a few years ago.

At the ceremony last night a bench, designed by the local kids, was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Mid Glamorgan, Kate Thomas. Roy Noble was also there and the picture shows him saying a few words to those present. He has in fact, just mentioned it on his radio programme as well.

Today the KPC youth centre has a computer suite, pool and table tennis tables, drop-in cafe, information centre, all-weather pitch, BMX course, skateboard park and much more. It has 750 eighteen to twenty five year olds on its books from Pyle, Cornelly, Kenfig Hill and Cefn Cribwr and there has been a drop in crime in those communities. Agencies such as the Police are fully engaged and plans are afoot to set up a social enterprise there so as to ease the path of local youngsters into employment.

The big problem with the centre has been the lack of core funding. They are now on their third three year lottery grant and raise money from a whole host of other events and donations. The Council cannot afford to pay their running costs and there is no statutory duty on them to provide these sort of facilities. I have been arguing for years in the Assembly that this should be corrected and I am pleased to say that the Welsh Liberal Manifesto in May will contain a proposal along these lines.

Workers at the centre are hopeful that the social enterprise project will provide an income stream that will assist the sustainability of their work for some time to come but that does not help other communities that need a centre like this. Everywhere I go I tell people about this centre as an example of good practice. We need more of them.
Excellent work Peter. These types of community initiatives (from the community for the community) shouldn't have the burden of constantly worrying about funding. Has anyone asked Dr. Evans for some readies? He might think it a safer option over giving to Labour.
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