Of­fer­ing a fresh start to trou­bled boys

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

THE NON­DE­SCRIPT frontage of premises by a dual car­riage­way in Hen­don give no in­di­ca­tion of the lifechang­ing work tak­ing place in­side.

There is not even a sign to de­note the prop­erty is be­ing used by the Boys Club­house, which of­fers a safe and nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment for trou­bled and dis­il­lu­sioned young males, set­ting them back on a ca­reer path.

In the four years since the char­ity pi­loted the Club­house Busi­ness En­ter­prise (CBE), the ven­ture has grown into a suc­cess­ful eBay store.

It is manned by clients aged from 14 to 24, ex­plains Ari Lea­man, the char­ity’s head of ser­vices. Their is­sues range from drug and al­co­hol abuse to home­less­ness and crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

“What links them all is their in­di­vid­ual sense of fail­ure. With a non­judg­men­tal ap­proach, the Club­house seeks to re­build their self-es­teem by fo­cus­ing on the la­tent skills they each pos­sess.”

As well as the ben­e­fits of train­ing and men­tor­ing, clients earn hourly wages and com­mis­sion.

Of­fi­cially opened by Boris John­son when he was Lon­don Mayor, the en­ter­prise has pro­gressed to the point of op­er­at­ing two eBay stores — one sell­ing per­son­alised phone cases made on site, the other list­ing items from travel adap­tors to USB plugs and selfie sticks.

“We net­work with lo­cal busi­nesses to try and get ex­cess stock,” Mr Lea­man adds.

“One of the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenges we have faced is find­ing our clients sus­tain­able em­ploy­ment.

“Of­ten their prob­lems or ad­dic­tions are too se­vere for them to hold down reg­u­lar em­ploy­ment and they end up in a de­bil­i­tat­ing spi­ral of dead-end jobs.”

The CBE of­fers prac­ti­cal train­ing in on­line sell­ing, re­search­ing items, pack­ag­ing and dis­patch, as well as ground­ing in cus­tomer ser­vices.

“Over the first year we had five boys work­ing on it and within half a year three of them had moved to full­time em­ploy­ment else­where,” he re­ports. “One has even set up his own eBay busi­ness.”

Levi Gold­meier, 18, has found “di­rec­tion and in­de­pen­dence” from his five months work­ing on the scheme.

“It’s given me goals and in­spi­ra­tion whereas be­fore I didn’t re­ally have any­thing to strive to­wards.”

Like Mr Gold­meier, Pe­sach Franks hails from a re­li­gious fam­ily — though both have strayed from their re­li­gious up­bring­ings. Af­ter a year in Is­rael, Mr Franks re­turned to Lon­don, hop­ing to “get sup­port re­gard- ing drug prob­lems” and find his way again.

“All the guys here are close to my age and a lot of them have come from sim­i­lar back­grounds. It’s just a sim­ple idea but it works,” Mr Lea­man says.

He sees the char­ity as a “last stop on the radar for Jewish teenage boys in cri­sis”.

On the so­cial side, it is some­where to hang out and play pool. Clients can also get ca­reers ad­vice and help in writ­ing a CV.

Fa­cil­i­ties ex­tend to a pro­fes­sional record­ing stu­dio and emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion for those fac­ing home­less­ness.

Be­yond the eBay busi­ness, the char­ity em­ploys so­cial work­ers, psy­chol­o­gists and other pro­fes­sion­als to help in the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process. It has a strong re­la­tion­ship with the Metropoli­tan Po­lice, whose driv­ing school hosted its an­nual fundrais­ing din­ner.

High-rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cers were among the guests and the event raised al­most £300,000 which will help the char­ity to pur­chase its premises and ex­pand its ser­vices, in­clud­ing the CBE pro­ject.

It’s the last stop on the radar for teenagers in cri­sis’

Pe­sach Franks and Levi Gold­meier fly the flag for the thriv­ing busi­ness, which has grown into two eBay stores

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