Offering a fresh start to troubled boys
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