foto: archiv ČvT
Ála, the low-threshold club director, asked us whether we would like to write something about the club. She says she always has to answer questions about what is a low-threshold club, who visits it and why, what it’s good for. So she thought it would be better, if we wrote something about it, since we go to the club regularly. And so we said we would give it a try.
We live on the outskirts of Ústí nad Labem and our neighbourhood is often called a socially excluded location. We hate to be labelled like this, but the truth is that it is an ugly and sad place to be – junkies everywhere and traffic accidents all the time. It’s just terrible. There are no real shops, no swimming pool or cinema. We don´t even have a nice playground or a place to play sports, nothing like the possibilities that children have downtown.
Our parents don’t let us go downtown on the bus, because they are worried that something might happen to us. We could also never afford all the leisure activities in children’s and youth centres or elsewhere. That’s why we are happy to have the club here. When we were small kids we always came here to do our homework, to learn and play, we had something to do after school and weren’t bored. When we got a bit older, we tried many activities: some of us enjoyed doing things in the workshop, others liked creative stuff or sports like football. We also needed to talk to someone about problems at school or at home. Here, we have always had access to things that we didn’t have at home like football, parlour games, books, a boom-box.
How does the club work?
We meet every Monday to chat about what’s we’ll be doing during the week; we get gold stars for homework, workshop participation and other activities, for helping at the club or when somebody does something nice, like help someone else. Everybody is eager to collect as many gold stars as possible, because then they may use the computer, go on a trip, go to the movies or sleep over at the club on Friday nights. We are really happy that we have a say in what’s going to happen at the club.
A lot of kids come to the club every day, about 30 or 40 of us. When there are special events even more come, and that’s awesome! But it’s also really important to follow the rules, so that there is order; There is no name calling or violence, everyone wants to friendly, so that everyone has fun.
Ála, Jarka and Jana (ÁJJ), who are in charge of the club, always work on projects so that our club can improve. So much has happened over the years, because at the beginning it was just a family house and everything had to change to fit in all the kids.
We are now really happy about the clubroom for the big kids and the room for creative activities and the workshop. We also turned an old garage that was full of junk into another nice room where we can dance, play table tennis, do some body building and exercise. Since the club is for us, we try to help. We have opportunities to try out many different tasks that may be useful in the future, like stripping and painting the walls, laying the PVC flooring, painting. We have made our own benches for the yard, coat-hangers for the clubroom, moved furniture, learned how to use the drill, the lawn mower and such.
We also helped a lot when the floods came. Not only at the club, where the cellar was full of mud, but we also helped our friends’ families and our neighbours. We also clean around the club even if didn’t make the mess. We have already seen people who come at night with cars full of junk, old tyres and furniture and who just dump it here.
There is always something to do around the house and we are always ready to help because we like it here and we are happy to have the club.
It’s great that there are also other services in this house, not only the club. These are more for the parents, they can get advice here. People have always met here when they needed help, like when there was something bad going on or when they were scared, for example during the floods or when skinheads were patrolling the streets in Ústí. That was really scary.
So many experiences!
We have experienced so many things thanks to the club! The list would be too long to write here. For example, we have been to a summer camp (although we had to exercise every morning and hiked all the time, especially up the hill), we had so much fun, trips, football matches, visits to the club in Bílina, courage trails (all of us said, how scared we were, but it wasn’t true!), singing and drumming together by the fire, sleeping over at the club (we always cooked and baked something, like a nice cake, but we had to eat veggies, because they are healthy, and salad too! It has vitamins of course, but it felt like eating rabbit food), in the evenings we board games, watched movies and talked about all sorts of things, so we didn’t really sleep much J.
We also had disco evenings, film festivals, workcamps with volunteers from all over the world, geocaching or paintball. And festivals where we performed. We went to the mountains in winter; there was no snow for cross-country skiing, but it was still a lot of fun. And we shouldn’t forget about the workshops: The best one was probably jamming with beat box performer En.dru and belly dancing for the girls. We also love to prepare games and competitions for small kids, because it gives them something to do, they are happy and they laugh a lot.
What would we do without the club
Ála, Jarka and Jana always try to explain things to us, give us advice when we don’t know what to do, they never call us names. Well, sometimes they are mad at us when we get into trouble, but that’s well deserved. We always talk about the situation, try to make things right and make up with them.
We can talk to them about everything, ask them about what we are interested in, we can tell them about our problems. They are always interested in what is going on and they know immediately when there’s something wrong or when we are sad. They are happy when we succeed at something, we also talk about girls and how we should treat them, about drugs, about our future and stuff. When we come up with an idea, we always talk about how we might make it happen or why it won’t work. They keep telling us that nothing in life is for free and that if we try, we will reach our goals.
Ála, Jarka and Jana once asked us about what our lives would be like, if the club wasn’t around. Well, I guess all of us would be on the street, hanging about, getting into trouble, killing time, we would just be bored. We don’t think we would be the same people, we would probably do drugs, be bored all the time, rob people, steal iron and paper and sell it, just steal in general, we wouldn’t go to school and so on.
Why we have a drum kit at the club
When we grew up a bit, we knew that we love music above all. For example, S. was always drumming with sticks on old pots for hours and hours. So we realized that our biggest dream was to start a band. We kept talking about it at the club until the directors managed to get their hands on music instruments. And even a drum kit!
Music helps us so much; it is the best thing we can do in our free time; we can show off in front of others, families and friends, we can charm the girls. We want to achieve something, and show all those who don’t believe in us that we are worth something too. We enjoy rehearsing new songs. Music can take us a long way, help us meet new people. We are very emotional about music, our families are traditionally musical, everybody plays an instrument or sings.
We have argued so many times, because we would love to play every day, but the club is not just for us. It’s here also for many other kids who want to do other things and there would be no time left for them. And we are loud when we play, so the others would not even be able to talk to each other or do their activities. But when there is a performance coming up, we always find a way to rehearse more, because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves in front of the others.
The band always brings us back together: Even if we have an argument, we have to make up. Since we want to play together, we have to talk. If someone doesn’t come to a rehearsal it’s not fair to the others. The rehearsal is cancelled and the band has a problem. We can’t be a good band without regular rehearsals. We love to play for the other kids at the club. They like it a lot and they sing along. There are also smaller boys here who can learn from us and they might start a band someday too.
I guess that’s all.
Boys from the low threshold club in Matiční street
People in Need’s low threshold clubs are located in contemporary ghettoes and they are usually the only place where children can spend their leisure time. Their other option would be roaming the streets. Our clubs offer them a safe and stimulating environment where they can find peace and advice. There is always someone who is genuinely interested, listens to them and assures them that they are not alone.
Our clubs are a place for doing homework and preparing for school, tutoring, crafts and creative activities; they are a place for playing games, doing sports, summer camps, but also for individual counseling and discussions about everyday issues or sudden problems that are an integral part of living in these difficult neighborhoods.
Here children gain new social abilities and skills and they get the necessary support that helps them find their place not only among their peers, but also in the society in general. Thus we offer them a chance to escape the vicious circle of ghetto living.
208 children spent their leisure time at the club in Ústí nad Labem in 2014. In 2015 we have welcomed 165 children so far, and we look forward to helping more kids.
Do you want to help build a Better School?
- Autor: Člověk v tísni
- nízkoprahový klub Ústí nad Labem