Picture for a moment the expression of a child’s face and what might be going through their minds reading an airline magazine on holiday about other children travelling abroad on exchange trips. Imagine their thoughts when such opportunities are disappointingly not been available to them.
Think of the educational and cultural value helping them to understand and value others as people.
– What is the Project?
An outer London Borough with a population in excess of 30,8000- high-rise flats, terraced housing, decanted residences through on-going new housing redevelopments. But it is home to the people and families. The people live happily engaging in professions, activities and interests with a host of skills. Along side this for the young are some 200+ youth clubs & organisations that make-up the youth service in the Borough.
Trips to a variety of places in and around London, counties and even countries are organised by different youth organisations – to sight see, bike, camp and so on. We visit these places but rarely do we have the time, chance or inclination to meet, talk and live in these places for educational trips.
The hostel currently provides accommodation to enable educational exchange trips to be complimented in situations where reciprocal visits are not possible because families do not have the space to accommodate visiting people from other counties and countries. It is designed and caters for groups of between 12 – 30 people, as distinct from individuals.
Work Involved — Historically:
The invaluable assistance and co-operation from Local Authority Architects to produce conceptual drawings and a scale model to create a visual concept of what the building would look like once converted. The infrastructure was further aided by the LA Quantity Surveyors.
A Lease & Building Agreement for 15 years (with an option to continue) with the Local Authority was negotiated and signed off thereby making the land and building available to convert and suitably adapt to the environment. The period of the initial lease was by design to be commensurate with the amount of external funding that would be injected to bring about the Project.
This was enhanced by the engagement, (at no cost), of external private Architects & Quantity Surveyors to design and cost-out the building works of existing phase I of the project
The Project worked with Architects and Quantity Surveyors to prepare works specifications and tenders. Liaised and work with final appointed contractors and sub-contractors to complete works.
The Project then worked through processes to expedite Building Regulations approval and Planning Permission as well as overall Council approvals.
The Phase I initial official opening was so successful that no less than 50 Trusts alone, apart from another 100+ dignatories attended securing relationships for the future in terms of support and future funding. Some even offered more help at the time and subsequently helped again.
The production of a scale model of the building made to exhibit for consultation with youth organisations and schools in the Borough + Trusts/Foundations enabled presentations to create a visual realisation of what the final building would actually look like and deliver.
Promotion & Publicity:
Other promotional and publicity produced to include brochures with a list of contacts to arrange direct exchanges, information on hostelling and graphics/photos. Plus: translated material languages + in braille for the blind. Initiated and designed logos to project the image of the Project.
Registration with the English/London Tourist Board and British Tourist Authority brought about the inclusion of the Project in their respective handbooks translated for a number of countries to generate interest and future use. This task successfully underpinned revenue income.
Feedback from youth groups and schools were initially mixed but enough to qualify the project being forthcoming. Whilst clearly the building would be used in had to be planned in the context of others uncertainties from some potential users with in-house commitments but this was overcome over time with a significant number of these potential users coming on board and participating. It did demand visits being made to each group to co-ordinate and programme in.
Arrangements with the local City airport for groups and broker deals to further help facilitate overseas visitors via the airport.
VE/VJ Commemorations – International Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Engagement:
During the VE/VJ commemorations the following decade, worked in partnership with the International Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and hosted a group of people from some 14 countries around the world and an informal dinner for some 150. Through co-ordinated arrangements with the main activities in Hyde Park and arranged trips for visitors with representatives from India, Africa, Canada amongst others made this event a resounding success. Its achievement with this venture culminated in an invitation from the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Edward to attend a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace was received and attended.
Thousands of people, representing youth groups from all over Europe, Asia, Africa, Scandinavia, US, Canada, Australia and latterly the former Eastern Europe have visited the Borough putting them and the Organisation clearly on the map – how this type of Project will now pan out with the likely exit of the UK from the EU will be challenging to resource and sustain over the next decade and a new generation of the Millenials entering the workforce.
- Feasibility Study [So as to be officially recognised and accredited] – Grant-aided by CAF.
The creation of a shopping list of the substantive items required within the building to furbish, equip and furnish hostel was an onerous task and hs to be reviewed from time to time. This was supported by a host of some 500 manufacturing companies with information about the Project, a brochure and covering appeal letter.
Prepared and submitted grant-aid applications to the Local Authority, and former Department of the Environment and a variety of Trusts researched for initial funding required of £250k to launch. Applications were successful and total monies needed to be raised. The building also took on needs for disabled and separate funding secured to provide for this, e.g. wider doors, disabled toilets & showers, ramp, easier access to phone etc.
Before the decision of this was known a quarter of the manufacturing companies written to had positively responded pledging a variety of furnishings and goods for the buildings, including carpet tiles, bunk beds, office equipment, kitchen equipment etc.
To enhance the value of the Project secured sponsorship from the British Council enabled a personal visit the Borough’s twin-town in Germany to carry out a study and to promote the Project, including visitations to hostels and groups around the town. This included producing a brochure translated in German to distribute plus to gain wider recognition and engagement of the Project an invitation to be a civic guest of the town by the Oberburgermeister (Lord Mayor) led to more connections with both voluntary and statutory sources which reinforced reciprocal relation and visits for groups.
Added value to the Project was achieved through a scholarship through the Churchill Foundation to extend the study to the US and visited a variety of hostels operated and again promoted the Project. Collectively this led to the longer terms sustainable of the work and the objectives leading from the early 80’s to working towards making it fit for purpose from the 2weith century in this millennium’s 2wenty first century.
Hotel Murals – Depicting Historical Elements of the Borough:
Following the inception the idea was conceived of aesthetically improving the external of the building by introducing figurative murals on the external walls. Engaged an artist to produce conceptual ideas based on the history of the Borough. Later secured capital monies and resources from the Arts Council and Dulux and paints/materials to bring this to reality and some 7 12ft high murals painted based on different historical elements of the Borough – introducing a new element in terms of companies/organisations who would otherwise not have become involved and who were interested – plus excellent publicity! This included dealing with all the processes for further Planning Permission with the Local Authority.
Further Funding – LDDC:
Further secured revenue funding from the former London Docklands Development Corporation for salary to employ the first member of staff, (including preparation of the job advert and job description/specification + contract), for this post, e.g. Administrative Secretary to facilitate the project helped manage the Project.
Benefits & Outcomes:
The Project was born out of a real benefit and has provided a real tangible benefit for in excess of three decades and continues to do so as one of only a few such schemes of international youth exchanges in the UK.
The purpose built hostel building complex, (formerly a part of a primary school) rejuvenated the site in providing the first and only facility for international youth exchanges in the Borough at a cost of a little over half a million pounds over its lifetime. The research in support of the needs, long-term benefits and outcomes have served to reinforce this.