ON THE GROUND: Hackney Quest

Dominic Wood

Scheme: To provide activity days for 10-16 year olds

Funding: Around £100,000 a year, including - over three years - £89,000 from the Community Fund and £60,000 from Henry Smith Charitable Foundation.

The Hackney Parochial Charities provides premises at a nominal rent and gives £20,000 per year

Objectives: To give young people responsible role models, enable them to make choices to enhance their prospects and encourage them to attend school and value achievement

Over the past 15 years, some of the most disadvantaged schoolchildren in Hackney, east London, have been helped to become responsible adults by Hackney Quest, which provides them with a friendly environment and constructive pursuits.

Founded in 1988 and housed in a former post office, the charity provides its 10- to 16-year-old members with activity evenings and weekends throughout the year. Hackney is the UK's second most deprived borough, with a crime rate twice the national average, so demand for such a service is clear.

"It isn't the best place in the world to be brought up," says Karen Bance, fundraising and finance manager at Hackney Quest. "We let children know there are things they can do rather than hang around on street corners.

We help them to use their talents in many ways, such as the arts and in sport."

Popular activities include go-karting, ice-skating, skiing, and cinema and theatre trips. The four paid staff plan to open every day during the six-week school summer holidays. Scheduled weekend trips include sailing and a visit to an outward bound centre.

The charity has 30 trained volunteers, who look after a maximum of eight members. Young people can only join if they meet the age restrictions, live in Hackney and do not have a criminal record.

The charity prides itself on its success rate. "We help 70 per cent of those who attend our activities," says Bance.

"One ex-attendee took up basketball and went to the US on a scholarship, while others have returned to volunteer after they finish college."

In recent years, the number of members has risen from 100 to 120, but a further 70 remain on a waiting list. Hackney Quest hopes to have appointed a project director by the end of the summer who can help raise its profile and finances.

But for the moment, it relies on the £100,000 it receives from voluntary sector grants, individual donations and a small amount of company funding.

Still, its work has been noted. In September, the charity will link with the Government's local youth offending team programme for one year.

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