A youth club in Leeds, England, has given dozens of children in an underserved community a place to belong — and the club is flourishing thanks to JustServe.
JustServe.org is a platform where nonprofit, community, faith-based and government organizations can post listings and projects. Volunteers sign up for those opportunities based on their locations.
The Hawksworth Community Youth Club began four years ago when Robert and Sam Esterine saw a need for children in their neighborhood to have a safe place to participate in activities and be with their peers.
“We found that a lot of the young people [and] families were suffering through neglect — food neglect — and not having anywhere to go,” Robert Esterine said in a post on ChurchofJesusChrist.org for JustServe’s 11th anniversary.
The couple posted their needs for the club on JustServe, and became connected with members of a local Latter-day Saint congregation. Sam Esterine said they have experienced nothing but love, support and kindness since then.
The Church members offered their meetinghouse as a place for the youth club to gather. But Robert Esterine said in the beginning, some of the parents and children were reluctant to go to a church building.
Leeds England Stake President James M. Whitehead said some Church members were also uncertain the experiment would work.
But the Esterines were convinced the youth club could help the children, and they rallied parents in the community.
“We went out and campaigned in the community and said: ‘We’re welcome, you’re welcome. We’re all brothers and sisters. Let’s all work together. Come along, try before you buy!’” Sam Esterine said.
Since then, all the kids have gone to the youth club meetings, and word has spread to other youth. Some 160 children attend every week, and there is a growing waiting list.
The parents are overjoyed.
“They’re happy to see the kids are settled, they’re communicating better, less frustrated. They know their kids are safe. They’re not at risk in the community of being bullied or being preyed upon by drug dealers and people in the community that would use them for unlawful acts,” Sam Esterine said.
The children learn manners, morals and respect. Older children lead in a buddy system to help new and younger children. JustServe volunteers coordinate learning activities and games. Community members and parents donate healthy snacks.
Bernard Clarke, first counselor in the Leeds 1st Ward bishopric, sees the impact the partnership is having in his area.
“This isn’t about the children anymore. Leeds’ community program is about the parents as well — they’re getting involved,” he said.