A mobile youth centre has a new home in Northern Ireland after the Steam Packet Company arranged for it to be transported from the Isle of Man.
Since 2008, the Living Hope Community Church has been running the Youth Bus as a mobile venue for young people in the south.
Due to a change in youth work focus, the Island church has recognised that the bus has now served its purpose and a similar project in Northern Ireland has been found which will make use of the 10 metre-long vehicle.
Ballymena-based Connect Ministries has been hiring community centres to provide meeting places for its outreach programmes Kidsreach and Youthreach, but was looking for a way to provide a mobile venue.
Thanks to the donation of the bus by Living Hope Community Church, and the Steam Packet Company transporting the vehicle, Connect Ministries now has that venue.
Youth Bus Director Adrian Porter explained: ‘The Youth Bus was conceived in 2007 by the youth team to try and connect with kids on the margins in the south of the Island, in areas where there was little or no youth services or support. We decided to provide a mobile youth venue which could travel to these areas with youth facilities on board.’
The money to buy and convert the bus into a ‘youth venue on wheels’ was raised thanks to a donation of £47,000 by the Living Hope Community Church and fundraising in the Island which brought in a further £15,000. Manx Telecom provided free mobile internet for the bus and Shoprite donated monthly vouchers so drinks and snacks were available on board. The Dolberg Group in Douglas also got involved, paying for all fuel, tax and insurance over the years of its service.
Adrian continued: ‘We launched in 2008 and started visiting Ballasalla, Castletown, Port St Mary and Port Erin on a monthly rota. We also supported youth events and festivals all over the Island and have had hundreds of children on board the bus using the facilities and building friendships with the Youth Bus team.
‘Sadly, all projects have their season and due to declining use, changes of youth culture and difficulty in manning the bus we decided earlier this year to find a charity to pass this resource onto to continue its great work.’
In addition to providing a venue for the Kidsreach and Youthreach programmes. Connect Ministries will also be able to use the bus to support its Streetreach and other programmes, as well as attending community events.
Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘When Adrian asked if we could assist with transporting the bus off the Island so it could start its new life with Connect Ministries, we were delighted to get involved.
‘It is a project which has come full circle for the Steam Packet Company, as we actually brought the bus here in the first place, so it is good to be able to assist again as it moves on to help another community after so many years of service to the Island.’
Photograph: (from left) Living Hope Community Church members Matthew Mosley, Adrian Porter and Duncan Baker with the Youth Bus.