Josh Williams at GATE in Galashiels
2/08/09 - 14/08/09
GATE (Galashiels Action for Teenage Enablement) was where I spent my second placement. Galashiels is located about 45 minutes south of Edinburgh in rural Scotland. My previous placement was in Wolverhamptonand so already from the geographical location I could tell this was going to be a completely different kettle of fish.
On my initial visit to GATE I had a chance to hear about GATE's history, meet the staff have a look at a typical day at GATE and find out more about what made it tick. It became even more obvious then that I would have to form a completely different set of skills in a very short time as my knowledge from Wolverhampton of asylum seeking and other urban problems would keep me far from any comfort zone.
To try and give you a brief idea of the aims of GATE and my impressions of them I would say that GATE evolved from a local alliance of church members deciding to try and bring about a solution for teenagers turning to alcohol and drugs through a lack of activities to keep them occupied. Over the course of the last 18 years Christine Pettie, GATE's manager, has nursed the project from a rented out ex-restaurant where "young folk"Â went after school, to a renovated three storey building capable of meeting the many needs of the users today. However, the most unusual yet fantastic thing about GATE is that the youths that go there are handed the responsibility to come up with ideas for events and make decisions democratically for the benefit of themselves and GATE.
Whilst I was there my role was to work with the GATE users to make their school holiday a memorable and fun one, whether it was playing pool during the drop-in times or being thrashed by them at Guitar Hero on the Wii, helping them make decisions, plan for excursions, taking them on trips and having chats about almost anything whether it be joking about the cultural differences between us or more serious issues like drug misuse.
In particular I was involved in planning and implementing the "GATE escape"Â where we took roughly 20 kids up into the local hills one evening and staying up for the whole night playing hide and seek, building bonfires, stargazing and generally having fun outdoors until the sun came up over what turned out to be an incredible view of a valley where we were higher that the mist rising up from it.
Luckily, whilst I was there I also had the opportunity to visit the Edinburgh Fringe festival on a number of occasions in my free time. It was a real treat to see such a beautiful and famous city thriving on some truly spectacular aspects of performing arts. As a comedy lover, it was my first ever experience of stand up comedy that wasn't on the TV.
Unfortunately, due to the current financial crisis, GATE has lost many of its funders, without whom the GATE project cannot be run. It was a true shame to hear this news, as after working closely with many of its users it would have a devastating affect on their lives not to mention the staff there. In a bid to show my appreciation for GATE and raise some money I had my head shaved, an idea I had when one of the staff, "Mitch"Â, shaved his head as an ordinary haircut. It created a fun last day as the youths got to watch me loose my mop and I donated the £50 in proceeds to them to get some new Wii games.
It has also given me and two other CAP workers the opportunity to give support to such deserving people and come away with life lessons ourselves. It even inspired me to consider about how a similar project could influence the youth problems in my hometown.
I would like to express my thanks to all the GATE workers and teenagers that used GATE for making my CAP another life changing experience, in particular to Christine Pettie and James Mitchell.