A new YMCA NSW (the Y) program, Streetgym, aiming to change the tune on youth disadvantage and wellbeing kicked off in San Remo on Tuesday.
The Y’s Streetgym brings young people, youth workers and services together in local parks to break down barriers, improve mental and physical wellbeing and promote community connection.
Local Program Coordinator, Virginia Walshaw, said Streetgym would become a pathway to more support and personal growth for the youth of San Remo and surrounding suburbs.
“We know that young people are really feeling the pressure right now.
“Since the Y launched our Central Coast Call A Youth Worker hotline in response to COVID-19 in March, calls about mental health have doubled.
“The pandemic has been isolating and one of the most important things we can do to combat this is to engage young people within their own communities on their own terms.
“What you’ll see is a bunch of kids playing ball games in the park, socialising and getting fit, but what’s going on beyond the surface is so much more powerful than that.
“Slowly we are building trust so they can open-up about what’s happening in their world,” Walshaw explained.
And with San Remo in the top 10 per cent of disadvantaged postcodes in Australia (Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage 2016) Walshaw believes that the program could be the hand-up that young people need.
“There are a number of complex issues surrounding disadvantage in the region north of Wyong, but for young people specifically what we’re hearing is the lack of access to services and opportunities is a major contributor, which is why Waratah Education Foundation approached The Y to deliver this program specifically for this region.
“After the success of last year’s Streetgym at Lake Haven, which is still going strong today, I know this program works,” Walshaw said.
The kick-off session was held at San Remo Neighbourhood Centre with support from local youth support service provider LINKS.
Walshaw said LINKS were unequalled when it came to youth engagement in the target region and she said that she was excited at where that partnership could take the program.
“LINKS are unmatched when it comes to this area, so by leveraging their years’ of experience and knowledge, we hope to be able to grow new community partnerships to take Streetgym to other suburbs such as Budgewoi, Blue Haven and Mannering Park.”
The program has already found one such community partner in North Lakes High School, with the institution signing on to host future sessions.
It’s a major win for Streetgym, with the school having a multifaceted sporting offering with its recently unveiled outdoor gym, covered play areas and oval.
“We are so grateful to North Lakes High School for signing on.
“Their facilities are brilliant and will be a huge boost to the program,” Walshaw said.
With the inaugural session now complete, Walshaw said the goal now was to continue to develop Streetgym San Remo into a safe space that young people want to engage with.
“With the invaluable support of LINKS and San Remo Neighbourhood Centre, Streetgym San Remo will create a familiar and safe space where young people can access good food, exercise, make friends and get advice from an adult if they need help.
“It encourages young people to step out of their comfort zones and have a go and the result is the empowering feeling of having achieved something awesome for yourself,” Walshaw said.
Streetgym San Remo will run on Tuesdays during school term from 3-5pm.