This small, local charity operates from Longstone, in the South West part of Edinburgh. It operates as a Christian community group. Citylife aims to help young people from deprived areas such as Wester Hailes feel valued and cared for, growing in confidence along the way. Although a Christian charity Citylife welcomes all aiming to be non-judgemental and inclusive.
The group runs various weekly activities. On Tuesdays between four and six oâ€™clock there is â€œkidsclubâ€ which provides two hours of fun, food and entertainment for those of primary school age. For teenagers there is the Wednesday â€œclublifeâ€, which is run on a drop in basis. They usually play games consoles and can have beauty make-overs or enjoy crafts, sometimes followed by discussion groups on issues that affect teens. From this initial contact trust can develop and the Citylife team can then provide individual support, enabling people to talk through difficulties, and obtain practical help with other issues such as education or jobs. Home visits are provided, which builds trust with parents and maintains a community presence. There is also a Thursday group, which has more of a Christian focus with time for prayer and on Sunday evenings there is â€œPMâ€ which is more of a church event with music, talks and pastoral support.
The group have in the past run Community Action Days, where young people have been able to give something back, by cleaning litter, etc. The founder Helene King has also performed weddings, christenings and funerals as people had no contact with recognised church and felt more comfortable through knowing Helene. To provide these services the group has a small number of staff, but mainly operates thanks to the invaluable assistance of a committed volunteer team.
Citylife aims to break down barriers so people can enjoy the activities offered. Free transport is provided, picking and dropping off the younger children up literally from their doorsteps, thereby eliminating any difficulties they may face in being able to participate in the group. This service is also available to the older people the group helps. The very presence of the minibus creates goodwill in the area. Much of the activities are also subsidised. Many young people cannot afford activities that others in Edinburgh take for granted and so Citylife is helping to broaden horizons and enable new opportunities.
I attended a Kidzclub event. First, we travelled round Wester Hailes picking up the children from various locations. As each child boarded, the noise got louder, as the adrenaline count on the bus increased! One priceless moment for me was when I asked a young lad at the front of the bus what his favourite ice cream was. He said â€œsnowballâ€. Immediately from the back a voice yelled out â€œmineâ€™s chocolateâ€!
Immediately we walked into the door of Citylife the action started, with Musical Bumps. Last one to sit down and youâ€™re out. Two young lads stuck together like glue. One of them was eliminated. His mate immediately stood up and also left the game, without question. An unusual version of football was also played, where you had to play on your backside! It was clear during this activity that one of the girls in particular could beat the boys easily!
We then moved onto food, during which many arm wrestling contests were held (I sat at a boys table). I must admit, struggling against a ten year old was a tad embarrassing! After food we moved onto the more serious topic of Baptism. This turned out to be a key facet from my session. Two volunteers each advised me theyâ€™d asked to be baptised in recent years by a lady called Helene, (who founded Citylife ten years ago). This was clearly immensely important to them. I spoke privately with one of these ladies, who told me how her father was an alcoholic, and she became convinced there had to be something more. She first came to Citylife when she was 11 (she is now 19). This person went on to explain how Citylife had come to mean family to her, and given her confidence to grow. Another told me how important faith had become to her, and how it had got her through difficult times.
Citylife is an experience I will not forget. It touched me deeply. The people that enable this charity to operate are among lifeâ€™s nuggets of gold. They provide joy and happiness to so many people with a number of social challenges in their lives. The charity deserves all the support they can possibly get, both financially and in terms of volunteers, to carry out the invaluable work they do.
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