A Derby charity which has helped more than 10,000 children achieve a better life is entering its 30th year with “fresh energy and purpose” led by a brand-new CEO and board of trustees. 

Enthusiasm, which is based in Cotton Lane, has been helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds in the city to reach their full potential since the charity was launched in 1992.

Now the organisation is being led with renewed vision by April Allman-Hayhurst, former deputy principal at the Derby College Group, and a hugely experienced board made up of key stakeholders and influencers from across the city. 

It means Enthusiasm can expand its work reaching out to young people providing clubs, workshops, homework support, one-to-one mentoring programmes and working with parents and families to offer opportunities to gain skills, knowledge and experience from a variety of activities.

April said: “This is a really exciting time for Enthusiasm and as we enter this new era, we have fresh energy and purpose ready to inspire a whole new generation of young people and their families.

“The children we work with are from the Traveller community or have complex needs and chaotic lifestyles both in and out of their home environments.

“A great many come from areas where there is high unemployment, poor health and housing, high levels of crime and exposure to gangs. Some of these children are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and many live in deprived and broken homes.

“Enthusiasm is all about trying to show these young people that there is a different path and creating opportunities for these teenagers to grow and flourish.”

Joining April on the board of trustees is Pauline Anderson, director of learning, inclusion and skills at Derby City Council who is also chair of trustees for the Traveller Movement London and chair of Derby Cultural Education Partnership.

She is supported by Dean Jackson, founder of award-winning triathlon gear manufacturer HUUB; Sara Le-Good, director of inclusion at Derby College; Ryan Duckett who is CEO of Derbyshire County Cricket Club and Claire Twells from Smith Partnership. 

They are joined by former police superintendent Gary Parkin who is now head of security and safeguarding at Derby County Football Club and Carol Dixon director for adult skills and commercial business at Derby College.

Together they will be supporting children attending Enthusiasm who are primarily drawn from Osmaston, Allenton and Alvaston with smaller numbers from Chellaston, Sinfin and Shelton Lock.

They are usually aged between 11 and 18 years old and are often referred to the centre by schools, police and other agencies if they are deemed to be at risk of exclusion, offending or anti-social behaviour, including the influence of negative peer groups and gangs.

Since the new team took the helm, Enthusiasm’s Cotton Lane home has been redecorated and recarpeted and artwork created during Project Lockdown – where young people were encouraged to express themselves creatively – has been hung on the walls.

With such an impressive board, there has also been plenty of support from Derby’s business community. Derbyshire County Cricket Club donated tickets to its the firework display while telecoms provider EVAD donated spending money for the fair at the same event. 

This month, 20 children were able to enjoy a trip to the theatre to watch a production of Treasure Island thanks to a donation of tickets from Derby Theatre. While florists from Blackthorn and Bloom, in Melbourne, are staging a wreath-making workshop to get everyone in the festive spirit, before a Christmas party on December 23rd.

But while there are plenty of fun activities to keep the teenagers engaged and off the streets, there is a serious side to the work of Enthusiasm too. Many of the youngsters attending the centre have low literacy and numeracy skills, while some are not able to read at all, so enabling them to access education is an important focus.

“We already have a homework club on a Tuesday evening and a reading and writing club which is a safe, quiet space where the young people can study,” said April.

“We have a teacher available to help and some A-Level students volunteer their time too – so help is at hand for those that need it. In the new year we are hoping to extend this with some short courses in different subjects and I’d like to get some maths and IT volunteers on board too, so we can support in these areas too.

“The young people have very different starting points from just wanting to be able to write their name, to needing extra help with their A-levels. Each young person will be supported depending on their individual needs and their distance travelled will be monitored.” 

All the work carried out at Enthusiasm, whether that’s dance clubs or cookery classes is designed to build self- esteem and confidence and raise aspirations individually and in the community.

Mentors work with young people on a one-to-one basis to help them change behaviour and interventions around choices and consequences, health and anger management, conflict resolution and drug and alcohol awareness.

April said: “Sometimes the young people that come to Enthusiasm are hard to reach, we have youth workers who spend many hours reaching out to the young people by walking the streets and encouraging the young people to attend the centre. There has been a significant increase in the footfall in recent weeks which is really encouraging. 

“By broadening their experiences and enhancing their education we can have a greater impact on their lives and, in turn, their community and we hope that as we enter our 30th year we will be welcoming more and more young people through our doors.”