Longer Read 21/05/2019
No-one can accuse Totnes of being short on coffee shops.
So what’s so special about another recent addition next to the Seven Stars at the bottom of town? Well, quite a lot as it turns out.
Totnes may have it’s ‘bubble’ status but, like the rest of Devon in general, is not immune to problems. With outstanding landscapes and glossy outward image, it’s easy to filter out the real problems facing young people even in this very affluent region of Britain. ‘Young Devon’; an organisation dedicated to supporting an often neglected social group.
The Totnes Pulse dropped in for an impressively strong flat white to meet strategist Andrew Moreman and cafe manager Wendy Arscott to find out more about what makes YD at Number 3 a different proposition.
Andrew explains the roots of the Young Devon were set down long ago in 1949 with the Devon Youth Association which began effectively as a youth club with an emphasis on sports. About 20 years ago they were asked to put together research about on the needs of young people in the 21st century. The association transformed into ‘Young Devon’ when it became apparent that the more intense needs indentified by the research would be best helped by modifying the group itself.
Mental health is contagious
Young Devon are now the largest young peoples chartity in the south-west with about 150 people within the team providing housing assistance, counselling, skills training and even ensuring that basic math & english to help disadvantaged and troubled young people to re-adjust their lives and steer them into a more indendent life. The word ‘independant’ was mine and Andrew draws me up on it. “Independance is fine, but it’s important to identify that one of the biggest factors in life is to build good quality relationships, loneliness can be a killer” . Young Devon use a mix of counselling, practical help like housing, physical exercise and managed discipline to guide people back to happy, sustainable lives.
How successful is the charity?
Andrew is pragmatic; “We don’t get to help everybody.” It seems that although they have an impressive success rate of about 90%, there are some that can’t be helped at the time. “We had a tough start to this year”, he explains outlining a series of events including 2 young people in nearby towns committing suicide highlighting the extremely challenging nature of the work. “Young people aren’t being helped by us because things are going well for them. We are about building a relationship with the person and dealing holistcally with the needs they have”
Social Network Dangers
The world has changed dramatically for young people in a world of the internet, social media and the fluidity of truth in a world of fake news. “Self harm has gone from something we would see rarely in the past to something we now see everyday. Mental health is contagious and access to media online can be damaging if the person is not equipped to deal with it.” The workplace has changed too with less stable work being available. Jobs have changed into a zero hour economy which plays hovoc with claiming benefits that can be instantly stopped requiring a soul-sapping, time consuming re-application.
Do the needs vary from place to place in Devon? “Yes, there are towns with drug problems in particular for example”. Andrew lists several Devon towns notably not including Totnes.
Where does the YD@3 Cafe come in?
Wendy joins us to talk about managing the Cafe since November last year.
The project is a commercial operation designed to help support Youth Devon both financially and by offering practical assistance by having placements for young people helping out in the kitchen and with service. Why Totnes? Young Devon ran a pilot cafe in Newton Abbott which unfortunately didn’t work out as they hoped. They also scoped out another Devon town where they felt they would not be accepted but; “Totnes ‘gets us’!” Andrew offers. Wendy continues, “The response here has been fantastic. We’re very much a cafe, but when people know what we’re about, it adds something.”
Plans to extend opening hours into the evening with a family friendly focus are in place as well as using the surprisingly spacious rear section for culinary events taking advantage of the clearly visible kitchen area. Private hire events can also be arranged by contacting the cafe directly or via their YDNumber3 facebook page.
Customers can be rest assured that supporting the cafe directly helps the work of a charity that deserves much more attention than they currently enjoy.