Teen health bus hits the roads

Volunteers (left to right) Linda Pine, Paul and Mary Beck and Linda Harvey pictured with Stephen Akers-Belcher(second right) and Christopher Akers-Belcher.
Volunteers (left to right) Linda Pine, Paul and Mary Beck and Linda Harvey pictured with Stephen Akers-Belcher(second right) and Christopher Akers-Belcher.

A NEW community bus which aims to boost the health of teenagers is set to launch this weekend.

Dedicated volunteers at the award-winning Rifty Youth Project have been working hard over the past few months transforming the double-decker bus into The Number Rifteen, a mobile health and youth service.

The service, which will eventually travel to the north, south and central areas of town, is aimed at teenagers.

It will be based in the Rift House area of town to start with, but will be travelling to other areas including the Fens and Burbank areas in the future.

The long-term aim is to provide a seven-day a week service.

Organisers have described the bus, which is equipped with games consoles and fun activities, as a youth centre on wheels.

Trained volunteers will staff the bus and provide a range of services including sexual health advice, a smoking cessation service and other health-related issues.

The new service will also signpost youngsters to other organisations.

New signage will be added to the bus before its official launch on Saturday at 11am at the Masefield Centre, in Masefield Road.

Organisers have urged members of the community to go along to the launch.

Teenagers, who are aged between 13-18, will then be able to enjoy the bus at the Masefield Centre from 5pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Rifty Youth Project was initially set up in July 2009 by Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher to address the lack of youth facilities in the Rift House area.

It currently works with youngsters aged between seven and 18 from the Rift House area on a Tuesday and Friday night but the bus will be aimed at teenagers.

Coun Akers-Belcher, project co-ordinator at the Rifty, said: “The Rifty is run 100 per cent by dedicated volunteers and this has been both our driving force and our success.

“We have 21 dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to make the Rifty a progressive and supportive youth project.”

Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, who chairs the Rift House East Residents’ Association which is also a key partner of the project, said: “At a time when Hartlepool is experiencing the most savage funding constraints ever known, the people of Rift House and the wider community are demonstrating the real ‘Big Society’ by supporting and securing a much needed facility for the whole town.”

The Number Rifteen is the former Hartlepool Families First play bus, which has since been restored.

For more information call Christopher or Stephen Akers-Belcher on either 07947 226878 or 07904 402864.