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PICTURED: Residents reopen axed Downham community centre
An axed council-run community centre has reopened in Downham thanks to the "community effort" of residents.
The REAP Centre, formerly Oakridge Community Centre which closed last year after slashed Lewisham Council funding, celebrated its official unveiling with street dance, arts and crafts, steel pan drums and food on May 31.
Manager Fiona Calder felt the centre, which now runs clubs for all ages and even gives tea to the homeless in the area, was too important to close and bid for the site.
The 35-year-old runs a business at the site to keep it open and volunteers help her run a wealth of free clubs including a drama group for adults, a children’s film club, a choir, and a mentoring programme for teenagers.
Ms Calder, who lives off Chinbrook Road, Grove Park, said: "It is a community effort coming together to allow this centre to run.
"Both youth clubs in the area closed down, so the youth really didn’t have anywhere to attend. The youth wanted it.
"I just feel as a community you can fight for your own community centre to remain open and keep stuff for young and lonely people to attend."
The mum-of-two, who has worked with street kids in Brazil and founded social projects such as film clubs in the borough and mentoring projects for young girls says she is now "living her dream".
She said: "I’ve always had a heart for community and families.
"I am the eldest of 11, so I have always done it.
"It’s always been a dream to do community work and I would definitely say I am living my dream."
Ms Calder, who regularly gives tea and toast to homeless people in the park next to the centre, added: "They are really sweet people, they have got a problem but they are still part of our community."
There are also educational courses for young people up to GCSE level, and Mandarin classes on offer at the centre in Oakridge Road.
Speaking of the launch day, she said: “It was just to let the whole community know we have got something for everyone.
“It seems the whole of Downham community and the parents and the families are so supportive, I really appreciate the support.”
To find out more visit thereapcentre.com
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