In September a teenage boy was left with potentially life-changing injuries after an assault at Westgate railway station where he was struck and fell onto the tracks.
The incident shocked residents in the town but also drove them to take action to create safe places for anyone in need.
The initiative has been joined by numerous venues in Westgate and headed up by resident Sabrina Ryan who is quick to shake off praise by saying she is “just a mum with a big mouth!”
In just a few weeks there have been meetings with town councillors and police, a youth event hosted at the Westgate United Services Club and a whole list of businesses offering their venues as a safe place to make a call or go to if feeling unsafe.
Dentist receptionist Sabrina said: “It is a really simple concept. After that incident I just couldn’t sit on the fence.
“Then businesses came forward, the first was Adele at The Garden Bar, to say they would be a safe place so anyone scared could go there and ring the police or their parents, whatever they need.
“We have posters from Mark at Ace Attire Printers which are displayed in all the ‘safe places’ with around 21 joining so far.
“Our message is there are safe places for people, especially young people, and they can make that call instead of having to wait until they get home.
“We had a meeting on October 6, have had a QR code done on the posters by Sam Withrington and her husband and our PSCO Adrian Butterworth is looking at a community shelter scheme. It has all spiralled from there.”
Sabrina says one of the issues is a lack of things for young people in Westgate to do despite the town having two large secondary schools and a third just up the road in Birchington.
She said: “That is 3,000 teenagers that potentially have no direction and nothing here welcoming them to the community.
“So, Westgate United Services Club opened up from 2pm-5pm for young people to come and play pool and meet people. They will be doing this again on December 22.
“We also have Margate (FC) youth onboard and they will have sessions at Lymington Park with Bethany’s café supplying hot chocolate, on December 30.
“We don’t have a leisure centre or skate park but we are making the best of what we have and hope to get funding for next year so we can get more things in place. At the moment it is costing nothing except for people’s time and generosity.”
Sabrina says the plans are being backed by King Ethelbert School and Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour Academy.
She added: “We want to keep the momentum going but also to look at what we are doing as there is a fine line with too much of an organised event when youngsters might just want a place where they can chill and have a laugh – it is finding that balance.”
The idea has been positively received by residents, traders, schools, police and the town council.
Sabrina said: “We launched the facebook page on October 7 so it hasn’t been that long but the support has been amazing. I just want to keep going with it and hopefully we can start engaging with our young people and they can feel part of everything.
“The most overwhelming thing has been people thanking me when really I’m just a mum with a big mouth!”
Find Westgate Safe Place on facebook here
Westgate Safe Places
The Garden Bar
Ace Attire Printers
Westgate United Service Club
Margate FC (planned session at Lymington Park, times tbc)
Miles & Barr
Little Brown Fairy Cake
J Prentis Westgate
The Best One shop
West Bay Cafe
Westgate Social Club
Peacocks of Westgate (MOT garage)
Westgate Town Council office
Congratulations on this initiative. And good luck in coming up with a varied programme in which teenagers can participate.
Westgate United Services Club are proud to be part of this project
Safe spaces are all very well but rather smacks of society cowering to the thugs. It’d be much better if perpetrators of such attacks were sentenced to 10 years as a minimum, no excuses allowed. Attitudes and behaviour would soon change once a few were deprived of their liberty.
Indeed – and police on the beat of course! Well done to Sabrina for making a difference though.
The parents of the thugs also need to be held accountable for the actions of their children. Perhaps if the parents were punished they might actually care where their kids are and keep an eye on them rather then let them run feral.
Well done. But it would be better if the scumbag thugs needed a ‘safe’ space!
Well done Sabrina, but shouldn’t these Stations be Maned 24 hrs a day 7 days a week, these Train Operating Company’s are making Millions of Pounds, they should be manning these Stations.