Raina Sheaf, CEO of The Zone, chats to JLife’s Sarah Nelson about the club’s relocation to the Jewish Youth Campus one year on.
How has The Zone’s first year at the new campus been?
It’s been overwhelming at times, always exciting, and definitely challenging. The community has been so kind and positively responsive for which we are very grateful.
On 18th May we completed our first year and have started to identify key areas of sustained successes, some gaps, and how to develop our strategy and vision moving forward.
What have been the major changes/ developments?
The biggest changes affected by the move are the outdoor space we now have — a huge plus — as well as sharing a campus, which has been a big transition for all the campus partners. Running a daytime community café has been a major development too.
The challenge for The Zone has been to continue to provide excellent youth work, coupled with running an energetic centre for younger children and families, without those two areas clashing.
Our main areas of development over the last year have been our multimedia, sports and wellbeing (in association with Maccabi GB and Maccabi Leeds), youth support service, amazing café; Café Chai, and Zone Ed; our adaptation of Cheder.
Are you doing anything to celebrate the one-year mark?
Yes! On 14th June we’re holding our first birthday party. We’re doing something completely new and combining it with The Maccabi Awards Day and their 20th birthday, the school’s annual Summer Fair, and the launch of Scouts, Guides, Brownies and Cubs on campus. The event is called We Are One and is the campus’ first ever unity day. Tickets are £5 and available from any of the named organisations.
What else is coming up for The Zone?
At the end of last month The Goldie Foundation hosted A Zone Junior Golf Day, during which 20 Zone members enjoyed a taste of golf. We’re planning a Foot Golf Day in the coming months and will shortly be looking at our summer programme.
One exciting area of development for parents of younger children is that we now offer permanent programmes during every holiday throughout the year on campus. The sports and dance camps are going ahead, while we’ve scheduled a three-week art programme and are in talks with a rock school.
For older youth, the drop-in programme continues and there will be lots of sports on offer, in addition to a film-making programme.
What have been your personal highlights?
Without any exaggeration, there has been a daily personal highlight for me.
Just a couple of them include having the infrastructure and funding to support and mentor youth in crisis and helping to make positive differences to their lives and the films and music produced by incredibly talented Zone members under Simon’s leadership in Street Sound.
It’s all about the people though. Our community’s response to The Zone has been a huge sense of pride, as is working with the most incredible team of colleagues, youth workers, trustees, and the most amazing volunteers and fundraisers.
Have you been met with any challenges?
Sharing space with a school is an ongoing challenge — for them as well as us — although the team have made it simpler than anticipated and we thank them for that.
And money is the obvious obstacle; we have a huge centre to run and the more successful it is, the more it costs. Apart from that, the ongoing aim is to ensure the community feels engaged, welcome and important — because they are.
What has the response been like from the wider Jewish community and how are you working together?
The wider community have responded incredibly kindly towards us. We have been absolutely astounded at times and are so grateful for the positive response. We always try very hard to work closely with other community organisations.
What are your hopes for the future, both in the short and long-term?
There are strategies being developed by groups of professionals and laypeople behind-the-scenes in our community whose key objectives are to work better together in order to enhance community living.
As well as looking forward to Maccabi usage when the pitches are redeveloped, and Scouts and Guides establishing themselves on campus, and creating more activities for older youth, we’re currently developing an outreach programme and new projects for next year.
Our hopes are very simple; for those who use The Zone and get great benefits from it, to continue to do so, and for those who haven’t yet, to come in and enjoy.
For more information or to become a monthly donor, call 0113 217 2531 or visit 1zone.org.uk.