Drop in at the Corner and see the world

15th August 1997 at 01:00
Business is brisk at the Travel Programme, an initiative aimed at attracting young people over the summer to the Corner drop-in centre in the heart of Dundee.

On two afternoons a week throughout the school holidays, the centre offers young people a chance to soak up the atmosphere, colour and culture of another country, even if they cannot visit it. The United States, France, Italy and the whole of Africa have been experienced, at least in spirit. The last stop, just before everyone gets ready for the return to school, is Scotland.

The Corner is festooned with posters, literature and artefacts about the theme country of the week. I experienced the lure of the Orient: China week included an introductory talk about the country, a food demonstration, a jewellery-making workshop and a demonstration of karate. Each week visitors are encouraged to send a postcard to a friend, which not only illustrates the theme country but also advertises the centre.

The Corner is funded by the city council, the Scottish Office and Tayside Health Board. Its combination of health, advice and information services and youth activities is regarded as unique.

Situated between the river Tay and the main shopping area, it attracts youngsters six days a week for a variety of reasons. They are met by a team of youth and health workers who each provide general advice services plus expertise in one area - youth information and rights, health promotion or family planning. Links are made with other agencies which can give further help with problems like homelessness and abuse.

An important role is provision of contraception, pregnancy testing and sexual health counselling, which young people might not otherwise easily locate. Starting in April last year, the centre has handled 8,000 inquiries, a third of them on sexual health.

Dundee has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Scotland, and Joyce Wilkinson, a project worker and nurse, says the service is vital. "We are not stealing GPs' patients. If the young people were not coming here, they would not be going anywhere else," she says Participation by young people in running the Corner is encouraged, and it was during a monthly planning session that they came up with the idea of the travel programme. It has meant that the volume of inquiries, now running at about 1,000 a month, has more than been maintained during the holidays.

The teenagers also wanted to ensure that the serious issues dealt with at the Corner did not cloud a sociable atmosphere. John Howie, the centre's co-ordinator, said: "They wanted to strike a balance and do something that was just fun."

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