Star Wars actor John Boyega returns to his roots to inspire South London youth

BAFTA winner John Boyega has returned to his roots in South London and spoken of the financial hardship he endured during his childhood.

The Star Wars actor visited a Croydon youth centre, and offered his advice on what he thinks is needed for young kids to turn their dreams into reality.

He said: “We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so I know how important it is to have free spaces and activities outside of the home.

“I was lucky that I had my father’s church and a local community drama group at Theatre Peckham, so I had places to go, and opportunities to dream.

“That’s why places like Legacy Youth Zone in Croydon are so important for the next generation.

“We just need more of them, all across the country, so young people have a safe space to be themselves and have the opportunity to discover their passions in life, just as I did.”

His visit to the centre was part of a special evening with Amazon, which has teamed up with youth charity OnSide to provide products, funds, and programming to support its network of state-of-the-art Youth Zones, which help 50,000 young people across the UK.

John helped to deliver new equipment to the site, including Kindles, a PlayStation 5, a 3D printer, arts and crafts materials, Amazon Fire HD tablets, photography kits, and a range of sports gear, such as weights, basketballs, golf sets, and a go-kart, to inspire the next generation.

After receiving a tour, the 30-year-old star of new action film, The Woman King, spoke about the importance of having access to safe and vibrant youth spaces – after he himself found his passion for acting through an after-school drama project.

It comes after research by Amazon found half of young adults (49%) feel there aren’t enough free places for them to go – at a time when 69% cite the cost-of-living crisis as their biggest concern.

The research, which included a poll of 1,000 young people, aged 16- to 25-years-old, also revealed a new “Youth Spaces Access Index” – which ranked local authorities with the least access to youth space for young people (age 13-25) in England.

It found Norfolk was the worst affected local authority, with stark deprivation of appropriate spaces for young adults seen across the east of England.

The North East and South East regions each have three areas named in the list.

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John Boumphrey, Amazon UK country manager, said: “Young people are at risk of becoming this century’s lost generation as they live through a cost-of-living crisis, while still reeling from the global pandemic.

“We were inspired by OnSide’s mission to have a life-changing impact on this generation.

“Our team at Amazon has committed products, funds, and programming to OnSide for their network of inspiring Youth Zones, supporting 50,000 young people across the UK.

“This is part of our wider commitment to act as a force for good in the communities where we operate – and we’re proud to have worked with over 10,000 organisations across the UK in the last 12 months alone, that also focus on young people.”

Jamie Masraff, incoming chief executive at OnSide, added: “Every young person deserves access to safe, inspiring spaces, where they can discover their passions and their purpose.

“Youth Zones offer many thousands of young people, in communities nationwide, a chance to have fun, make friends, and try new things, all with help from trusted youth workers – vital support which builds self-esteem and resilience, laying the foundations for them to thrive into adulthood.

“Working with organisations like Amazon mean that we can help many more young people access the benefits of incredible youth work, within Youth Zones designed to meet their needs.”

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