IN 1996, the Cardigan Youth Project known as Area 43 was established in the town for the sole purpose of helping vulnerable young people aged 16-25.

The doors opened in 1997 and 20 years on it’s thriving, offering support to around 300 young people annually. This Wednesday, the only centre of its kind in Ceredigion will celebrate its 20th anniversary and a warm welcome is extended to all.

Based at Number 1 Pont y Cleifion opposite St Mary’s Church, Area 43, a registered charity, provides support, guidance and training to the young people of Cardigan and the surrounding areas, offering a safe and warm environment during the day.

Originally founded as a drop-in and information shop, the centre has grown over the years and now boasts a multimedia suite, project rooms, offices and a studio. The training room and a counselling room are available for hire to other agencies.

“We also offer guidance on housing, health, benefits, education, training, employment, legal support and budgeting help. The drop-in centre on the ground level is open to all 16–25 year olds offering free tea and coffee, internet access and cost price meals,” said Area 43 CEO Sally Jones.

The centre has six full time staff, seven trustees who are all volunteers, several young people who volunteer in the centre and a volunteer counsellor as well as a consultant. It offers accredited and non-accredited training.

“What we also do is listen. There can be so many elements of things that aren’t working for people and one impacts on another,” said Sally.

“If you don’t have housing, education is the last thing on your mind, so we help the young people put steps in place to address these issues in a logical manner.

“We provide a very professional service, and although we look informal, we have robust policies, procedures and a code of practice to deal safely and effectively with the most vulnerable people in society.”

Area 43 also provides a professional counselling service to secondary schools and year six children in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, and has done so since 2008. This is delivered by 23 fully qualified and experienced counsellors employed and managed by Area 43.

Sally has worked at Area 43 since 1998, firstly as a volunteer and 12 months ago was appointed CEO. She says that the centre offers invaluable support.

“Back in 1998, my children were of an age when they needed help, advice and support and that wasn’t really available and the resources in the community were limited,” she said.

“I’ve always been passionate about youth work and I realised how important this facility was and is for Cardigan. We offer training to those not in education or full time employment and we value the support from the community and the young people. Everybody here works over and beyond their contract and we have a highly committed team.”

The 20th anniversary celebrations will take place at Area 43 on Wednesday 20th September between 3 pm and 6.30 pm where a short video of its history will be shown as well as speeches by guests.