Building a healthier neighbourhood
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Building a healthier neighbourhood

Brand new face of Klong Toey Youth Centre offers a range of activities

The newly refurbished Klong Toey Youth Centre aims to become a gathering spot in Klong Toey district, a neighbourhood blighted by drugs, to help people turn away from narcotics. Pawat Laopaisarntaksin.
The newly refurbished Klong Toey Youth Centre aims to become a gathering spot in Klong Toey district, a neighbourhood blighted by drugs, to help people turn away from narcotics. Pawat Laopaisarntaksin.

Sunee Saetia was never a big gym fan until City Hall recently renovated its youth centre in her Klong Toey neighbourhood.

"We could never afford the expensive gym membership. Thanks to the [Klong Toey Youth Centre], an alternative and affordable choice for exercise has been offered to us," she said.

The 50-year-old resident has now become a regular at the fitness centre in the Klong Toey Youth Centre, re-launched in February and operated by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

With an annual membership fee only 10 baht for those under 18 and 40 baht for older members, the gym has narrowed the gap between the rich and the poor. Members can access the entire facility and classes, except the swimming pool. A 90-minute pool session costs 5 baht for people under 18 and 15 baht for those who are older.

Last year the BMA approved about 50 million baht to refurbish Klong Toey Youth Centre located on At Narong Road, a makeover aimed at encouraging people to take part in recreational activities. The centre was not in good shape earlier, posing the risk of accidents and injury.

Pranee Satayaprakop, head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the BMA wanted to use the centre as a vehicle for its social policy to reduce levels of drug abuse and crime among young people in the district.

Klong Toey district is one the country's worst areas for illegal drugs. Drug dealing is still rampant despite decades of efforts by various governments to eradicate the problem.

"The governor [MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra] also wants Klong Toey Youth Centre to serve as a community centre which connects people in the district through activities," she said, referring to the 40 communities in the neighbourhood.

The centre also acts as a gathering spot for students after school as it offers physical activities, outdoor activities and games.

In 1997, the Port Authority of Thailand gave the BMA a piece of land covering 8.5 rai to be developed as a youth centre. But it took about seven years until a budget was approved for its construction. The centre was completed and ready for use in 2004.

Originally, the centre had an open space for outdoor activities, a whale-shaped swimming pool plus exercise equipment, which only attracted people living in nearby communities, according to Ms Pranee.

Now Klong Toey Youth Centre is a social recreational centre developed for people from all walks of life, she noted.

The centre provides opportunities for children to develop physical, social and emotional skills. It also allows them to experience enjoyment, achievement and recognition.

The centre offers martial arts and musical classes which give them access to several new skills, Ms Pranee said.

Foundations and social network groups can also take advantage of the centre, she noted, saying the centre can be booked for meetings and events free of charge.

The Por Teck Tung Foundation holds fire protection training programmes at the centre from time to time. Many schools also arrange activities for students at the centre's multi-purpose building. A local healthcare centre has invited the elderly under its care to exercise and use the centre's facilities, she said.

The number of patrons has grown from 300 to around 1,000 a day following the facelift, the head of the centre Wichai Chaysri said.

Now, the centre draws not only locals from nearby communities but also people from afar thanks to a comprehensive range of facilities and activities, he added.

The newly refurbished Klong Toey Youth Centre aims to become a gathering spot in Klong Toey district, a neighbourhood blighted by drugs, to help people turn away from narcotics. photos by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin

"We have facilities and exercise equipment that are the same quality as those in many other centres. The place is safe and clean. On top of that, admission is free," Mr Wichai, said.

In the past, residents were concerned about safety and cleanliness at the centre, he said, adding it is located quite a distance from the mouth of the soi so it takes time to reach it.

Many were worried the centre would be an ideal location for drug dealing.

Under its safety improvement plan, a fence has been built not only for safety and security reasons, but also to enhance the centre's appearance, he said.

Security guards maintain a safe and secure environment at the centre, Mr Wichai said.

The centre has also worked closely with law enforcement and military officials on crime prevention, he added.

The centre is concerned about possible accidents and injuries, Mr Wichai said, adding that rules are implemented to ensure people's safety, especially children and the elderly who are more susceptible to accidents.

The centre employs cleaners and a cleanliness campaign has been launched to raise awareness about the importance of making public places clean.

As part of the campaign's activities, young children hold placards displaying messages to promote cleanliness in different spots in the centre in the evening, he said.

"We have received a positive response from patrons," he said.

Over the past three months, more than 200 people have registered for membership at the centre and more than half are working people, Mr Wichai said.

The centre now boasts a multi-purpose building which is designed for indoor recreational activities. The building also has a room for yoga classes and another for Thai dance.

There is also a music rehearsal studio which has three pianos, a set of drums and electric guitars.

Teachers and experts are hired to pass on their skills to people who attend the classes, Mr Wichai said.

The centre holds fun-filled events from time to time to allow young members to show off their talents and skills, he said.

"Events help to build up children's confidence and bring our community together," Mr Wichai said.

The centre also includes a fitness centre that incorporates treadmills, exercise bikes and weightlifting equipment for strength training, plus locker rooms and bathrooms.

A playground for children and an outdoor space for activities are also available at the centre. What's more, the centre also has two basketball courts, two futsal pitches, and a 240-metre running track.

The centre's most outstanding feature may be the new boxing ring for muay Thai training, Mr Wichai said, adding residents in Klong Toey love muay Thai. There are already muay Thai camps in the district, he said.

A professional muay Thai instructor has also been hired to train people, mostly youths, he said, adding about 40-50 people attend the class each day.

The centre is open from 10am to 9pm on Mondays through Fridays, and from 10am and 6pm at weekends and on holidays.

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