Hendon clubhouse’s proud mission to put wayward boys on the right path in life

The Boys Clubhouse in Hendon has helped its members set up a small printing business


Ari Leaman MBE, Chief Executive of The Boys Clubhouse

The Boys Clubhouse charity in Hendon remains undeterred in its mission to provide a safe environment for young Jewish people in crisis after a group of masked anti-Israel activists demonstrated outside it last month because it had invited a British IDF soldier to give a talk.

The charity helps boys aged 14 to 25 from across the religious spectrum who have fallen out of mainstream schooling, predominantly from Barnet, but also Hackney, Harrogate and Hertfordshire.

Last year, the charity’s chief executive, Ari Leaman, was awarded an MBE in the King’s New Year Honours List for “services to young people and to the community in Hendon”. He told the JC that his staff and the boys “shrugged off” last month’s incident.

“We do not feel intimidated. We had an attitude of: ‘We know the benefits we provide; others can say what they like.’

“We invite anyone who can share their journey or talk to the boys about staying on track, be they soldiers from the British Army, police, politicians or whomever.”

Apart from hiring temporary extra security and turning their social media pages private because of the torrent of hate messages they were receiving, they haven’t had any trouble since. Along with regular lunch-and-learn sessions, where guests are invited to speak, the centre offers a weightlifting room, a billiards and gaming room, as well as a sound studio to make music. There is also a small business, where the boys design personalised, made-to-order prints to put on items such as mugs and mousepads. Around Christmas time, the business can produce up to 150 items a day. Through this, Ari said, boys learn “responsibility, enterprise, and skills such as search engine optimisation knowledge”.

External trips are occasionally arranged too, which in recent years have included equine therapy and even parachuting out of a plane.

The charity also provides emergency on-site accommodation and leases a two-bedroom flat in Hendon.

Ari said: “We are very much client-led and flexible, depending on what the person needs. Jewish kids rarely belong to gangs, but they often need help just the same. They can fall out of schooling and into drug-dealing or be in and out of prison just like anyone else.”

Ari, who founded the charity in its current form in 2009, said demand for its services had “surged” in the last six years, and mental health challenges specifically had grown in more recent times.

One boy, 15, who said he had grown up in a “dysfunctional” home, told the JC that he had “grown more as a person here than I ever did in school”.

He said that teachers in school had always kept him outside of the classroom because they “never liked” him, whereas he felt included at the centre.

He said it was due to the support he had received from the clubhouse that he had decided to go into designing and building gaming computers in the future.

Paying tribute to the head of The Boys Clubhouse, the member said: “You can just go to Ari with any kind of idea or business idea, and he’ll help you.”

He said it was not only the support from staff that the members valued, but the support from other members.

It provided a community where they could “look out for one another and be around guys who have come through it, who get you and who we can be happy for when they do well”.

Ari said that The Boys Clubhouse had a “very high” success rate but admitted that defining success could be anything from “just getting up in the morning, to getting sober, or to finding a wife and having kids or being in employment”.

“And”, he added proudly: “I’ve lost count of how many weddings I’ve been to.”

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