Inspiration

Argh, I wrote this earlier and forgot to post it, so here it is now an hour and fifteen minutes later than officially allowed. I hope you’ll let me off, it’s been an emotional day…

It’s been a long old day but finally it’s a wrap. We’ve got some great footage of our fabulous young people which I’m certain will make a really outstanding film. Despite a lot of waiting and moving around I was so impressed by everyone’s stamina and upbeat attitudes, they really went the extra mile today and it showed, not only in the footage but also in the difference between the sleepy group that turned up at 10.30 this morning and the buzzing, lively group that walked out of the door at 5pm. We were all jaded and yet there was a synergy between us as a group that got us through the lower points and kept us all focused on the purpose of the day. As cheesy as it sounds I couldn’t be more proud of the young people who took part in this project. They’ve got a million things going on in their own lives and didn’t have to do it, but in the end I think it helped them more than they realised it would. All in all a great day.

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If Carlsberg did overtime…

This weekend we’re recording a short film with some of our young people which will be shown at the charity’s annual supporter event in November. Tonight was the first stage; getting everyone together to rehearse their stories so they feel comfortable in front of the camera when we shoot for real tomorrow.

I knew it would be a powerful experience but in reality it blew me away. Even though they’ve all faced so many challenges in their relatively short lives, every single one of them was able to open up and tell their story honestly and from the heart, which was testament to how much they trusted and felt supported by one another. The rapport between the group and the strength of positive feeling towards the charity – all the young people without exception attribute it to changing their lives for the better, some even said they didn’t know what would have become of them without the intervention – was so incredibly moving, my words can’t even do it justice.

The whole experience left me full of admiration for these astonishing young people, who are taking their negative experiences and turning them into positive ones – literally turning their lives around with our ongoing support and encouragement. I feel humbled to have been present as they shared their stories, and so excited to see them again tomorrow as they do it again ‘for real.’

And, most of all, I feel incredibly fortunate to have myself had such a comparatively trouble-free life. Hearing some of the young people’s stories really made me realise just how trivial some of the things I’ve been through really were, even though at the time they may have seemed horrendous (I always have been good at melodrama). That’s not to say at times I haven’t been through tough times, just that I’m so grateful to have always been supported through those times by people who loved me.

Wow, what a night. Sometimes working overtime isn’t a chore at all – it’s an honour and a privilege.

Why we should be proud of our young people

This afternoon I accompanied two senior members of my charity’s youth-led consultancy board (a group of Teens and Toddlers graduates who now help other young people to continue their personal and professional development, as well as themselves being helped by the charity on an ongoing basis through initiatives like corporate mentoring, work placements and signposting to relevant opportunities) to the Hackney University Technical College in order to do some filming for an exciting new youth initiative (which we’re not yet at liberty to discuss in the public arena). [As an aside, one of the two people I went with also now happens to be my colleague, which goes to show what a great job the charity does in helping young people to develop!]

The filming was coordinated entirely by year 10 students, and it was so incredibly inspirational to see how professional and focused they were, from the cameraman to the interviewer and everyone in between. What I personally found particularly uplifting was watching our young people talking to the students about how the charity had helped them, and seeing how enthusiastic they all were about this project and the prospect of working together in the future.

There will always be the odd down day in any job, but if ever I needed a reminder why I do this job it was this afternoon’s experience. This kind of frontline interaction is exactly what I’ve felt was missing in my previous jobs, and it’s both a privilege and an honour to be able to work closely with such fantastic young people on a regular basis.

Anyone with doubts about the future of today’s youth need only look to our YLCB and the Hackney UTC students to see there’s still so much to be hopeful about. Far from being a lost cause, on the basis of what I witnessed today we have every reason to be proud of the younger generation. Many of them are the leaders of tomorrow, and I have high hopes they’ll achieve great things.

Give young people a chance

Yesterday afternoon I popped into the office to meet some of the members of our Youth Led Consultancy Board (YLCB for short). We’ve been grappling with what the charity’s strapline should be for a few weeks and all felt it was important to get input from the young people – who have themselves all completed the Teens and Toddlers programme – because without it we’d be hypocritical to call ourselves a truly youth-led charity.

Within minutes of starting the brainstorm they’d come up with a better suggestion for the strap line than any of the ones we devised in the staff brainstorm meeting last week. It was so inspiring to meet them and find out what they’re all doing now-mostly about to finish college exams and waiting for results to find out if they’ve got university places. They’re living proof our programme really does work at helping disadvantaged young people get into further education and employment, and it was a joy to see how bright, motivated and enthusiastic they all are.

Working with the young people is teaching me so much about the dangers of preconceptions and stereotypes. So many people write off vast swathes of today’s youth as being wasters who refuse to do the necessary work to succeed, but for most that’s categorically not true. They want to achieve, they just need extra help to believe that they can.

This one was taken in 2007 when I made a banoffee pie and brought it into the orphanage for the kids to try – they couldn’t get enough of it!