STORIES OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE
Amina and The Advocacy Academy
When you grow up in Brixton, shocking things become normal to you. Once, on my walk home, I saw a boy who’d been excluded from my school pull a knife on someone. Another time, I saw a boy I knew getting chased by the police. Young people in my community see these things on a daily basis, yet none of the teachers at school are willing to talk about them.
I first discovered the Advocacy Academy in an assembly. It was so refreshing to hear issues in the community being talked about properly by an adult. In my application, I wrote about how I see Brixton stigmatised in the media, and how it’s only ever gang or knife-crime being reported on. Then in my interview we discussed things I hadn’t even spoken to my family or friends about. I started crying. I felt like my voice was finally being taken seriously.
On the first residential, the most important thing for me, and I think many others, was the part on sexual harassment. I spoke about getting slut-shamed in school, and after others shared their experiences it made me realise I wasn’t alone in what I’ve been through. For my speech in Parliament, I was so scared and intimidated. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell my story to people there who I didn’t know. But I realised I needed to do it on behalf of other girls who’ve suffered from harassment. I talked about fighting against sexual harassment in schools by running workshops for teachers. Then we got to work.
We quickly realised if we were going to get through to teachers we needed to make students care, first, so we put posters up around my school. We also practiced our workshop delivery at Battersea Arts Centre and it had such a surprising impact! It allowed people who otherwise don’t have a chance to share their stories to speak and be listened to. At the end, everyone made personal pledges to root out the problem of sexual harassment. For example, some of the boys pledged not to say the ‘b-word’. Later, we came up with having a page in school homework planners that provides support for students who experience harassment. It all culminated in having a meeting at my school this summer to implement our ideas.
To me, the Advocacy Academy means change. It means power, working together and applying things you learn to the real world. Not just in big campaigns, but in small situations, too, like calling people out when they say offensive things. Since I joined the Academy, I’ve had lots of debates with people about how to treat girls, relationships and racism. People at my school all know about the Academy now simply because of how many times we’ve had debates!
The Academy isn’t like NCS, where you might build bonds with your team but you won’t achieve anything real. It’s bigger than that - it’s about being respected, not liked. Before the Academy, I thought racism, sexism and poverty were inevitable. I was pessimistic about society. But now confident about leading change. It doesn’t have to be white, middle class people on the news talking about our community. We can speak for ourselves.
“To me, the Advocacy Academy means change. It means power, working together and applying things you learn to the real world. .”
— Amina, Class of 2018
Mina and The Baytree Centre
Mina is 18 and has been accessing Baytree’s Youth Service since she was 10 years old. She joined the after-school clubs, attending cookery, boxing, maths, homework club, and drama. Not only did Mina improve in Maths, a subject she has always struggled with, but she was given the opportunity to try new things and soon discovered her love for and talent in Drama.
At the age of 13, Mina joined the Spark programme where she developed her confidence as well as her employability, citizenship and leadership skills. She has taken part in creative and skills-development workshops, been on trips to Jersey and Barcelona, organised an exhibition at the Brixton Pound café to raise awareness about homelessness, volunteered at Brixton Soup Kitchen and in care homes, delivered a pitch at a big bank, visited the Mayor’s Office and has undertaken several work experience placements including at a big London theatre.
Despite being shy, Mina has become a self-motived, proactive and determined young woman who considers herself a leader and makes the most of every opportunity that will further her personal development and build her CV. Mina is currently studying performing arts at a well-renowned creative arts college. She works part time, volunteers her support to younger girls in the community as well as at Baytree and is set to start studying Drama and English at university in September.
Ebony Horse Club
Ebony Horse Club supported a young person was referred through Victim Support. As a result of her personal experience, she was lacking confidence and needed new opportunities to help her make new friends. Her parents speak little English and have a limited income making it hard for them to find new opportunities and activities for her.
This young person took part in our Introduction to Riding to course in February where she was keen to learn, outgoing, and showed a real interest in horses and riding.
On completion of the course she has now signed up to become a regular member where she will ride once a week and have access to our youth work activities, trips etc. She has completed a full half term as a member and her confidence, relationships and communication have significantly improved. She very recently took part in training which has taught her the skills she needs to come and volunteer at the club so she can spend more time here, work more closely with our horses and other members.
A young person began attending the play sessions at High Trees Adventure Playground in September 2018. He engaged with activities following support from staff but approached group activities nervously and seemed reluctant to speak up. During briefings and debriefings of sessions, staff thought about a variety of ways to support him to build his confidence and work in a group.
Focusing on his strengths in sports and his helpful nature, staff organised a session where different individuals were given the responsibility to run short sport activities. This young person was immediately engaged and with encouragement from staff, worked well to organise his peers into two teams and introduced the rules of bench ball. The group thoroughly enjoyed his game and now regularly ask to play the game and for him to lead.
This young person is now old enough to attend the youth nights and does so with an increased confidence however, he does return to the younger group on occasion to run a sports session much to the delight of his younger friends.
Ivan and IRMO
On the day of his 14th birthday, Ivan moved to London with his parents and older brother having left close friends and family both in Spain and in the Dominican Republic. ‘I remember the first time I left the Dominican Republic to go to Spain I was excited and terrified at the same time and I felt the same when I moved to London from Spain’, Ivan said.
In London, Ivan didn’t know anybody and had no place in school. A family friend suggested IRMO to his family so that he could access the Latin American Youth Forum (LAYF) and get support for in-year school admissions. At IRMO, Ivan had the opportunity to express himself in his own language while learning English and more about the UK. He found a place where he could socialise and create meaningful friendships that made his first months in the UK less lonely. Ivan was supported to get a place in secondary school after waiting to hear back from the admission department for 4 months.
Through the LAYF workshops, classes and outdoors activities, Ivan very quickly showed his talents, skills and leadership in music production, song writing and public speaking.
While still not 100% confident in his English skills, Ivan stepped up to represent the Latin American young people of LAYF at the BYB Youth Steering Group, playing an important role in advocating for his Spanish speaking peers.
“The change was brutal but since I started coming to IRMO I didn’t feel as shy and lost as I did when I arrived.”
Ivan, 16, Dominican Republican
MLCE supported a young person who was deemed hard work, had been to various services within Lambeth, and who felt that they all exited him from their service due to his lack of commitment and behaviour.
Over the past few months, he has engaged very well with us and the reason for his 100% commitment was that our service worked with him on various attitude, mental and emotional wellbeing areas and his future prospects in terms of work or education.
This meant different team members with targeted skills were involved in the engagement, from our counselling team, employment officer, and his key worker.
The engagement with the young person is still on-going as a result of the trust we have built with him and our flexibility in responding to his needs.