News and Views
I come from humble beginnings; being raised in Queens Crescent was an experience which has led me to become the man I am today. Where I grew up, a lot of crime and anti-social behaviour was the norm and I knew at heart I could be someone who doesn’t fit into the typical narrative of a young black Congolese male from Camden. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I experienced the harassment from police in the area; having to stay home after school as 200 police were raiding my neighbourhood; consistently being stopped and searched throughout my secondary school years (even being stopped and search on my 15th birthday!).
Some stories of young people working with us read like a list of high level goals, giving you the satisfying, warm and tingling feeling of checking off the boxes as you go along. Walid’s is such a story, taking you on a journey from seemingly unsurmountable challenges to eventual success.
We all have different ways in which we approach and cope with things. We also have different ways in which we take care of ourselves. We have different ways in which we treat the people around us as well. My ways may not suit you and your ways may not suit me. But what we both have in common, is the need to look after ourselves. It’s an essential part of our functioning as human beings even though we sometimes require a reminder from time to time. In this article I’ll cover a few areas I’ve managed to improve in and will share a few tips that work for me.
The pandemic has hit the young people we’re working with extremely hard. Many of them have lost their jobs right at the beginning of the crisis in February-March, especially the younger ones 19, 20 years old. A lot of our young people are given a council flat or studio at a young age, which means that they’ve a lot of financial responsibilities. Several of them have additional caring duties looking after young children, siblings or sick family members.
There’s no amount of words that can encapsulate how horrible the current world state is that we’re in. I’m not talking coronavirus and stress, I’m talking the suffering of millions, a whole lot of racism and a whole lot of injustice. Being a young person that’s grown up in London I’ve seen my closest friends experience things I’ll never even come close to comprehending let alone knowing what it feels like to go through such pain. This week, I want to highlight the seriousness of what’s going on around us and share whatever awareness I hold on the situation as I think having a voice across platforms should be utilised to its full potential right now.
Have you ever wondered if it was possible to control your dreams? Ever woken up once and thought to yourself “whoa that was a good dream?” wishing to go back and continue it?
Well, what if I told you there was a way for you to dream about whatever you wanted, you’ll be in full control with your imagination being the limit!
As an organisation whose foundations lie in addressing social injustice, challenging issues of race and racial inequalities as well as fighting racism is central to Drive Forward’s vision of a society where all care-experienced people enjoy opportunity, empathy and respect.
We realise, however, that in order to do this we need to look within ourselves and continuously scrutinize our own practice, norms and behaviours. Only by being consistent with our own self-improvement and projecting that image to the outside, can we continue to be an effective driver for positive change within our immediate environment and beyond.
Procrastination, a topic I haven’t written on yet but sure have thought a lot about. I find myself feeling lazy from time to time, some days avoiding everything and everyone but other days not so much. I find that it comes in micro doses and when it arrives it tends to get very comfortable, almost snug in its seat.
Although I am aware that it would be much better to be together in a physical environment as the human touch is important, what I am also experiencing is that showing presence and attention as a mentor is the fundamental thing, regardless of the way we use to communicate. I consider the technological tools we have as a blessing in this situation, in particular for mentors like me who have the precious chance to support young people in this delicate transition phase.
Farhia always wanted to go to university. She remembers people telling her as a child, that a solid university education is the best way to a good career. The outlook of stability, a regular income, not having to worry about how to get by all seemed like good reasons for Farhia to work hard and earn her place at university.
Two years down the line, I have LOVED every minute. My Mentee is a remarkable individual and hugely talented; in the time we’ve been paired together he’s attended interviews, secured a permanent role, and delivered a number of successful projects. We have very similar interests and, when we haven’t needed to look at CVs or to practise interview techniques, we have widely varied what we do together.
A year ago, I could not have imagined I’d be in a well-paid full-time job that I really enjoy. Back then it felt like I had no control over my life because I missed out on my education. I’m a Londoner, but for two years I ended up as a total stranger in Manchester at a school for people with emotional and behavioural difficulties. The teachers thought I should be doing GCSEs but the school didn’t have anything on offer.
Have you been finding yourself pondering people from the past or replaying long lost scenarios in your head lately? Welcome to the club! As we’re sat indoors either keeping busy or lounging around, this gives us way too much time to fall back into old thought patterns and shady places. We find ourselves hoping that those who’ve done us wrong in the past are OK, even those who took us to some of the darkest places we’ve ever been to. There’s nothing wrong with genuinely hoping the best for others, even those who hurt us, but there’s a big difference in hoping so and actively expressing it. As much as you might miss a specific person, especially during the pandemic it’s highly important you don’t take yourself to the same place where you felt pain. I strongly believe that nobody can heal whilst being in the same place where their hurt was caused. This includes half-hearted friendships, failed talking stages and toxic ex’s, the entire lot!
You find yourself swamped with deadlines despite being at home. You find yourself exhausted regardless of how much you’ve slept. There are dishes to do and you need to wash your hair. Return that call. Check emails again. Attend a lengthy lecture on Microsoft Teams and don’t forget all the backed-up FaceTime calls in your schedule.
Before I went into care, I constantly had arguments with my parents; to the point that I became homeless for nine months. A lot has happened after that, but eventually I was really lucky to find myself living with a loving foster family who have taken on the roles of a great parent for me.
I don’t know about you but I know I’ve been dealt my fair share of anxiety and panic attacks in the last few weeks. I think this is a topic that isn’t thought about enough amidst all the other shocking scary stuff going on. So, here I am shedding light on just that. You don’t have to particularly belong to the group of OCD sufferers to feel corona’s noose tightening around your neck. Existing during this period is enough.
According to a recent report conducted by Coram Voice on challenging stigma in the care system, 1 in 10 care leavers felt that, as a care leaver, they have been treated worse than their contemporaries. This has been reflected in conversations with individuals we work with at Drive Forward, many of whom are frustrated by hearing the same negative statistics and stories in the media and by professionals working in the care system. This can have an impact on how individuals see themselves as well as how they are treated in the workplace. The most common reason that individuals who we work with leave their jobs is that they feel isolated from their colleagues, different and undervalued.
Transition and change are inevitable. Omnipresent, ongoing, even if we do not always notice. These days, transition and change turn into our daily companion. They can carry uncertainty and fear, and often it is difficult to understand them as a friend rather than an enemy.
From zoom calls to virtual health support, what is it that young people need and want amid the COVID-crisis?
What effect does looking into people’s living space via a video call have on us and, more importantly, on them? We are barraged with views of luxurious looking homes and backgrounds on television; the theme seems to be vast bookshelves, awards and pictures, high ceilings and (for want of a better phrase) “middle-class” homes.
I’m going to start by being super blunt. I am mentally drained, physically exhausted and quite frankly tired of the cycle we all seem to be unintentionally engaged in. We are programmed to switch on the news and get up to date with that’s going on around us. We are scheduled to wake up and check our phones in the morning. All of this, yet we never programme ourselves for time out or a minute away from the madness.
Since the lockdown, my role seems to have taken a new shape. The decrease in available employment opportunities and the increase in basic needs such as food, shelter, company and positivism have caused me as an Employment Consultant to adapt to the needs of our young people.
How do you get started without falling into the age old trap of no writing portfolio to show anyone in order to get a foot in the door? Here are some tips which I have myself over the years.
For years, I’ve been entertaining the toxic habit of skipping breakfast after barely getting enough sleep only to then wonder why I’d find myself drifting to sleep in lessons or why I was so low in mood. Well, the answer to that is energy. Energy is essential to function. We gain energy through eating, sleeping, or exercise. Like a well-kept machine, we too have to recharge our batteries from time to time.
I’ve only recently started volunteering with DFF and I’m currently in my first mentoring relationship. So far, I’ve found it challenging – but in a good way. It’s already helped me to really think about how well I listen and how I can best support the person I’m working with to identify and work towards their own goals.
Lockdown is in full swing and I must say it’s causing a variety of feelings in me and around me. From feeling trapped, anxious and scared to feeling particularly creative, reflective and humbled by the global chaos.
Self-care comes in many shapes and sizes, whether its eating what you love, face timing a friend, banging on a face mask listening to your favourite record, going through your skincare routine or lounging in bed til 12 in the afternoon just do it and do NOT feel guilty about it.
In these challenging times it is more important than ever to stick together and create positive change. So, here are some suggestions on how you can have a real impact, from the comfort of your home.
On 26th March, we wrote to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson CBE MP, calling on the government to ensure that care leavers are properly supported throughout the coronavirus crisis.
For the thousands of people who live with an eating disorder – myself included – the pandemic is wreaking havoc with our lives and recoveries. Being unable to buy food is an absolute nightmare – ‘nourish to flourish’ is a lot harder when the only food in the shops seem to be soups and low-calorie items – living off which could lead to a rapid spiral.
The Drive Forward Policy Forum has been going for three years now and come from strength to strength. Personally, I am most excited for the expansion of our National Policy Forum. Though our London group of over 30 care leavers is well established, we set out in 2019 to expand to pastures new. Since then, we have connected with care-experienced young people right across the UK.
Five members of our Policy Forum, who are all students at different higher education institutions in Manchester, present their experience of what it is like to be a care leaver at university.
At Drive Forward, we see care-experienced people doing amazing things every day. We know that the stereotypes and statistics do not
reflect the real story. That’s why we celebrate Care Day – to take the time to appreciate all of the fantastic care-experienced people that we work with and everything they have achieved.
We are very happy and proud that 33 young people working with Drive Forward have been successful with their applications; that represents over 20% of all the openings available! Over the next couple of weeks, they will join different Departments ranging from the Department for Education to the foreign and Commonwealth Office.
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