Friends

They Made My Summer Even Brighter

Two of my highlights over the summer, which was without a doubt my favourite time of this year, were associated with church.  It’s probably obvious by now, but it was the people involved who contributed to making these events so memorable and highlights of my year.

I’ve been helping out at VBS (Vacation Bible School) for 14 years now, which is a staggering feat to me, especially as I am only 26.  I always love being a part of VBS and I will continue to help every year I can – I try to ensure that I’m available whenever VBS is taking place, getting the date in my diary months in advance.

For some reason, I enjoyed VBS this year a whole lot more than I have in a long time.  I loved the songs, I loved the set up of the hall, I loved all of the various activities and I loved my group of children – I’m always a Crew Leader, which involves supporting, looking after and taking a group of children around to the various stations.  Some of my favourite moments were when the children came running forward to splash me with water during one of their games, and the group hugs with my crew.

All my crew had a very differing set of personalities and characteristics, which made them an interesting collective that raised a varying set of challenges.  I’m always up for challenges though and we got through the week positively, with me striking up a bond with each of them.  There was one girl who was particularly funny, with her hard to please persona and who came out with the most unexpected comments.  She also took to counting how many songs we sung or were played each day, which was fun to keep track of – I’d regularly ask her what the total was throughout.  It is those little things that make the experience all the more enjoyable.

It’s also quite nice to be part of VBS with family and long-time friends.  My cousin, Sophia, was the VBS leader, assisted by her sister Rochelle, who both did an amazing job of pulling VBS together, in spite of some adversities along the way.  Sophia is genuinely made for this and I commend her for all she did.  My mum and my Aunty Debra led out in some of the rooms, making them an engaging experience for all of us.  It was great having brother and sister duo, Klavel and Si-Ann, lead out on the games – friends who are family to me.  And there was my cousin Kavan, who was a fellow Crew Leader.

A week after VBS had wrapped up, it was time for the Croydon Youth Extravaganza, which led up to our Youth Day.  The Extravaganza was well thought out and a special experience throughout the week that brought us all together, but the Youth Day was beyond beautiful.  I could not have been prouder of Si-Ann for all that she has been able to achieve and make happen with the youth this year, supported and guided by Pastor Alex, who is amazing in his own right.  I mean it when I say that Pastor Alex is a force of nature.

The whole day was emotional, well-organised and involved the majority of us youth from the church.  The four presentations in the main service were honest, relevant, useful and very special.  I was crying along with Si-Ann by the end of hers.  The play in the evening was slick, funny and made best use of everyone’s talents.  And the social in the evening was a whole lot of fun, laughter and good conversation.

For me, what made the day beyond beautiful was the people, especially being with those I had not seen for a long period of time.  I spent most of lunch with my Kay Kay – who I also had a nice meet up with a few weeks earlier along with Si-Ann – having good conversations and eating on the steps.  I exclaimed with joy when I saw my girl, Sh’kira, who I had no idea was going to be there and had not seen for a good few months – we had good chats too, as we always do.  I exclaimed with even more shock and joy when Gazza tapped me on the shoulder, as I hadn’t seen him for the longest.  We had a little conversation later in the day, but it wasn’t long enough – we fully need more time to catch up.

I swear, I filled with more and more joy as more faces I had not seen for a while began to appear.  However, I think I became full to the brim and found my heart overflowing with joy and love, when Ranen walked into the hall.  Now I literally have not seen Ranen in the flesh for years, so to be able to hug him and speak to him face to face was beautiful.  Ranen was one of the consistent faces in my life growing up, someone I could call a friend.  I also remember when he gave me his jacket to wear out in the cold at a social – a true gent.  It was great to have him around us again.

To be honest, it was just great to have so many of us in the same space again, as it doesn’t happen so often anymore.  Chilling and chatting to Arks, Gis, Sach, Charlie, Nnamdi, Ike, Ryan, Paige, Elliott, Jemel, O’Shea, JJ, Myrin, Karina and a whole lot more.  It was one of the best and happiest days I’ve had in a long time.  No matter what, I will always love my church family.

 

They Made Me a Better Person

On my last blog post, I reflected on ‘The Year of Shaniqua’, and mentioned that I wanted to do a series of blog posts about some of the beautiful people who have played a special part in my 2018.  When I thought about doing this series of post, two individuals that I met in TCFT in Bridport earlier this year came to mind.

I’m not really about labels and I don’t like putting anyone’s business out there, so I’ll just say that I had never met anyone like them before.  Meeting them made me more understanding, even more tolerant and less ignorant about certain things I had a lack of knowledge on.  I don’t think they realise how big of an impression they made on me.

More than anything, they became my friends, and if you know me, you’ll know that my friends mean a whole lot to me.  I enjoyed creating music with them, reading their lyrics, speaking about their questionable eating habits and having incredibly rich conversations.

Since meeting them in February, I’ve watched them grow and move forward in a myriad of ways, which is truly amazing, considering how shy and closed off they were when I first came into their orbit.  I am genuinely happy for them and proud of all that they have been able to achieve, especially artistically.

One of the most amazing things about being part of TCFT is developing relationships with individuals from all walks of life, which challenge you and expand your mindsets.  Meeting Billy and Ken definitely expanded my mindset and made be a better person.  The five days spent with them will have an impact on my whole life – I am literally not the same person I was before meeting the two of them.

I hope to see a little more of Billy and Ken in 2019, but more than anything, I hope that my friendship with them will continue for years to come and that we will have the opportunity to create more art together.

So to Billy and Ken, thank you for being such a special part of my 2018, contributing to my growth and having a significant impact on my life.  I love you lots.

Shining Light on Those Who Have Impacted My 2017

On Friday, I reflected on my tumultuous 2017, highlighting the highs and lows that made it the year it was.  There was a lot to cover, which prevented me from being able to say thank you to people who played a big part in my year and were there for me through some of the struggles.  Now it’s time for me to shine a light on some of the individuals.

Of course, the person who was always by my side was my other half – my sister, Rhianna, who means the world to me.  She was excited for the good and supported during the bad, coming with me to the Croydon Civic Awards ceremony and talking to me through some of my depressive moments.  Always there with the advice and encouragement, life would not be the same without her.

My parents continued to be there for me this year, being extremely helpful on the day of the TCFT Croydon Pilot, which would not have run the same without them.  My dad was also my biggest champion this year, extremely proud of all that I achieved.  Another big champion of mine was my cousin Georgina, whose motivation and words of encouragement I valued on a lot of occasions this year.  And it was lovely to have my family around me as we mourned for the death of Uncle Dale – having the chance to meet so many of them and  to see many of them after a long time was a great source of comfort.

Despite feelings of loneliness and disconnect with a number of my friends this year, I am thankful for their presence in my life.  My best friend, Mells, has given me the gift of a gorgeous godson and I have enjoyed reconnecting with her.  My Textiles girlies touched my heart with a surprise cake and card for my birthday in August.  It meant a lot to have conversations with a number of faces I hadn’t seen in years at my church’s Youth Day.  I’m also grateful to my girls, Si-Ann and Ashan, as well as my cousin Naomi, for being part of the TCFT Croydon Pilot.

I couldn’t talk about the people in my life without mentioning my YPI family and TCFT family.  YPI would simply not exist without the individuals who are a part of it.  However, I have to give a special mention to the constants, individuals who have made a great effort to help me out this year and those who have played a big part in some way: Alana, Dre, Hakeem, Stephen, Paul, Joan, Randy, Jamal, Liam, Pekz, Unorthodox, Mary, Becky, Esi, Jack, Sid, Jennelle, Ashan, Daniel, Aaron, Melvis and Shannette.  Thank you for everything, and I’m sorry if I missed anyone out.

Then of course there are my beloved TCFT family.  Tina is a mentor and one of the greatest supports I have ever had – I could not have put on TCFT Croydon without her.  Nomes, my house sister and TCFT Croydon co-facilitator, who continued to bring me joy this year.  Ells, my other house sister, who I love so much.  The wonderful Rory, Amy, Geraldine, Robert and Cedoux, who were great helps during the TCFT Croydon planning and the day itself.  Then you’ve got the beautiful Josh, Richard, Rachel, Jaffer and Rachael, who came down with her daughter, to be part of the day.

At this point, I need to side track and thank the other beautiful people who helped me with TCFT Croydon.  Thank you to Humi, Daisy, Nikki, Liberty, Chimaine, Skye and Ian for facilitating workshops, taking photos and helping with tech, as well as all those at Turf Projects, Matthews Yard, Project B, Braithwaite Hall and the Croydon Council, who provided us with space.  A huge thank you also goes out to the volunteers, who helped to make the day a success.  And I also want to thank the lovely Mayor, Cllr Toni Letts, and her consort, Nick, for coming down for part of the day.

Back on track now to my TCFT family, who made a special impact on me in Sarteano this year.  There are too many names to put down, but I just want to give some special mentions to individuals who made significant impacts and helped my meals to be extra special: Sandra, Annie, Carina, Silvia, Eilis, Roberto, Ismir, Irina, Marko, Francesco, Laura, Naomi M, Anja, Luka, Mina, Ricky, Modou, Lamin, Darren, Tisch, Rosie, Susan, Alister, Miranda and Margarida.  Again, I could have named so many more, but the list would have been ridiculous.

I couldn’t write this without mentioning the beauties I have met at Queens Garden and the soup kitchen at my church.  They continuously make me smile and want to be better – I don’t think they realise the impact they have had on my life.  Special mention goes to my boy James, Cisco, Richard, Patrick, Graham, Mark, Miriam, Gamma, Santiago, Gabriel, Marius, Marek and Petr.  Again, there is likely to be more, but there are too many names I could mention.

I have to give a very special shout out to Jes, the amazing lady who trained me and helped my crowdfunding campaign to be a success, as well as the wonderful Kay, who approached me to write articles for the Stories of Success magazine, one of my favourite tasks of 2017.  I’m thankful to Paul and Paula for making me an ambassador for Croydon’s London Borough of Culture bid, as well as for Paula’s brilliant show of support for TCFT Croydon.  A huge thank you also has to be said to Neil, Katie, John and Tina, for nominating me for the Young Achiever of the Year award – I literally would not have won without you.

Thank you to the ridiculously talented Anthony Anaxagorou, Dan Tsu and Deanna Rodger for teaching me on the Political Poetry course at the Roundhouse, and I’m also thankful for the talented individuals who took the course with me.  Thank you to Donna for inviting me to speak at Another Night of Sisterhood, as well as encouraging me and believing in what I do.  And thank you to everyone who has given me the opportunity to be paid for doing what I love or helped me out with work opportunities.

But most of all, I have to thank God, the love of my life, who has blessed me with these beautiful people.  I love every single one of you.