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Special Group of People

Yesterday was my final day on a project encompassing a series of creative sessions and workshops that came to mean a lot more to me than a job and I am going to miss very much.  How I was even able to get this job came as a result of a sequence of events that began with me simply being vocal and putting myself out there, but that is a subject for an entirely different blog post.

I first became acquainted with Mitcham Library last September as a facilitator for the Young People’s Laureate for London Tour, which was a wow moment to say the least, as I stepped into a library atmosphere I had never seen before.  Faced with a group of young people that were unlike any I had ever worked with, I knew that I had to take a particular approach to engage them and get at least some activities done in a workshop.  Fortunately, the approach I took led to me working with a group of young people that were very engaged, despite the number being small – this had to be the case though if we were going to get work done.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with them from the get-go and was given a quick reminder to not judge a book by its cover – these individuals will never be what you expect.  When I was given the opportunity to return to Mitcham Library as part of the tour, I jumped at the chance, as I wanted to follow through on the work I’d started.  I never imagined that I would be offered a long-term job opportunity at the library, but that’s what happened and I am so glad it did.

Not only was I going to get paid for doing what I loved – getting creative and working with young people – but I was going to have the chance to get to know these particular young people more and hopefully have some sort of positive impact in their lives.  I was ready and willing, although I knew it would not be the easiest of tasks and it ended up being one of the most unpredictable projects I have ever worked on.

I have loved it though, more than I can describe, and I was really sad when it came to an end yesterday.  I have genuinely looked forward to going into work every single week, and I missed being there the weeks that I was away – I’m really going to miss going there now that it’s over.  I love these young people, who have had a bigger impact on my life then I think they realise.  They have made me a better person and challenged my mindset even further, while helping me to find an affection for teenagers that replaced the disdain I had from them.

Week on week, I was cracked up with laughter and involved in some seriously interesting conversations.  I was blown away by their intelligence and impressed by the potential seen in most of them, which I hope they are able to tap into.  Slowly, I began to see barriers breaking down and trust being built, which I wish we could build on further, as six months wasn’t enough time to fully engage this group – they only got used to us more recently.

I adore my Mitcham Library Crew – the name affectionately given to the participants of the music workshop – and I was beyond proud of their growth over time, especially those who were brave enough to take to the stage and perform in Wimbledon Library.  They quickly became some of my favourite people, particularly my partner in crime, Conrad.  Everyone had a special part to play, including one girl who never got involved with the any of the music related activities, but would regularly come to simply support her friend – it would not have been the same without her.

And then there was drama, that varied to big groups playing games, to drama activities with four individuals, to in-depth chats with just one young person.  You never knew what you were going to get, but my drama partner, Rachael, and I enjoyed it all the same.  Some of the best conversations were had in those sessions and that is when I was able to develop a deeper understanding with a truly special young man who is going to do great things some day.

Being around all of the library staff was great too, engaging in conversations with them while having their support and expertise.  They were all lovely and greatly encouraging, but I have to give a special mention to the lovely Caprice, who would always chat to me and Rachael as we waited for Drama to begin, and also the wonderful Kurtis for a number of reasons.  Special mention to Sarah and Priyanka too.

Hopefully I’ll be able to do some work in Mitcham Library again, but for now I’ll just have to do with making visits to see the group of people I have come to care about so much.  With determination, learning and support, these young people are going to go on to do great things and make me proud.  I will never forget them.

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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.

Reflecting on 2016

This year has been a weird one, a real weird one.  I came into it with uncertainty, but optimism, ready to embrace the new paths in my life and actually make 2016 my year.  However, life is never what you expect and this year didn’t turn out to be my year.

What started out so positively, with a good turnout at my first youth forum and a new job that fitted my situation perfectly, soon turned into negative heartbreak.  Losing my grandad back in March hurt more than I could have ever imagined, then suddenly losing my aunty in June was another major blow to my heart.  The death of someone you love is never something you want to have on the agenda and I’m still struggling to come to terms with the fact that they’re gone – I don’t know when it will properly sink in.

The deaths of my grandad and aunty sent the first half of this year on a downward spiral, which wasn’t helped by the dwindling numbers at my youth forum or having to stop counselling when I needed my counsellor most.  Uncertainty, doubt and self-hate kicked in, with my self-worth at a major low and I didn’t know how to raise it up again.  My relationship with writing broke down with my broken heart, and I felt that I couldn’t turn to anyone.  I’m just glad that God was always there in my darkness, never leaving me or letting me down.

Nevertheless, weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  Taking part in The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) in August was a huge saving grace for me, providing me with the time I needed to mourn and helping to mend my relationship with writing in the process.  Despite feeling lost, out-of-place and lonely during the beginning of the process, I found my way and felt a lot better by the end.  I loved having the opportunity to perform poetry again and organising the poetry night finally gave me the confidence to put on my own poetry nights in Croydon for my youth platform, Young People Insight.

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Being around the individuals from TCFT was also a great help.  My darling Rory was my superhero during those two weeks and I felt blessed to spend so much time with him.  The beautiful Tina, who has become my biggest champion, has given me so much confidence and support, which I am incredibly grateful for.  It was a pleasure to get to know Sandra better and develop a stronger relationship with her, as she gave me advice and support in some of my down times.  I just adore my partner in crime Ellie, I don’t know where I would have been without her.  And there are so many more names, which I don’t even want to mention in case I forget and offend someone.  The love I have for my TCFT family cannot even be expressed with words.

Me, Nomes and Sandra

Volunteering at the soup kitchen at the church I attend has also been a major high for me this year, as I got to know some truly lovely people and develop new, meaningful relationships, which I treasure.  Getting to know a group of individuals from Poland has given me greater understanding of Polish people and I have gained a new respect for them, as well as a deep love for Eastern Europeans.  It also gave me a renewed vigour to make a difference in this world, fight injustice and change it for the better.  God has given me a calling and although it’s tough to embrace at times, I do want to answer the call.

There have been a number of other highlights, including my holiday to Bosnia, having the opportunity to work with so many beautiful children and making new friends.  My youth forum has continued to grow and develop, with much more happening next year.  I just want to take this time to give a special mention to the young people who have come out and supported Young People Insight on a regular – Andrae, Alana, Randy, Jason, Kyle, Hakeem, Darnell and Rhi; I love you guys.

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Although 2016 hasn’t been what I wanted it to be or thought it would be, it has been special in a lot of ways, full of fun, love and laughter.  It may not seem like it a lot of the time, but I have achieved a lot and grown a lot.  I still have a long way to go in 2017, but I know that God will get me there and continue to bless me, because He is my rock and my constant.  I know He’ll never let me down.  I just hope that I continue to grow into the person He wants me to be and follow the path He’s set me on.  And besides, one more year means one step closer to seeing my grandad and aunty again.