The Complete Freedom of Truth

Love Letter to TCFT

To TCFT,

I was a shell when I met you,

Waiting to be cracked open,

Released,

Set free into the world.

Closing myself off,

Not seeing my potential,

Believing I was good enough

Or able to reach my dreams.

Fearful of everything –

Rejection,

Being vulnerable,

Isolation,

Looking a fool;

But with you,

I cracked open,

Potential spilling out,

Fears released;

You taught me how to fly.

A confidence began to grow,

A confidence I never knew I had,

Breaking out of my comfort zone,

But feeling comfortable,

The good replacing the bad.

A place where I could be vulnerable,

Reveal the inner me,

Act a little weirdly,

Laugh loudly,

Or openly express my grief.

Learning how to fly

Just scratches the surface

Of what you mean to me

TCFT,

I never imagined two years ago

In Bosnia,

I’d have another huge family;

Like a lamb thrown to the wolves,

I didn’t know where to turn,

But I was adopted in,

Joined the pack,

Found a home away from home.

The love I feel is like no other,

Support beyond compare,

Hugs, kisses, kind words

Around every corner,

Bright smiles

And touches of care.

It started with my house sisters,

Nomes and Ellie,

Who shared a room with me;

Then Filip and Rory made me feel part of the pack,

Voice-noting the sister who means the world to me.

The care shown by Mikica and Robert,

Nevena and Ljubiša when I felt anaemic,

Bonding over dinner with Nina and Marko,

Sitting down to talk with Sandra.

Also having a heart-to-heart with Naomi,

A never-ending handshake with Miguel,

Chatting for hours with Saaf,

Dancing with Saša.

Thank you Tina for being my constant champion,

Thank you Darren for your thoughtful advice,

Thank you Mary for coming down to Croydon

And filming my poetry night.

I love you Francesco for being so full of life,

I love you Ismir for your beautiful smile,

I love you Luka for being so cute and sweet,

I love you Carina for your kind heart.

The list is endless,

I could go on for hours,

You’ve all touched my life in some way;

We’re family,

You’re in my heart,

Forever there you’ll stay.

You’ve given me a place to belong,

Which I never thought I’d find,

You gave me a gift

And so much more to write;

An answer to a prayer

I had no idea I prayed.

So this letter is to you TCFT,

My life-changer,

A gift from God,

My family;

I love you with all my heart

And always will.

Love

Shaniqua, Shefika, Shani

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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.

My Top 5 Moments of 2015

It’s coming to the end of the year, which is always a time of relection for me, so I’ve decided to bring back ‘My Top 5’ to count down some of my favourite moments from 2015.  God has blessed me immensely this year and I’ve seen Him do a whole lot of amazing things in my life, which has made most of these moments possible.  So come on, let’s get into my Top 5 Moments of 2015, which aren’t in any particular order by the way.

 

5. Sweet Home Alabama

In April, my sister and I had the pleasure of flying out to the beautiful city of Huntsville, Alabama to spend time with our beautiful family.  Although there’s no place like home, I was in need of an escape and I was happy to spend three weeks in what I now affectionately call ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.  I loved the food, I loved the scenery, I loved the shopping, I loved my room and I loved getting to meet new people.  Spending time with my family was great, especially getting to watch my cousin Kaleem graduate after not seeing him in 10 years, and I loved the new friends I made.  Shout out to my girl Britney!

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4. March Madness

March Madness will always be one of my favourite times of the year.  However, this year felt particularly special to me and I got into it more than ever before.  I watched every game that I possibly could, kept up to date with all of the excitement and upsets, and fell in love with numerous players.  It was the end of the college basketball tournament in April that most excited me though, as I watched both my men and women’s teams lift the National Championship trophy.  Tyus Jones made it a lot of fun as he led Duke to victory, while it was great to watch coach Geno Auriemma make history as the UConn ladies won their 10th National Championship.

 

3. The Complete Freedom of Truth

In August, I flew out of the country again, this time to Bosnia as part of ‘The Complete Freedom of Truth’, a five-year youth project, which aims to use art and culture for social change.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, which enabled me to develop my confidence, embrace my love of writing and gain some life skills.  Yet what made this experience truly special were the beautiful people that I fell in love with and helped me feel like I truly fit in.  My house sisters Ellie, Naomi and Amy; the wonderfully caring Tina, Robert, Alex, Mikica and Nevena; my dinner buddies Marko and Nina; my girls Julia, Izzy and Jessie; and my boys Filip, Rory, Ljubiša and Nemanja.  There are also many others, but this whole blog would simply be made up of their names.

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2. My First Paid Writing Gig

It’s no secret that I’m a writer, so I was ecstatic when I landed my first paid writing gig this year!  I’d been writing pieces for Just Croydon on and off over the past year, so you can imagine my joy when the beautiful boys behind Just Croydon offered to pay me to write regular articles.  I just had to thank God, because I know that He opened this door for me and showed me how patience and perseverance pays off.  It also shows the importance of being willing to give your free time and showing generosity to others, as you never know what opportunities may come your way.

 

1. ‘What Would You Say?’

Of course, making my short film with Fixers had to be one of my Top 5 moments, as it was a truly special experience that will help to propel some of my future plans.  I was extremely happy to launch ‘What Would You Say?’ earlier this month, as I was finally able to show the film to others and also hear what they had to say.  The feedback was better than I could have ever anticipated, the level of support shown was brilliant and the discussions that took place during the launch gave me great hope going forward.  And if you haven’t had a chance to watch the film yet, why not watch it now?

There were a number of other great moments from this year, like finally landing a job, celebrating another birthday, and studying the Gospels in the Bible, which I’m loving and learning so much from.  I already know that 2016 is going to bring a whole load of great moments and exciting things for me, which I’m looking forward to.  So tell me, what were some of your top moments in 2015?