27 June 2016
The Urban Hope team hasn’t been blogging much of late. Partly, that's because it has just been business as usual but really there is nothing usual about the business of youth work. Since our last blog post we have seen young people dealing with exam stress, falling out with friends, falling in love, struggling with bullying, finding themselves homeless, finding a sport they love, having severe health problems, following their dream and achieving success, being excluded from school, getting into trouble with the police, getting into trouble with parents, moving to new schools, learning new skills, making new friends. It’s all familiar and unfamiliar at the same time because every young person is different.
And here are a few of the things we’ve done with Urban Hopefuls in that time:
- Cooked dozens of meals and sat together around a table to eat them
- Entered a competition
- Gone on two residentials
- Designed t-shirts
- Attended meetings with schools and social services
- Hosted a party for residents of a local sheltered housing facility
- Played hours and hours of table tennis, pool, table football, dobble, uno…
- Formed a (small!) running club
- Washed up a lot of pots and pans
- Held a six-week sketching project
- Talked about elections, relationships, social media, food, friendships
- Had a dance-off
- Held a casting session
- Run a boxercise session
- Made badges, keyrings, magnets, papier maché letters, cakes and brownies.
- Been to the theatre
And the summer has only just begun, so watch this space…
3 February 2016
The journey from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood can be a very bumpy ride. It is one long transition, and the point of Urban Hope is to accompany young people through that transition. There are particular ‘pressure points’, one of which is the move from primary to secondary school. Over the past few months, many Urban Hopefuls have had a very difficult time adjusting to life in their new schools. They struggle with leaving their friends and a familiar environment to go to a much bigger pool with new rules (that are much more strictly enforced) and the nature of the relationship with teachers is totally different. Alongside this they are trying to build new friendships and find their own identity in a unfamiliar setting.
They deal with this in different ways some talk about it, some cry a lot, others start being difficult at home or adopt destructive behaviours like self-harming or not eating. At school they might lock themselves in the toilets or they might cause trouble at school (and sometimes, ultimately, et excluded). Some start skipping school altogether.
The primary schools that we work in partnership with feel frustrated that they work very intensively with specific pupils in order to keep them in school only to see them excluded within the first few months of secondary school. We are looking at ways to address this, through mentoring, through working with other organisations to provide coordinated sustained support for young people who are most likely to have difficulty adjusting to secondary school. Alongside that, we continue to do what we have always done, provide consistency in times of change, a safe space for young people to come back to and adults they know and trust.
18 December 2015
We will be taking a break from 19th December to 3rd January.
It's been a great year: thank you all for the part you've played in it, whether you've come to sessions, volunteered, donated money or equipment, or just cared about what we are doing.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years.
Look forward to catching up with you in January.
2 November 2015
People regularly get in touch with us to ask if they can come along to an Urban Hope session; they might be considering a career in youth work, or they might be potential volunteers or funders. They are always welcome: we want members of the community to understand and get involved in what happens here, and, one of the most important aspects of that work is the connections that are made between people who might not otherwise come into contact with each other.
But, it can be a bit nerve-wracking for the team because there is a pressure to ‘show’ exactly what we’re doing, to demonstrate the difference we are making, and the truth is that youth work, done well, often doesn’t look like much. Someone visiting an Urban Hope session for the first time – particularly if it happens to be a quiet drop-in without any special activities laid on – might just see a handful of young people and adults milling about in a hall doing a bit of cooking and playing pool and table tennis.
It’s really only during the team debrief at the end of the evening that we find out what has actually happened in a session. Last week, after one such quiet session, we shared stories and heard that a boy who has been coming to Urban Hope for months, had finally felt safe enough to open up about the recent death of a parent, a youth worker had talked to some young people about their relationship with alcohol, there had been several chats about tensions with parents and at school, and some of the girls had talked with adults about underage sex and pregnancy. That first, open conversation a youth worker has with a young person who is seriously considering becoming pregnant is a potentially life-changing moment, but it doesn’t necessarily look very dramatic or interesting in the here and now.
14 October 2015
“It’s racist to describe someone as black.”
“There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘coloured’”.
“Why would anyone mind being called ‘half-caste’?”
These are some of the things we have heard young people saying over the past week. And we’ve encouraged it, because it’s Black History Month and we wanted young people to have some proper, open discussions about what racism is.
25 September 2015
I’ve noticed since starting work here five weeks ago that, walking along the street with colleagues, you can’t get through a whole journey without meeting someone in the street connected to Urban Hope. It’s a reminder of how many lives Urban Hope has had an impact on – and it is wonderful to be part of a community, and one that serves our wider community.
Each of the drop-in clubs we host here brings a different atmosphere: Monday has a chilled vibe, with different creative activities, games, chats over a toastie and a cuppa; on Wednesday we crank it up a couple of notches in both volume and energy, welcoming our junior club, and Thursday is our ‘around the table’ evening, we cook and eat together, sharing experiences. Sessions are fluid so that we can work around who comes and what situations and circumstances they bring with them.
As a newbie, it’s been beautiful to watch young people from different backgrounds, with different personalities, struggles and circumstances, being friendly and accepting of one another in a way that they might not be outside our sessions. That acceptance of difference is the opposite of what we sometimes see in the wider society – and it’s all the more precious and remarkable for that.
7 September 2015
On Saturday, Urban Hope hosted Community Day at the Almorah Road Community Centre. It’s a free annual fun day that we run for families living in the local area. The weather was gloomy, the ground was a bit soggy and it was unusually cold for the start of September. But, more than 150 people turned up to play games, jump about on the bouncy castle, eat burgers and sausages, play bingo, get their nails or face painted, make things or just have a cup of tea and a chat with neighbours. The youngest was just a few days old, and the oldest over 90, but everyone who came contributed in some way: some brought sausages or a home-made cake, some served tea or helped to clear up, others played with small children, and some simply turned up, smiling, and made an effort to talk to everyone there.
It’s at events like this that connections are made. We love having a chance to meet the families of the young people we work with, and also giving local people of all ages an opportunity to have fun with those who they might not otherwise encounter in their daily lives. Each new conversation or interaction forms a valuable little link in our community.
Our thanks go out to everyone who played a part in what was a great celebration of our local area and the people who live there, and a fine way to mark the end of summer.
14 August 2015
They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and the same is true for Urban Hope; much of what we do with young people at drop-in sessions revolves around the kitchen, and some of our best conversations happen while chopping vegetables. Last week, what could have been a tense discussion about age gaps in relationships and underage sex was made significantly less awkward because we were all making jam tarts while talking.
On at least one evening a week, we cook a full meal and eat together around a table. Again, it is an opportunity to get people sitting down in a group and sharing stories, experiences, concerns and bad jokes in a way that doesn’t feel contrived.
Last year, the Marple Charitable Trust awarded us a three-year grant, which covers all our cookery costs. As food and eating together play such a central role in the life of Urban Hope, it’s a great example of how a relatively small grant can make a huge difference to our work.
23 July 2015
Each year we take a group of young people away for a weekend of outdoor activities. Urban Hopeful Kihyce, 13, is a big fan of residentials (you can just about see him in this photo reaching the top of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’) and has been on three now. He told us why he likes them so much:
“You can be someone who hates working with everyone else and over the three days you learn about teamwork and interaction, and you can talk to people more. You’re spending time with a group of people that you’ve known at club but have never got to know really well.
This time I did ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ – you have to climb up this ladder made of logs and the gap keeps getting bigger – I kept thinking I was going to fall but the others helped me to get to the top. On my own I don’t think I’d have the courage to do it but I did it because I had people to support me.
I really like doing the activities; I enjoyed archery the most. Every time I do something I haven’t done before I feel like I’ve accomplished something. On the first residential I did, I won the crate stacking activity, and we got certificates. That felt so good, and I just wanted to go again and again. It’s so different to London; it’s like another world. And even though I’ve experienced it before, one trip is never the same as another.”
14 July 2015
The youth work that we do tends to look a bit different in summer. From next week, all the young people we work with will have a lot of free time at their disposal (those who were sitting exams this year will have finished a while ago). And once the novelty of all that free time has worn off, there’s a high risk that they will start to get bored. If and when that happens, we want to help them channel their energy into positive activities; things that will develop their skills, introduce them to different people, get them outside and running around, give them new perspectives on life, and be fun.
There is a huge amount to do in London but, for many young people, there are barriers to accessing much of it. Part of our job is to help them make the most of all that their city has to offer them by taking them to museums, for walks along the South Bank, and to see street performers in Covent Garden.
Alongside that, we organise our own programme of activities. Funding from Islington Council and from FreeSport has enabled us to put some great summer sports activities again this year. We try to make sure these activities include sports that the young people we work with wouldn’t usually have the chance to try. So this year we’ll be offering free tennis coaching, croquet and rounders among other things.
It’s a great opportunity for them, and a great opportunity for us because the warm weather gets everyone out in the parks and means we can meet young people we might not see at other times of year. We have a window of opportunity over the coming weeks to start forming relationships with a whole new bunch of Urban Hopefuls. And we’re really excited about it.