12 June 2013
A few weeks ago we held our first Girls Club graduation ceremony. Each girl was presented with a certificate detailing their personal achievements and a sash (because the girls wanted something to throw in the air!).
The girls had a graduation ceremony but they aren’t leaving Urban Hope.Far from it in fact, we’re planning to keep seeing these girls a few times a week for at least the next 3 years.
So why a graduation?
Because over the last 2 years this group of girls have done some amazing things together, and even though we’ve decided that a Friday evening girls club isn’t the best way to support them anymore, we wanted to mark this chapter of their time at Urban Hope.
Adolescence is a series of transitions. A time of perpetual moving on and so much change occurs in every area of a person’s life, in a relatively short space of time, even the most well resourced young people can feel unsettled, isolated and confused.
11 June 2013
Stigma, Social isolation and Shame... these are issues faced by many Urban Hopefuls because they have a parent in prison. Please join us insigning the e-petition to raise awareness on the importance of maintaining contact via regular prison visits and phone calls.
Nearly 1 million children in Europe have a parent in prison.
25% of these kids are at high risk for mental health illness, a statistic recently discovered during the COPING Project.
The sentence of their parent becomes a sentence they also serve as a result of their vulnerability to stigma, social isolation and shame.
Research has proven that maintaining regular quality contact with the imprisoned parent improves the self-esteem and well-being of this group of children – but throughout Europe there are few support systems in place to promote this contact for the benefit of the child.
5 June 2013
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
I’m off to St Paul’s Cathedral this evening to talk about the work of Urban Hope. As part of the launch service for ‘Capital Vision 2020’ (a strategy for churches in the Diocese of London) I will be interviewed on the theme of ‘compassion for our communities’. I’ve often found it relatively easy to engage with themes such as compassion when in awe inspiring environments such as St Paul’s Cathedral however when in the grit of daily youth work I need to engage with a less lofty concept and a more practical sense of what compassion is all about. Which leads me to the quote above.
It’s this quote by Nouwen that in many ways sums up the threads of compassion we seek to weave into the fabric of Urban Hope. A beautiful description such as this is often enough to serve as grounded and enfleshed inspiration and hope when confronted with some of the crap we encounter in our community.
21 May 2013
Bringing hope in a time of loss, sadness and anger...
I live about 10 minutes away from Urban Hope, and tragically a fortnight ago an 18-year-old was knocked off his mo ped at the end of my road and died.
In the days that followed, out of my kitchen window I witnessed young people mourning. Faces I knew well and faces I didn’t walked passed my window carrying flowers and balloons, talking, crying and writing messages on the wall.
In response, at Urban Hope we set up a memorial table, for young people to light candles, write messages and reflect together on loss.Not just about the loss of that young man, but on all loss.
Around the table candles were lit, significant people were talked about, people and pain was acknowledged.
15 May 2013
‘Exam time’ is for some young people the culmination of the last five years of school life and for others it can seem like the beginning of the end.
At Urban Hope this has been the hot topic for a couple of weeks and I have had some interesting conversations about it. Usually it goes something like this… I ask, “how is school” and the young person replies “Its alright a bit stressed with exams and that’ or I ask, “How is school” and I receive a blank gazing stare.
Many young people who regularly attend Urban hope are using their time to revise, which is excellent but there are also a few young people who have thrown in the towel before the bell has rung. Does this mean that it is the end? No! From our viewpoint we know that exams are extremely important but they are not the be all and end all.
The pressure of exams can be unbearable and can cause young people to feel out of control. We try to support the young people through this time as much as possible. One way we do this is by providing a supportive environment where the young people can revise and get their coursework finished.
We have been enjoying the hopeful message contained in this video, an have hope for all the young people we know whether they achieve the results they want or not.
1 May 2013
Over the past few weeks we have been introducing some of our 13 and 14 year old girls to the process and practice of mentoring on a short peer-mentoring course. Our aim is to be able to offer younger girls some peer mentoring support as they transition from Junior to secondary school.
So far the mentoring course has included role-playing examples of good and bad mentoring, thinking hard about safeguarding, practising global listening and thinking about being purposeful.
Mentoring features heavily in Urban Hope’s work, it’s a chance to get to know young people more, to develop safe and trusting spaces and relationships and to give young people the opportunity to explore things with an adult perspective. The idea comes from the Greek myth “The Odyssey” where an old man called Mentor or rather the goddess Athene disguised as Mentor accompanies the son of Odysseus on a coming of age journey and along the way encourages, advises, challenges and supports him in order to help him grow in self-confidence and esteem. In the same way we aim to walk alongside and occasionally direct orwarn – keeping a weather eye out for danger –, but mostly we listen and are there as a support and encouragement in the midst of life in all its topsy turvyness. And because it’s not forced, it can mean that they don’t ask for help and we don’t get the chance to discuss things with them but have instead to watch at the edge of the road as they navigate the bumps and potholes. But we don’t leave, we don’t walk off – instead we stay there by them just off at the edges so that they know they can always have that support if they wish.
We are encouraged to see that these young women in year 9 are thoughtful, kind and considerate and are looking forward to supporting some of our junior club girls transition into year 7. Our Hope is that in September, we will be seeing some happy and confident year 7 girls settle in well and make good friends in their new schools knowing they have many safe and positive older relationships both inside and outside of school supporting and rooting for them.
25 April 2013
During half term I ran the ‘Beautiful’ course with a group of young women aged 10-12.
On Monday I asked them to look at themselves in a mirror and pick something they liked about their faces.
There was protesting and uncomfortable giggling and actual panic from the girls at the request.
The mirror was held in front of each girl until they could see something good.Then each girl was given a mirror each and in permanent marker the group wrote on it the things they liked about themselves, inside and out.
Each girl read out what was written on her mirror and then was affirmed in that by the rest of the group.
16 April 2013
‘Mash from scratch’ is the name of the project we’re working on with some of the Urban Hopeful’s. The idea is to build a planter out of an old wooden palate, grow some potatoes then cook and eat them. This is the first time that we’ve dipped our urban toes into the horticultural waters so we’ll let you know how we get on.
During a recent team meeting, we were talking about some of the conceptual frameworks that underpin our work here at Urban Hope and Byron offered a really helpful metaphor that helped us explore the work we do. He suggested that Urban Hope is like a flowerpot – holding nutrients, providing a warm sheltered environment and providing good conditions for healthy growth. I think Byron’s on to something here and our ‘mash from scratch’ project has reminded us that the positioning of pots it’s key – different plants need to be place in different locations and receive varying amounts of water, sun and nutrients. This reflects the attention we give to the individual needs of the young people who are part of our community.
For further reflection we also know that sometimes plants need to be transferred to larger or alternative pot in order to continue to grow and sometime pots need to be broken in order to release the plant. We have learned this along the way too, and it’s not always easy.
We’re looking forward to publishing our Annual Review of 2012 in the next couple of weeks and hope you will join us in celebrating the stories of growth told by young people who are growing up here at Urban Hope.
2 April 2013
"...Although anger can be destructive, it can also be creative. Out of anger can come the determination and vision to change things for the better”
The theme for boy’s club this term is handling our emotions and in the session the boys had the chance to let off some steam. We played a game where the young people had to shout out at the top of their lungs what they hate the most and immediately after they had five seconds to pound into a double folded Fatboy beanbag, which I had the pleasure of holding up.
As you can imagine some of them really went for it to the point where we had to hold them back and try and calm them down. These are not your conventional youth work methods and some people may think that we're crazy but what we are trying to do show these boy’s that feeling angry is normal.
The aim for this session was for the boys to go home knowing that anger is a normal emotion that everyone has to face and when we feel mistreated or disrespected, and the pressure starts boiling up in side us like a ticking time bomb about to explode. We have to find constructive ways of releasing it, Nick luxmore, reflecting on his work in schools says:
27 March 2013
What are we cooking tonight? Is the question that starts off Thursday night drop in. Although cooking on a Thursday night has been happening for a while now at Urban Hope we are currently trying something new.
Instead of carrying on with what we normally do and letting people eat and rush back to what they were doing before. Every other week now we call everyone together to sit down and eat together around one large table.
As we gathered everyone to eat some people were sitting and eagerly waiting for their food to be served while others were standing looking confused and asking what we were doing it for. As the food was served up and more people were sitting, eating and chatting together, those who first looked confused and nervous relaxed and soon everyone was focussed on eating with the group. Without any prompting someone says “So how was your day?” and the conversations flow from there.
There is something about sitting and eating together that can be more special than just standing, eating and moving on. What we are trying to do is to foster time to be together in an intentional way rather than just sharing the same space but not necessarily connecting with each other. We are creating an opportunity to share together in a way that can be easier to do while eating together. It can make it easier for people to let their guards down a bit and be willing to share and interact with others compared with if they were just playing Fifa 13.
Throughout Urban Hope there is a sense of family, which is added to by the action of sitting and eating around a table together. For some young people it might not be something that is done with their family and so we are creating a place where they can be safe to share with others in the context of a family meal.