Happy Christmas

18 December 2012

Happy Christmas

Urban Hope sessions will be closed from 17th December and starting again from the 5th January.

The office is now closed till 2nd January.

From everyone in the Urban Hope team we hope you have a very happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year, we look forward to whats in store for Urban Hope in 2013!!

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5 December 2012

Martin writes...

I’m going to say something that is not usually said...

People are not normal.

There I said it! If you don’t believe me all you have to do is spend a week in the Urban Hope office, there are some odd people here!

But we are not only an office of oddballs, we also come into contact with some odd people too!

First of all let me say that I am not using odd as a negative term. All the different odd people around are great. I’m just saying that we often have expectations of people behaving in a particular way, or having it all together, but we find out that actually they might be different to what we expected. And although this might be unexpected, it’s a part of who they are and why we think they’re great.

It also means things do not always go the way we might expect!

Someone asked me the other day what a typical day was like at work and so I explained that a day might be planned out to go a certain way but then at some point during it something will come up that throws what you planned out the window.

As young people go through different things in life they react differently, and as they go through the process of trying to figure out who they are, and what this might mean to them it often produces a change, either in the immediate situation or how they think or act in the future.

For us as youth workers this can be the result of someone doing what might be generally classed as odd but to them is normal. And so we adapt because things need to change as people change.

As things change, people change so we change to work with them.

The end result means that the way we work can look, and feel a bit odd, and different to what people might expect.But at urban hope we so value the flexibility and the adaptability doing things this way offers, that we don’t mind being seen as a little bit odd!

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27 November 2012

Joy writes...

I worry sometimes that we’ve got our focus a bit wrong working with young people. We sometimes respond to their stories, their worldviews and their choices as if on their 13th birthday they are taken to some alien planet and brain washed in that alien culture and are then returned to us, outside the adult world we belong to.

However young people don’t exist in a vacuum; they are totally the product of the society they belong to.

Young people aspire to the things that we have agreed are important and they value the things we value. But when those things meet the challenges and instability of puberty and teenage existence we panic, and then try and sort them out, when instead we should take a good look at ourselves and say ‘maybe we’re the problem.’

Maybe if we weren’t still telling each other that success was how much you earn, how beautiful you looked and how many people you don’t know, know who you are, we wouldn’t have so many young people feeling like they were failing at life, and getting angry about it. Maybe we wouldn’t have so many young people worrying about how they look and maybe we wouldn’t have so many young people desperately seeking love and attention.

At urban hope I spend my time suggesting to young people that success might be finding something you enjoy doing and having a healthy, positive relationship with yourself, with your family and the wider community.

Perhaps I’m suggesting this to the wrong group of people; maybe I should be suggesting it to my peers, my community and to myself instead. If we want our young people to be different, maybe it’s us that need to change.

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Chrissy writes...

Sacred space within youth work was an unfamiliar term to me a year ago. However I have begun to notice that it is an entirely appropriate description for the space that the youth work here at Urban Hope has created for young people. It is easily associated with a physical space that has been set aside for youth work – a space that is safe and relieves young people from the pressures and strains of their world. It can also be clearly identified with the various clubs that young people are a part of - that give them a chance to breathe, reflect and consider their world, to be who they want to be, who they are, without the need to conform to any outside standard and most importantly to play. There is a playfulness at Urban Hope.

It strikes me that not only the sessions or clubs that young people attend but also the whole organisation of Urban Hope is sacred space for our young people. The time they spend with the workers carries the sense of sacred space; a chance to relax and share, to be heard without having to fight for it, secure boundaries, freedom to be, ritual activities that comfort in their familiarity, a chance to go deeper or choose to skim along the surface enjoying the process and enjoying the playfulness. This space does not just happen. It requires careful consideration and intention. Authors Dean and Foster write that creating sacred space for young people involves intentionality behind the provision of space to be and to play: it means “going beyond providing wholesome recreation or one more game… If it breaks the rhythm of our driven-ness, if it relieves the accumulated stress of our lives, then it has the potential to serve as true recreation, a renewing of body and spirit.” I see this intentionality every day in the office as the youth workers considerwith love and care how best to support each young person they meet. And there is a desire to take joy in the young people and the relationship that develops. It is this playfulness of sacred space that is so special: the chance of recreation, to see the world and oneself with a different type of consciousness – the way a child might look at an upturned table and see a boat - and it is this that provides freedom for positive growth.

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Five Sugars

12 November 2012

Ben writes ...

“Does anyone want a cup or tea?” is shouted from the kitchen on Monday evenings as a couple of young people make tea for us all. The making of tea by different young people communicates a feeling of being at home and a shared hosting of the space between the adult staff and young people who attend our Drop-in. It is a simple and small ritual but one which warms me each week.

Most weeks I’m concerned by the amount of sugar that many young people tip into the cups of tea…. Frequently more than ‘five sugars’ go in. This is obviously not cool. It is hard to resist nagging and insisting that less sugar is consumed, but resist I do, in an attempt to work more strategically and see a bigger picture.

By seeking to regulate the tea making processes I would undermine the hospitality offered to me by the tea maker and it’s doubtful that in the moment I would be able to affect lasting behavioural change (reducing the amount of sugar that went into future cups of tea). There is also an opportunity to be taken whilst sitting down together over a cup of tea to reflect on the day, weekend and key themes for individual young people. A shared few moments over a cup of tea provide the vehicle for connection and community building in which a future conversation about sugar intake will be a minor but effecting intervention.

I have often lamented at the reactionary nature of so many well-intentioned adults when dealing with young people. To step outside the immediacy of wanting to address that, which is before us, can provide us with greater opportunities to build a lasting community whose outcomes are challenge and change.

As well intentioned Youth and Community enablers we need to develop the skill of overlooking the present in order to get to the good stuff

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30 October 2012

Martin writes...

This morning as I was walking to work a group of men were setting up scaffolding around a house. What grabbed my attention was one man in particular who was three floors up. He was near the top of the highest vertical pole holding on with his legs and at the same time securing the next vertical pole to the top of the one he was clinging onto.

To say that building scaffolding must be difficult and scary at times might be stating the obvious, but it got me thinking about what we do at Urban Hope.

What we do is similar to scaffold building in the sense that we try to build a supporting platform for young people in order to help them through their daily lives. Some of the support that we offer can be simpler than others likes creating a safe place to hang out and for them to be themselves, other times it can be more difficult. The challenge is to try and work out what does the support look like in these times when the young people find themselves in a difficult situation. How do we venture to the edge of the current platform with them and add a new piece on and then step out to the new area with them.

What we hope to achieve is a supported area that can provide access for others to go somewhere that was not as accessible beforehand. It enables people to go higher or further than might have first thought possible. For the young people this might mean being supported through a difficult time with their education or dealing with some difficult time in their life. We aim to provide the support and security as they venture out into the new situation. The scaffolding that we offer does not mean it is easy or carefree, it can still seem scary but it could be a lot worse without the added help and support of the scaffolding.

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Art at Urban Hope

23 October 2012

Joy writes…

This Friday Urban Hope’s girls club are hosting an Exhibition. It will be a chance to view the art pieces they’ve been working on for the last 3 months. Each girl taking part has worked really hard on creating something that they feel fits in with the theme of peace and vandalism. Now the work is finished they are really looking forward to sharing them with family, friends and the wider community.

At Urban Hope we love seeing young people express themselves, through art, music, poetry, or any other means. We love it because it’s so good for them; it gives them a voice and a chance to be heard. They have got something worth saying to us, another perceptive on life that helps us understand each other and ourselves better.

So while we may not be working with the next Picasso or Professor Green (though some of them are really good!) we are looking forward to hearing what the young women have to say and see their confidence grow in it.

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Things to do

21 October 2012

For young people in Islington ....

click here for a downloadable document with information about:

  • adventure playgrounds
  • after school clubs
  • breakfast clubs
  • fun and youth activities
  • holiday schemes
  • homework help
  • services for disabled children and young people
  • help with costs

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Sharing Life

15 October 2012

Byron writes... 

I was recently in a lecture on diversity and the quest speaker shared with us some of his experiences growing up as a black man in London. He made us aware of the oppression that he witnessed then, and shocked some of us with the fact that it still happens today.

What really stuck with me were the two words, ‘Sharing Life’. These words have been ringing in my head ever since I heard them and made me realise how important it is to take the time to connect with people who are different to myself.

We can often look at someone’s appearance and make assumptions rather then giving him or her a chance. This is something that happens to young people on a day-to-day basis when all they need is someone to sit down and chat with them.

I now see that experiencing other people’s cultures can be enriching. At Urban Hope we find that we make connections through sharing conversation, music, food and traditions. Old stories are shared and we have a good laugh. This is how we relate to young people and this is how we build bridges between each other.

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We love this video by Plan UK : International Day of the Girl

They are a brilliant charity supporting children born into a world of poverty, giving them the possibility of a better future through;

  • Clean water and a healthy start.
  • Securing education for both boys and girls.
  • Help countries survive disasters and prepare for them.
  • Inspire them to take a lead in decisions that affect their lives. 
  • Help their families to earn a living and plan for their children's future.

Take a look at their website to find out more... www.plan-uk.org

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Ben writes ...

This week we will be celebrating the first ‘International Day of the Girl Child'.

Here at Urban Hope we have made every effort to welcome and support girls. We have tailored our programmes, activities and organisational culture to address the needs of local girls.

It’s often the boys who grab the headlines … with stories ofviolence, drugs and robbery whilst the stories of girls are often invisible and go unreported. This results in support services and youth provision being aimed at the needs of boys which is reflected in the low numbers of girls involved in youth projects both here in Islington throughout the UK.

Earlier this year we took part in a piece of ethnographic research, observing the lives of different young people in our community. One of the most striking conclusions of this report was that the risks that girls in our community face are often very different to those of boys and have long term effects. Whilst the boys are grabbing the headlines, many girls are victims of violence and abuse,suffering from eating disorders and unplanned pregnancies, and in ten years time, they are more likely to be be the single parent in an unsupported household.   

It's our hope that the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child will bring the plight of girls both in our community and around the globe into the consciousness of the powerful. 

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New Beginnings

2 October 2012

Byron writes...

Every now and thenthings change… Like, the people we see on a daily basis may disappear and leavea dent where you thought they would always be, or the young girls, whoconstantly fall out with one another and before you know it they are “bffs” bythe end of the week!

This is all normal, butthere comes a time when real life-altering changes occur that can be a bitfrightening, such as going to secondary school or starting a new job; or itcould be moving out from your parents house and living on campus while youcontinue onto higher education.

Even though change isnot always an easy transition if we want to move forward we must be willing togive it our all.

From my experiences ofchange it can either build you up or tear you down the choice is yours. Changedoesn’t mean your going to get it right the first time or second time or in mycase the third time but you must be willing to learn and give it ago. Changecan open the door to great and new opportunities in life so embrace it with openarms.

Changeis something that Urban Hope knows full well, as they invest in young peoplefrom a very young age and support them as they progress in life. In the timethat I have been a part of the team I have witnessed many young people who havebeen coming to Urban Hope from an early age and are moving onto the next chapterof their lives. It is not always easy because of the relationships that have beenformed over the years, but the good thing is new young people come in and theUrban Hope door will always be open for new and old alike.  

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Growing Pains

1 October 2012

Chrissy writes...

Sometimes we seek growth - in all sorts of ways, for example, by enrolling in further education. Other times we go through growth never quite understanding what is going on: as a small child my parents made me eat vegetables to ‘make me grow strong’ and I remember this being particularly painful!

But why? Why is it that growth is sometimes uncomfortable or painful? I wonder if it’s because without it we wouldn’t be able to rejoice as much in the result. 

Over the past 10 years it has filled me with excitement to consider that each day, each conversation or new insight means our lives are now different because we have lived a moment that we hadn’t before. Sometimes these moments do cause discomfort as what we had been before learns to adjust, whether we want to or not, and then we find that we have grown in many different directions. Speaking horticulturally, we are able to put down roots, pushing through the ground past rocks , around obstacles searching for nutrients and stability: and we can reach ever higher, stretching ourselves, searching for light, warmth and a chance to bloom. We can expand outwards, negotiating space, increasing our capacity and becoming ever more fruitful.

It is this kind of expansive growth that we are negotiating at the moment with our Wednesday Junior Club as numbers push 40 and rising: – how do we maintain our work and ‘bear the weight’ of so many? We noted in our staff debrief this week that changes may be necessary to ensure the best for our young people who attend but uncomfortable for us– growing pains we called it. We love the free-flowing nature of the club and know that the way it runs is alright, for the moment, maybe… But we have also tasted the joy of growth and recognise the opportunities that this growth and change presents for relational youth work and the building of community and that we will rejoice with many more once we work out the best way to adjust. 

To relax, one of my favourite things is meandering around large gardens and I often notice that the gardeners, as well as pruning plants back to ensure better growth, also, as plants grow upwards and outwards, put supports in place. 

For Junior Club, I think supports are going to come, amongst other things, in the form of more adult volunteers.

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Joy writes...

‘Do you want to meet up with me for a hot chocolate?’ Is a question I ask the girls we work with all the time. Normally, the first time of asking the answer is a confused look and an ‘ummm, I’m really busy!’ It can be a weird thought to a young person to spend time just chatting with an adult. But I’m persistent and when they finally agree, those one to one spaces can become one of the most significant aspects of their relationships with us.

 Over the years I have experienced young women sharing, their successes, their hopes, their difficulties and their pain. 
I have listened to stories and, when relevant, shared my own. And those conversations make a difference to young people’s lives. Over a hot chocolate, situations are resolved, understanding is achieved, problems are halved and hope is offered. 
At Urban Hope every evening young people come to us for clubs, and though we work with smallish groups (between 10-15 ideally) between finding pool chalk and making the internet work, it can be hard to find the opportunity to get beyond brief catch ups and surface conversations.  
So, I’ll be taking girls out for a hot chocolate, and though it doesn’t always seem as exciting as teaching young people to cook, or sing, it’s the one of the most important parts of my job, because it's where together we can explore the heart of the issues they're facing and together figure out a way forward.

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'on a residential'

16 September 2012

Ben writes ....

I’ve just slept for 13 hours!

This almost never happens apart from when I’ve been 'on a residential' weekend with young people…. It’s exhausting! Partly because of my introvert tendencies and partly because anyone would be shattered after aweekend of late nights, early mornings and non-stop activity.

There’s an intensity to weekends away which comes not just from the activity but from the investment we are all required to put into relationships in order for all to go well.

There is also an intensity from the freedom that young women feel when they get away from all the pressures of life at home. They respond to the invitation to come away to the countryside, take risks, overcome fears, and work as a team.

Navigating the changes of adolescents is often hard for young people and so often we meet young people who have additional pressures of limited resources, caring for family members or feeling the loss of absent parents or loved ones in prison.

Getting away for a weekend of exhilarating new experiences and liberating freedom can, in our experience give young people a resource on which to draw when navigating life back at home which is why we love taking young people away ‘on a residential’

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Ben writes...

A young person broke into our office during a drop-insession and stole Joy’s brand new laptop. We know him well, we have known his family for the past 15 years, in fact this young man is a central player in the life of Urban Hope. He probably doesn’t think he is bit when you’ve known someone since they were a toddler, you kind of form a bond. So when he stole the laptop we were GUTTED. I mean devastated, not really because of the loss of a computer – although we were seriously pissed off about that – but because we invest so much of ourselves into building and sustaining relationships with young people and this particular relationship was now damaged, broken, smashed up and we felt as if we had be undone.

Our identity is found in our relationships with others. This isn’t an abstract statement but a present reality for us at Urban Hope. It is the positive intergenerational relationships that flourish here at Urban Hopethat lead to hopeless lives being transformed into hopeful ones. The south African concept of Ubuntu has at it’s core the belief that our humanity is inextricably bound up with the humanity of our neighbour, our well-being found within the well-being of others. This is the vision towards which we work and so when a relationship is broken we hurt, not just because trust is lost and ego’s bruised but because we feel as though we are loosing touch with the very thing that gives us hope.

The theft of the laptop led us to do some serious soul searching. If we (Urban Hope) can know someone for most of their life (to date) and be actively seeking their well-being what is this worth if they can rob a laptop? 

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Community Day

3 September 2012

Chrissy writes....

We had such a great day on Saturday when we held a fun day for our community at the Almorah Road Community Centre. As well as a BBQ and bouncy castle it was packed with stalls such as a coconut shy made out of cut-up and painted poster tubes, a nurf gun firing range with plastic skittles and beakers as targets, a beautifully painted splat-the-rat and many creative tables. We relished the chance to have fun with and get to know better young people’s parents. What we enjoyed the most turned out not to be the crazy stalls or bouncy castle but seeing so many members of our community coming together to make the day work. The day felt like a real celebration and a beautifully collaborative event. Thank you to all those who came and helped out and also everyone who turned up and joined in.           


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28 August 2012

Joy writes...

A few weeks ago during our Friday evening girls club, (after a half an hour set up and at least double that planning!) we found ourselves throwing an impromptu birthday party.

One of the girls was turning 13, and her friends had decided to surprise her with a cake from the local bakery (With her name on!) balloons, presents and all kinds of yummy treats.

When they arrived laden with stuff, I have to admit that there was a part of me that was a little annoyed that our slickly planned art session had to be abandoned but actually it was so great to see young people taking ownership of the session, choosing to have a party in a space that they saw as theirs, without adult intervention.

When I was training I was taught that the key principles of youth work are equality ofopportunity, informal education, empowerment, and voluntary participation.During this session I had the chance to be reminded of why those things are so important.

Youth work isn’t just about having slickly planned session and amazing activities,it’s about enabling young people to have a safe space of their own, where they can figure out what’s important and how to do stuff for themselves, the way that they want- and throw parties for their best friends!

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The Izzy Cup Experience

28 August 2012

Last week our boys club took part in the Izzycup, which is a football tournament where teams from all the youth clubs in Islington are invited.

Byron writes

‘Disaster hit us as we began, we had underestimated our opponents. Presuming victory because of their height we said, “they don’t stand a chance!”

As our opponents made contact with the ball the score said other wise- repeatedly! Our hope began to be tested the once confident team began to waver.

When the final whistle blew the blame was kicked about more then the football and the teams spirit was crushed.

The disappointment increased within the players and the tournament, as not everyone entered into the spirit of the tournament.

The team was at each other’s throats and the captain was the main target but the tournament continued and half of the team had given up but as “shackles” and “Today was a good day” was blasted through speakers the atmosphere changed. The boys began to work as a team as they used each other’s strengths on the pitch to successfully draw and then win a game. Even though the boys were disappointed that they didn’t win the tournament they pulled together and had a really good time doing it!

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Inspiring a generation

7 August 2012

“When’s Tom Daley on?
          Did you hear about thebadminton?
                     I was watching theswimming all day.
Did you see the Judo – amazing right?
             We’ve just got a medal in…
                            That footballcrowd was the largest ever…”

This week has been dominated by sport and talk of the Olympics: engaging in excited chatter about the opening ceremony, Rowan  Atkinson and the “James Bond bit with the Queen”; going over the various nuances of different sporting disciplines that we’d previously never given a second thought to, with young people who admit they don’t generally care about sportbut are a little taken-aback that they’re watching it now; being in awe alongside our year 8 girls at the skill and daring of Tom Daley and the rest ofthe teams in the Olympic diving; organising trips to the men’s table tennis medal matches and the beach volleyball thanks to a last minute surprise gift oftickets; having great fun down at Rosemary gardens messing about with basketballs, footballs and creative interpretations of tennis. There was a buzz about the tennis courts last night and the young people had what felt like extra energy to devote to playing sport. Spending time with young people this week I’ve noticed a unified interest and appreciation from our young people for the skill of athletes and most of them seem to have caught a pride that all these athletes and spectators from all these different nations are here in London, their city, their home. There has been much talk of the legacy of these games for London being in the infrastructure and finances – but I think the real legacy for our young people will be in the pride and inspiration that they are experiencing – an interest and discovery of the joys of sport, encouragement from hearing the courageous stories of the athletes, a fresh sense of belonging to their city and their nation and being able to say to their children and grandchildren that they were here. 

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Chrissy writes... 

I took 3 very excited young women to the Men’s Table Tennismedal matches on Thursday. None of us knew very much about table tennis but wewere all thrilled that we’d been given the opportunity to attend the Olympics.The entire trip was full of new experiences for the girls, using paper tickets,walking through Liverpool Street – “Oh wow, this was where they did the phoneadvert!”, going through airport-style security and watching the bestdemonstration of table tennis in the world. They were mostly entertained bysome other spectators who were equally baffled by the hype around table tennisbut they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. They recognised the effort andthe achievement of the players and got right behind the German supporters ofthe first European to gain a medal in table tennis for 12 years. There werealso a few disappointments – at the crippling cost of anything within the arena(a realisation that was truly painful to see arrive on their faces) and at thesedate nature of the crowd. They strove womanfully for a good hour to get areally good Mexican wave going and they weren’t to be defeated lightly but inthe end, the time ran out. I was proud to be sitting next to these 3 sparkyyoung women, who chatted confidently to their neighbours about where they livedand Urban Hope, who were mature enough to garner some interest in the game infront of them, were as enthusiastic as some of the Chinese devotees even thoughit was the first proper game of table tennis they’d ever watched and who wereclearly relishing the opportunity to be there. What a privilege.

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Urban Hope and Street Space have teamed up to create a new post working to promote people's personal, social and spiritual development in line with the core youth work principles of empowerment, education, participation and equality of opportunity.
We are so excited about this opportunity and we can't wait to meet people interested in this new role.
Interested? know anyone who might be?  read the job description and please contact Ben Bell.

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Joy blogs about her experience of working with a group of girls to create a safe space for sharing, reflection and support: a process which becomes sacred... 

Each week we seek to create a sacredspace for 10 minutes at the end of girls club. We sit in a circle around asingle candle and invite each person to share something that matters to them,without judgement.

We introduce this time by remindingthe girls that what’s said in the space, stays in the space and that every onewill be heard; Phones are put away, silence falls and a question is asked: 

What is the most beautifulthing you’ve seen this week?

What do you do when you’reangry or sad?

If you wanted to get politicians totake notice of you, what would you take a picture of?

Does anyone have anything theywant to share?

The answer is always ‘Yes.’

Over the last few months the grouphave shared bereavements, heartaches, personal achievements, exciting events,hopes, fears and dreams. The girls use the space to reflect, to expressthemselves, to ‘try on’ ideas and to take off masks. I am frequently encouragedby the care and gentleness the group show each other.

Last week, one of the young womenused the sacred space to tell the group that she is being bullied at school.The girls gathered round her and promised to shut down any rumours they heard,but not start any fights and told her they had her back. That young woman leftassured that she was loved, respected and known by a group of her peers - andthat’s sacred.

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Thrift Sale Thank you

21 May 2012

Drum roll please....... 

We're delighted to tell you all that we have raised over £6,000 which will be spent on the young people in our community, giving them opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have, we can now pack in loads of activities, giving them a fun filled summer. It was a really great day, so many people came through the doors, there was a great buzz and sense of a community coming together. 

Thank you to all who came and supported us and donated loads of great stuff and especially thank you to the 30+ people who volunteered their time to make this happen... 

We feel privileged to belong to a community like this.

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Re-shape the world

15 May 2012

People are forever asking me what I do, what youth work is and how we at Urban Hope go about it. Normally I can answer fairly confidently but every so often, particularly after a week that's gone a bit wrong, I get myself into a state trying to answer. It's then that I go away and have a think about what it is we do, which normally ends in a discussion at Urban Hope HQ.

This week the answer we arrived at was 're-shape the world'. 

At Urban Hope we look at our community and dare to imagine it could be whole, healthy and peaceful, and then we go about re-shaping our reality so that it can be.   

We imagine a world where the girl who wants to be a doctor but doesn't believe it's possible, does, and then we tell her we believe in her, provide her with a space to revise in and find someone to give her sound career advice.

We imagine a world where the local park is safe for young people and their families, and then we write letters, make phone calls and host meetings until the families we work with are happy to spend a day enjoying each other in it. 

We imagine a world where the boy who thinks dealing drugs is his only option- doesn't, and then we  tell him we believe in him, teach him to cook, show him how to fix his bike, take him to the countryside and help him to imagine a future with many options.

Little by little we change the shape of the world we inhabit, and we encourage young people to do the same, by inviting them to imagine, through art, music and discussion, and sometimes we even imagine on their behalf- And then, we re-shape the world.

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Islington's Family Information Service has published details of activities taking place over the school holidays .... link here

Here at Urban Hope, we will continue to run all our regular activities + we will be doing lots of extra stuff for children and young people who find themselves with nothing to do

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Weekend Away

27 March 2012

At Urban Hope we try to give young people the opportunity to experience new things. One of the ways we do this is by organising activity weekends in the country. Last weekend we took 8 young women and one amazing young leader to Hindleap Warren in East Grinsted, to celebrate and end the Beautiful course

Over the last weekend we saw young women overcome challenges, face fears, persevere until they achieved and have loads of fun. Again and again I am amazed at the growth of confidence and self-belief that can occur in such a short amount of time. As well as the change of perspective spending time in another setting can offer. At the end of every residential we do, I need to sleep for hours before I can function at a reasonable level again but it has never been not totally worth it- and every young person we take away says the same.

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Fran writes…

We have a lot of young people who come into Urban Hope each week who are affected by the places they live. We hear about the high-rise, box-size, community-killing environments that so many young people grow up in, in our city.

I recently watched a 2-part program on 4OD, which was really interesting.  The program followed Kevin McCloud exploring Dharavi, India’s most densely populated slum. Dharavi is described as “one of the most extreme urban environments on earth” but this place could show us how our western city planners and architects have gone so wrong.

Dharavi is a world of amazing juxtapositions.  Containing open sewers, rats, disease and hazardous chemicals everywhere, but surprisingly it is revered by experts as having the answers to some of the biggest problems facing our Western cities. It is an astonishingly efficient place, which holds thousands of tiny industries and a strong sense of community and a joyous spirit.

The programme gave an amazing insight into community living and how it is so affected and dependent on the architecture surrounding the people.

It’s worth a watch….Click on the link below to view

Kevin McCloud Slumming it

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7 March 2012

Joy writes…

At Urban Hope we have the privilege of travelling with young people as they journey through adolescence. Sometimes those journeys arerelatively smooth and our role is to help them to navigate small bumps in the road. Other times the journey to adulthood takes young people into deep, dark caverns of seemingly endless pain.

For those young people hope is so important, but it’s easy to lose sight of it when confronted with their stories of despair. How do we keep travelling with young people, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel?

Recently I’ve been reflecting (with some very wise people) on the hope within pain, and have been challenged and reminded that when pain is shared with anyone there is hope.

There is hope because there is recognition that all is not well, and the belief, no matter how faint, that better or different exists, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, the person they are telling might be able to help them toward that. Even if that only means that in those moment, they are not alone with their pain.

The relationships we build with young people at Urban Hope bring hope- to young people and to us. In the dark caverns all we may be able to offer is a sliver of light and a hand to hold, but for those young people it’s infinitely better then travelling by themselves.

This is why at Urban Hope we start building relationships with young people aged 8 and stick with them for as long as they need. We invest time in one to one mentoring with young people. We want to be there as young people face struggles, ready to offer them ourselves and through that bring hope.

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A time for love

15 February 2012

Ben writes ....

I wanted to share this song with you ... it's one of a number of songs which keeps me focused here at Urban Hope. I've often been frustrated when attending meetings discussing the latest local youth strategy or policy, there often seems to be lots and lots of debate, rules and restrictions .... perhaps these words can call us back to remember what's at the heart of all our work with young people.

"A Time To Love"
(feat. India.Arie)

We have time for racism
We have time for criticism
Held bondage by our ism's
When will there be a time to love

We make time to debate religion
Passing bills and building prisons
For building fortunes and passing judgements
When will there be a time to love

At this point in history we have a choice to make
To either walk a path of love
Or be crippled by our hate

We have time to cause pollution
We have time to cause confusion
All wrapped up in our own illusions
When will there be a time to love

We make time to conquer nations
Time for oil exploration
Hatred, violence and terrorism
When will there be a time to love

At this moment in time
We have a choice to make
Father God is watching
While we cause mother earth so much pain
It's such a shame

Not enough money for
The young, the old and the poor
But for war there is always more
When will there be a time to love

We make time for paying taxes
Or paying bills and buying status
But we will pay the consequences
If we don't make the time to love

Now's the time to pay attention
Yes now is the time... to love...
A time love... Love...
A time to Love
Please, please won't you tell me
When will there be a time to love...

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To Celebrate Valentines day, some of our Urban Hopefuls volunteered to cook a delicious meal at our sister project - the Manna. The Manna is a project which seeks to serve and support homeless and marginalised people. 

They served over 90 people with a three course meal which they had spent the afternoon cooking using skills they had learned at our 'food-skills workshops' - it went down well!

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 Ben writes ….

Last October Caitlin Moran wrote a superb article reflecting on the experience of living in poverty. We blogged her article as we thought it reflected the experience of so many people we know here in Islington. Caitlin wrote another experiential reflection published in the Sunday Times yesterday, which I hope, will help people to engage with some of the issues faced by those who depend of state benefits.

Cutting to the heart of the welfare state

‘What’s it like, being raised on benefits? Well, mainly, you’re scared’

Unlike most of the people voting on the proposed £18 billion cuts to the benefits budget – as it shuttles between the Commons and the Lords – I was raised on benefits. Disability benefits, collected every Tuesday from the post office, in a shuffling queue of limpers, coughers and people with their coat hoods pulled right up.

Perhaps if you drove past the queue, you would presume the ones hiding their faces were doing it because they were on the fiddle – “playing the books”. In reality, they were the scared kids with mental problems on Incapacity Benefit,whom you’d see trying three times, and ultimately failing, to get on a bus.Good luck with getting them on a Restart scheme, you would think. Good luck with trying to funnel that terror into a cardboard hat in McDonald’s.

A council estate on benefits isn’t what you think – if you must imagine it,rather than remember, or just look out of the window. Popular imagination has it that it’s full of obese, tracksuit-wearing peasants smoking Rothmans on the front doorstep, rehearsing for their spot on Jeremy Kyle while spending their fraudulent benefits on a plasma TV.

Benefits spent on plasma TVs is the totemic fury-provoker of the professionally angry social commentator – “They’re spending YOUR taxes on AFORTY-TWO INCH SONY!!! You couldn’t MAKE IT UP!” – ignoring the fact that ifyou live somewhere with broken-glass parks and looming teen-clusters on each street corner, and gave up on the idea of having a car or a holiday long, long ago,then staying at home, safe, together as a family, and watching 15 hours of TV a day is a peerlessly cost-effective, gentle and harmless way of trying to buy happiness.

Besides, they almost certainly won’t have spent “your” taxes on it. They’ll have got a massive overdraft, like everyone else in the Western world. They’ll have got your telly the way you got your telly. People on benefits are just people – on benefits. Some of them are dodgy, most of them are doing their best, and a few need more help than we could ever imagine. The mix is about the same as on your street. If you are having to imagine it – rather than remember it, or look out of the window.

What’s it like, being on benefits? Being on disability benefits – “I’ve hada hard day’s limping, to put that tea on the table!” my dad would say, as we sat down to eat something based around a lot of potatoes and ketchup. Well,mainly, you’re scared. You’re scared that the benefits will be frozen, or cut,or done away with completely. I don’t remember an age where I wasn’t scared our benefits would be taken away. It was an anxiety that felt like a physical presence in my chest – a small, black, eyeless insect that hung off my ribs.Every Tory budget that announced a freezing of benefits – new means-testing,new grading – made the insect drill its face into the bone. They froze benefits for four years in a row, as I recall: “freezing” being the news’s way of telling you that you – already poor – will be at the checkout, apologising as you take jam and squash out of your bag, put them back on the shelves and ask them to add it up again. Every week you fear that this is the week the pennies won’t stretch any further and something will disappear: gas, food. Your home.

Eventually – and presumably to the endless gratification of Richard Littlejohn – they did take the telly away, halfway through Twin Peaks.All the kids cried and cried and cried. There wasn’t really anything left to do. I invented a game where you lay on the bed staring at the telegraph lines outside the house for so long, without blinking, that you would start crying.The house was very cold. Dad spent whole days in bed – huge white plastic jar of painkillers on the floor beside him, looking like the New Shmoo.

All through history, those who can’t earn money have had to rely on mercy:fearful, changeable mercy, that can dissolve overnight if circumstances change,or opinions alter. Parish handouts, workhouses, almshouses – ad hoc, makeshift solutions that make the helpless constantly re-audition in front of their benefactors, exhaustingly trying to re-invoke pity for a lifetime of bread and cheese.

That’s why the invention of the welfare state is one of the most glorious events in history: the moral equivalent of the Moon landings. Something not changeable, like mercy, but constant – a right. Correct and efficient:disability benefit fraud is just 0.5 per cent. A system that allows dignity and certainty to lives otherwise chaotic with poverty and illness.

Certainty, that is, until you cut the budget so savagely that some benefits disappear altogether. Then, you bring back all the fear of the almshouse and the parish dole. Then, you cut this country back to Victorian times.

I remember it, from my childhood. I can feel the dreary terror from here.

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For over 7 years now Urban Hopefuls have been creating short films about them, and their reactions to the world around them. Some which have been part of the 'London Children's Film Festival'. We have now created an UrbanHopefuls channel on YouTube, which is a great platform to celebrate the young peoples voice's and talent's. it will be a channel for their past cinematic achievements and hopefully many more to come in the future.

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Beautiful Course

17 January 2012

A couple of weeks ago we held the first session of the Beautfiul@urbanhope course this year. We have 10 stunning young women and the amazing Hannah Jean as our resident image consultant.

Hannah, who founded ‘Find myStyle’ image consultancy, also leads ‘Diva-licious’ an image empowerment project.  ‘Diva-licious’ goes to schools and pupil referral units to work with girls around the issues of self-esteem and self-image, using her skills in fashion and styling.

We’re so excited to be working with Hannah, because it is always great to work with people who share your vision.

The aim for Beautiful@urbanhope is to enable young women to recognise that they are beautiful, valuable and have a contribution to make in the world.

Visit Hannah’s wonderful sites to find out more at ... www.findmystyle.co.uk or  www.diva-licious.co.uk

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Happy New Year

5 January 2012

Happy New Year

We're back from our Christmas break and are loving reconnecting with all the Urban Hopefuls. 

I wanted to share an email that we were sent by a 17 year old over the Christmas period which will stay with me throughout 2012 and will serve as a reminder of what we're about.

Dear UH,
Thank you for your presence.
Thank you for your presence, in absence of food,
Thank you for your presence, in absence of shelter.
Thank you for your support, in absence of a hand to hold,
Thank you for your brains, when I felt brain dead.
Thank you for being my megaphone, in absence of a voice,
Thank you for being my specs, when life seemed a little blurry.
Thank you for being my family, In absence of a mother, father.
Thank you. Its been a great year.

This young woman has put Urban Hope into words in a way that we could never do.


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