There has been a heated debate that has emerged during our Thursday drop in sessions, which is yet to be concluded. The argument is who would win in a battle, the alien from the planet Krypton ‘Superman’ or the world’s greatest detective ‘Batman’. Each young man has their argument for why they believe their super hero would be victorious and they could defend them to the end.

As they each share their many perspectives of this epic battle, I am amazed at the amount of detail and creativity that they have put into their arguments. Even though these characters are fictional and therefore there is no definitive answer these boys love it and will not mind telling you all about it. The truth can be said this is not everybody’s cup of tea, as many of the young people looked perplexed at the amount of depth and emotion that this group of young men displayed but they couldn’t care less.

What I find so significant about this are the young people who are involved in this debate and how this subject continues to bring people from different age groups and cultures together. Having a safe space where you can share similar interests enables young people to build newfound friendships with other young people who they may have never spoken to.

Here at Urban hope we aim to provide a space where young people can come and be themselves and share their interests, their opinions and feel confident about who they are.

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“Urgh, that’s disgusting” she says peering into to bowl. “What is it?” Every week we come together and cook a meal with the young people, and every week she says the same thing.

The first reaction we receive by young people, be it to; the introduction of a new project, a new game to play or a not seen before ingredient that we are cooking with that week, is not always positive. Changing the status quo, isn’t always agreeable. Sometimes we find that young people exhibit a reflex that tries to push away new opportunities.

At Urban Hope we walk with young people into new experiences that will often challenge their preconceptions. This often challenges them to step out of their comfort zones. It could be; jumping to catch a rope in a high ropes course or jumping into the unknown and being the first in their family to go to university, trying a new food or trying to go a day without a cigarette. We want young people to see the potential that we see in them, we are hopeful that they can do so much more than they thought.

“Urgh, that’s disgusting” she says peering into to bowl. “What is it?”

Every week she says the same thing.

Every week she sits down and eats with us

and more often than not she says that she enjoyed it!

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We need something good.

27 November 2013

At Urban Hope HQ we're listening to this cover of Maverick Saber's I Need by spoken word artist George the poet.

We think it's a challenging reflection on the impact of the music industry on youth culture as well as beautiful piece of music.

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As part of this years Children in Need appeal BBC 1Xtra chose Urban Hope as one of the projects they wanted to profile. On Wednesday Joy and a group of young people met 1xtra breakfast presenters Yasmin and Twin B to tell them about the work Children in Need fund at Urban Hope with young women and the interview was played on air this morning.

The money that Children in Need and other funders provide is essential to our work and we're are appreciative of every penny

Thanks for your support

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Holding stories

8 November 2013

Ben reflects on the significance of holding stories for young people ...

I spent some time with a remarkable 21 year old young woman the other day. She told me that she was glad I had met her when she was a toddler. Glad because I was able to tell her in the briefest of ways a small story of her childhood. She knows little about her childhood beyond the social services reports. Her mum is no longer alive and when she was didn't do a great job of caring for her child. There aren't many photos and there are few stories of this girl's childhood beyond her own limited memories.

Last week a 20 year old young woman came and spent the evening with us at Urban Hope. She helped cook the communal meal and as she did we reminisced with her about what she was like when she was much younger and coming to Urban Hope regularly. Very naturally we pieced together a narrative of growth, identifying the interweaving of her story with others who were around at the time, and of course with the story of our own community.

Holding stories is one of the gifts that a community can offer individuals. Elders can tell younger members what they were like when they were children. Stories of growth and change can be celebrated, insights and learning gained. Identifying the importance of holding stories for younger people emphasises the role of community in enabling growth and identity formation.

The remarkable young women I began this reflection with is piecing together the fragments of remembered childhood whilst being a wonderfully ‘together’ person. Her later childhood and adolescence is full of stories of happiness, a loving family and of a flourishing individual.

Here at Urban Hope, we hold stories in different ways. Sometimes we are trusted with thoughts, feelings and information. Other times we are simply observers and re-tellers.

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What is in a name?

4 November 2013

I was reflecting recently about how we use names to identify both others and ourselves.

With the prevalence of the internet in our daily lives we can be asked to sign up to many different applications and pick a username, but what do we choose? Do we choose an email address that uses our name to help people remember it? What do we do if our name, in which our identity is wrapped up in, is already taken? Do see choose a username that hints at or masks our true identity? Do we use the same username for all our accounts or do we change it depending on our audience? What do we do if our account gets hacked or compromised; do we bin the username and it’s associated identity?

Some of the young people we work with have multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts, which can be hard for them to keep track of. As young people explore their identities both on and off-line, how they choose to identity themselves is part of that exploration.

Having worked for Urban Hope for two months now I am finally getting to grip with the all the names of the young people I have to remember. Our names are really important, they are usually the first word we learn to write and will often remain with us all our life and so become an a large part of our identity. Some of the young who we meet for the first time either through coming along to Urban Hope or meeting young people out on detached work, choose to give fake names. It can feel like they are trying to protect themselves from a strange adult showing interest in them.

A value we hold dear at Urban Hope is that we strive to be relational; asking for names and intentionally using young peoples names is a great way to build those relationships. Our names and how people use them are used can show a lot about that relationship. It was a great sign of the relationships that we had built over the two months of detached work when I heard my name either in an argument about which team they should put me on or the cry of “Dylan, Dylan, pass, pass”, as we were playing football. Even greater is when young people feel that they have enough of a relationship with you that they can play with your name or give you a nickname.

What is in a name? Quite a lot really, it’s the beginning of relationship.

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Spark

10 October 2013

I recently read a book called ‘Raising Girls’ by Steve Biddulph, which is explores how parents, aunties, grandparents and other adults in the lives of girls and young women can help them reach their fullest potential.

One of the ideas in the book was the one of everyone having a spark..

Biddulph writes: ‘children and young teenagers almost always have something inside them-an interest, enthusiasm, talent or concern- which,if it is supported, gives them incredible joy, motivation and direction. That thing is theirspark.’

He goes on to say that one of the roles of the adults in the lives of children and young people is to help them find and pursue their spark, whatever it is, because young people who do, are more engaged with education, are more confident, and are less likely to get in trouble with the law.

One of the values at Urban Hope is responsiveness, meaning that we keep ears open to the voices of young people in our community. We listen to what young people are interested in and passionate about and we give them opportunities to try new things and have to new experiences.

We help young people figure out what their sparks are, and then we help them pursue them.

Through enabling young people to make music, join rugby teams, volunteer or learn how to canoe, we fan and kindle the sparks within young people, which go on to light the fires of passion and joy throughout their lives.

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New Kid on the Block

10 October 2013

I am only five weeks into my new job here at Urban Hope. Starting something new can always feel a bit daunting. Whether it’s a new school or a new job the biggest worry can be building relationships with friends and colleagues rather than the work set before you.

Building relationships with young people is a key part of our work here and it can be hard to come into a place where strong relationships already exist. Urban Hope works with people for a long time some of the workers here have known ‘young’ people for almost twenty years. The relationships that are built with the young people at Urban Hope extend beyond the 11 to 18 brackets. Young people who are eighteen and above continue to come back consistently to share meals and their lives with those who have spent time to get to know them.

Coming as a new face to this established project feels like meeting your girl/boyfriends family for the first time. You want to be open and allow people to know you but also don’t want to be too forward, knowing that you want to build relationships that will develop naturally overtime. It’s important to keep in mind that it will take time; over weeks, months and years relationships build grow and deepen. The long-term approach that Urban Hope has to working people (young and beyond) allows us to be there throughout the highs and lows of life.

We are not just youth work project, we describe ourselves as a youth and community project, but more than that we often look like a large family. And I’m just being welcomed in…

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What do you do?

17 September 2013

Joy writes...
When I tell people I’m a youth worker they often look at me quite confused. Lots of people aren’t quite sure what I do.

Last week while I was hoovering Urban Hope HQ I was reflecting on the fact that, in the name of youth work that day I had been chef, advisor, cleaner, manicurist and teacher, and I suddenly understood one of the reasons people get so confused!

At Urban Hope youth work takes different forms,: cooking lessons, mentoring, football coaching, and so on, but there are some core values behind every role that may be put on that keeps us youth workers.

Everything we do is focused on the holistic development of young people, and no matter what we do, young people should be empowered and should be learning and reflecting.

At Urban Hope we aim to be intentional about all the stuff we do. Singing, cooking and playing football, watching a film, or just having a chat, are all opportunities to help young people develop...

and that is what I do.


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Working with family

19 August 2013

Joy writes... People often say you should think twice before you work with your family...

But at Urban Hope, we don’t hesitate. This summer we had the privilege of employing Joel, a 20 year old man who has been part of the Urban Hope family for at least 10 years.

Over this summer Joel has been coach, role model and friend to a number of young people who otherwise wouldn't have had much to do and we couldn't be more proud.

2 years ago Joel left Islington to go to university.It’s always bittersweet to see young people move on, but no matter where they go on to, they remain part of our community, and people often come back, to check in with us and to help us out.

One of the core values of Urban Hope is a commitment to long term working and we use an extended family model.

Which means that as they choose to, young people have the opportunity to belong to a community to that supports them as they grow and face different challenges. This community supports each young person for as long as they need and wish it to, regardless of where they end up.

We are there when young people get their first secondary school uniform.

We’re there when they fall out with their best friend and when they make up.

We talk year 9s through choosing their GCSE options and year 11s through what happens when they get their results.

We calm young people down after the latest row with their parents, brush with the law or fight with school and we remind them that all is not lost after their first big break up.

We help them apply for uni and we’re there congratulating when they get their first job.

Joel was asked what it was like working at Urban Hope, He answered 'It's like home, like working with family.'

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Community Day

12 August 2013

Everyone welcome, lots of fun, brilliant community event, it's Free!

Put it in your diary people.

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Summer time

11 August 2013

Joy writes...

People often assume that the holidays are an amazing time for all young people, that the absence of school and seemingly endless free time can only be a good thing. However for some young people summer time is hard. They don’t get to go away, or spend extra time with their families. For some it can be a lonely and boring time.

Which is why at Urban Hope the summer means we head into the local parks and hang out with young people, offering them lots of fun things to do from trips to tennis coaching, culminating with a community fun day at a local community centre.

We’re there to offer friendship and a sense of belonging. Some young people will see us almost every day of the summer.

Summer is a time for us to focus on getting to know young people and their families really well. We try and spend as much time as we can out of Urban Hope HQ to really focus on creating solid relational foundations, that we often build upon for years.

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Mark Making

15 July 2013

"Urban Hope has been marked by the uniqueness of all the individuals who walk through that purple door."

Fran writes…

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining the Monday night Drop in. I came to do some screen-printing with some of the Urban Hopefuls. We were all printing the same logo, but they all came out a little differently, and each young person had made that mark, printed that logo and made it their own. As some of them grew in confidence with using the screen, experiments with colour began, with different degrees of success!!

The screen at the end looked like a bit of a work of art, with its layers of colours and marks. Each layer had been made by one of those individuals and will stain that screen for a long time. It struck me as they experimented, at the desire to make things unique, and the ease at which they did this.

This space was theirs.

Urban Hope has been marked by the uniqueness of all the individuals who walk through that purple door.

The more I volunteer at Urban Hope the more I see that these rooms are their space and young people have made their mark through the years, Urban Hope evolves and moves starting where the young people are at.

What a layered, colourful and beautiful place it is, because of all those people who have been here and made their mark!

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19 years ago I met a 2 year old little girl. Her mum used to come to the office door to ask for food. Over the years we tried to support her and her family and she joined our youth work project - we had fun, laughed, played and went of adventures together. However, it seemed that nothing we could do was enough to either support her or keep her safe and after going missing on a number of occasions she was taken in to care and moved away. We didn't see her for about 5 years and then she came back to ask for our help when she was 18 ... she was addicted to crack and was a total mess, her face covered in scabs and scars, her clothes torn, in another abusive relationship she had knocked on the door to ask for food ... and so we started again

We sent her flowers when she was in hospital, we visited her in prison, we just did all we could to let her know that she was valued ... again most of the time it seemed in vain. She had lots of 'professional help' but no long term, constant relationships with positive adults apart from us. It seemed that she really valued that and would pop in from time to time, just to be with us and catch up.

We had a phone call a couple of months ago, she seemed cheerful and had successfully completed rehab. She now lives far away from here in a safe and supportive place, but today she just 'popped in', she had come to see us to say hi.

It was wonderful to see her, looking well and healthy and smiling and hopeful. She is beginning to believe that she is a loved and valued person. My friend Pip would say she's a Beautiful Human Person and I would agree, not just now but all through the journey.

When all our programmes and plans fail, sometimes all we can do is try and show young people love.

Today this makes more sense to me than it did yesterday - I asked what made her come by to say hi, she said 'this place has been like a home to me'.

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Endings

11 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.

Helping young people practice transitions is an important part of the work we do at Urban Hope, because the ability to end things well, and to feel confident about the next stage is one that will benefit young people throughout not only their adolescence but their whole lives.

Which is why we create rites of passage, like graduations and residential trips, record and celebrate achievement and show young people the distance they’ve travelled.

We want them to know that they are changing, that they can achieve and that endings are very rarely the end.

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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.

Not my Crime, Still my Sentence

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.

The campaign targets a member of European Parliament, this year Jean Lambert from the UK.

thanks

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Compassion

4 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

Ben writes...

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.

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Loss

20 May 2013

Joy writes...
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.

One of the things that I think makes Urban Hope special is the way that we can respond to the things that are currently affecting young people, and provide a safe space for young people to be quiet and still or loud and frantic, happy, sad or angry.

We carve out space for young people to reflect, discuss and share.

Last week we got the opportunity to help young people realise that they aren’t alone and that someone will be there when things are hard.

It was a message of hope and I feel privileged to have been a part of sharing it.

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Exam Time

14 May 2013

Byron writes...
‘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.

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Mentoring

30 April 2013

Chrissy writes...


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.

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Mirrors

24 April 2013

Joy writes...
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.

Those mirrors will probably end up at the bottom of a sock draw or under a bed with last years history book, but that’s ok because the message of liking yourself will be repeated to those girls and many more young people, every time they walk through the doors of Urban Hope.

On Friday I asked the group what a person with healthy self-esteem was like, they responded:

They walk with their heads held high,

They are kind and caring,

They are happy with themselves,

They follow their dreams,

They don’t care about what other people think,

They wear what they want,

They enjoy what they do

They stand up for themselves.

That’s what we want for young people, and that’s what Beautiful@ Urban Hope is about.

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Ben writes...

‘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.

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Expressing Anger

1 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”

Byron writes...

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:

“young people need opportunities to express dissent, anger and hatred, because those feelings are real and don’t go away, however much a school may try to ignore them. 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”

These young people are able to do something that gets shunned in our adult hood and that is getting in touch with our feelings. Maybe it is our work ethic or our desire to be professional or we just don’t want to appear weak but I believe that our emotions are powerful and can give us the drive to destroy or build in every aspect of our lives.

I’ve been reflecting on my work with these boys by reading ‘Working with anger and young people” by Nick Luxmore

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Martin writes...
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.

We value the importance of creating these opportunities for people to experience the enjoyment of sharing food together and the connections that we can make through the meal time.

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100%

19 March 2013

Joy writes...

Last week a girl told me, from memory the details of Justin Beiber’s birth. When, where, how long the labour was and what the weather was like. I was enthralled!

I confess I’m indifferent towards Justin Bieber, but find myself gripped by young people’s ability to give themselves 100% to something they care about, whether that is Justin Beiber, a football team or a perceived injustice.

Watching young people completely immerse themselves in something is a huge privilege and something I try to emulate in my own life.

However, we do hope that this passion and commitment that young people have can be applied to more than one pop star. At Urban Hope we seek to introduce other causes for young people to get passionate about. Equality, justice and honesty are key themes of conversation here and areas that young people really care about. And when given the opportunity have a lot to say on.

Being able to think creativity and having resilience have both been shown to improve people’s well being. Reimagining the status quo and being open to other points of view are key parts of being creative and having a sense of purpose and persisting in something builds up resilience.

Which is why we are getting the singing group to write a song about what makes them angry, and why we celebrated international day of the girl with our girls club and why we do Kiva loans with groups. Engaging with a cause is good for young people’s personal development, and it’s good for the rest of the world too, the energy and commitment young people give can really make a difference.

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How can you use a pool table to talk about sexual health, coffee cup rings to explore journey, or use conversation to help young people gain a new perspective?

These were some of the questions we explored last week as part of a training day we ran for youth workers. We often find that session plans don’t work out or we get stuck when it comes to helping a young person move on.In order to learn how to think on our feet, and work creatively with young people we invited our friend Jonny Baker to lead a day for the Urban Hope team and 34 other youth workers from as far as Manchester and Hastings.

The day was wonderfully interactive with exercises in newspaper editing and improvisational drama (We never knew that Byron was hiding his acting talents from us).

The youth work world is full of essential inside the box training such as safeguarding and best practice. We are seeking to add value by offering training and ‘think space’ events on themes that aren’t usually covered

… a little bit of innovative, outside the box thinking to equip, excite and invigorate youth work … that’s what we’re trying to do.

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Together we're better

26 February 2013

Martin Writes... The Izzi cup was a popular conversation topic for the boys I met on my arrival at Urban Hope.

It is a tournament for Islington Youth Clubs, which takes place in our local park. Now it’s my turn to gather the boys for the forthcoming cup.

Preparation for the tournament enables us to work within an activity that the boys are passionate about and has shaped our terms theme of team work. There have been opportunities to explore the dynamics of being team players and building collaborative relationships. Developmental work such as this is part of our work towards the greater aim of equipping these boys for adulthood.

Activities such as decorating t-shirts with name and number and communication exercises have helped the boys to understand that success in football is about more than being able to shoot on target.

The boys did really well and won third place medals in the Izzi cup last week – a great achievement. They tell the story of how they weren’t doing so well at the beginning of the tournament but once they started working as a team they got better.

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Seeing Double at Urban Hope

19 February 2013

Joy writes...

Last term was very exciting for the Junior Club team as the clubs membership doubled between September and December. 60 young people are now Junior Club members and over 40 come along each week.

We have a lot of fun with the group playing games, doing arts and craft activities and drinking hot chocolate (with whipped cream and marshmallows if they're really good!)

Junior Club, which is for 8-11 year olds, is so important to us because for many young people it is the very beginning of a relationship with Urban Hope that will last through to adulthood.

On of the explanations for the rapid membership growth is our partnership work with Rotherfield Primary School.We work closely with the school to help year 6 pupils make the big leap from primary to secondary school. Through school visits to Urban Hope and weekly Junior Clubs we offer children a place where they can talk to safe adults, meet up with their friends and have a break from some of the pressure of change.

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Creating Conversation

5 February 2013

Joy writes...

We’ve been trying something a bit different in our Thursday Drop-in sessions.

The week we opened after Christmas we dragged a dead Christmas tree into the halls and propped it up in the corner.

When young people noticed the conversations generally went like this:

‘Why is there a dead tree?’

‘Cos Christmas can sometimes be a bit dead can’t it?’

‘Yeah, mine was because….’

The next week we cooked a bunch of Tesco value burgers and left them next to the apology from Tesco’s, which was in the newspaper that day.

There was screaming, and neighing as a few young people dared each other to eat horse meat, and conversations about how people like to know the truth, and honesty being important, as well as about being a vegetarian and if you’re not, what animals it is ok to eat.

Last week we re-wrote a registration form, inviting young people to invent a new persona for the national day of escape.

I chatted to a girl about escaping sadness, and to another about how she loved being from the Caribbean and wouldn’t change that for anything.

Through the introduction of trees, burgers and forms we have stimulated discussion around sometimes, difficult topics. We’ve helped young people access the news, reflect on themselves and the wider world.

Having discussions, debates and moments of understanding with young people, enables them to have the opportunity to voice their opinions and gain confidence in that voice. It also inspires creativity in young people, reminding them that there are other ways to see the world, and, hopefully, helping them to realise that the way things always have been doesn’t necessarily need to be the way things always will be.

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Ben Writes...

Inspired by the opening track on Lupe Fiasco's 'The Cool' I've done an Iocal re-write reflecting the context in which we work.

This is for journalists and politicians BUT ESPECIALLY youth workers ....

I'm tired of listening to youth workers sensationalise the issues in their communities. I know the temptation and I feel the need to raise funds ... but by using these situations to 'big-up' the majority of our work (which isn't of interest to the headline writers) we cheapen the significance of our work. We risk distorting the most commonly heard stories of the majority of young people who are struggling to overcome the pressure of being under-resourced and overlooked.

They thought it was cool to stab a kid at a bus stop

They thought it was cool to fire off guns in our park

They thought it was cool to smash up shops and set our streets on fire

They think its cool to squeeze new shiny housing blocks alongside the canal leaving The Blocks in shadows

She thinks she’s cool chilling on the step giggling while olders teach them about the street.

They think its cool to jack peds, shot ‘arry and ket,

He thinks it’s cool when he get to play a part in the west-end smash and grab

She thinks it would be cool to cast a group of friends in her weekend true life drama

They think it’s cool when they stop and search to show you who’s on top.

Freeze!

Cause the problem is we think it’s cool too

Check your ingredients before you overdose, on The Cool

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Music at Urban Hope

29 January 2013

Byron writes…

The musically gifted young people took the stage at Urban Hope’s music showcase in December. They performed in front of their pears, family members and the wider Urban Hope community. Each singer sang their song and lyricists shared their stories, riding a hard-hitting 808 beat, or were accompanied by young guitarists that tantalised our ears, the audience cheered on each strum, beat, note, and performance.

It was a success but within the time span of one hour and thirty minutes all of their hard work was over. Nobody would truly know the amount of time and effort that these young people had put into this show.

Throughout the weeks leading up to the show it seemed as if there were new obstacles trying to dishearten and prevent our young people from being apart of it. There were disputes about song choices, and young people dropping out of the show all together. There were several different points of the rehearsal process where it appeared as if there wasn’t going to be a show. But, we were privileged enough to have a group of dedicated young people who gave up their free time after school and were at every rehearsal, perfecting their craft and being advised and encouraged by our music tutors.

For many of them this was their first time performing on a stage or standing in front of an audience and as you can imagine that was a daunting experience, but I am proud to say that each performer showed great courage.

Here at Urban Hope we value self-expression and encourage our young people to do this in ways that are productive for themselves and the people around them. We are also aware that we can use performances just like this one as a means of bringing the community together.

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Build a Castle

15 January 2013

Chrissy writes...

Recently Martin has been taking Byron and I out to do some detached work with him on the corner of the Colville estate. We write a question on the pavement in chalk and invite passers-by to add to it with their thoughts. Last week the phrase was: “In 2013 I hope to…” I spoke to a few people who had seen the statement with Byron and Martin a few days before and wanted just to talk more about their hopes. What a privilege, that people would share their ambitions, their dreams and plans. Boys wanted to play in tournaments, young people wanted to improve on last year’s achievements, the majority though were longing for deeper change – for peace on the streets, happy homes, for a relief from the financial burdens, the draining exercise of counting pennies and worrying where the next meal for their children was coming from.There was a sad sense with these last dreams that this was actually just a futile pie-in-the-sky dream – of winning the lottery – not quite based in reality but still an infinitesimally small possibility seen in stories of other people. My favourite hope though came from a very young girl who promptly chose a pink chalk and attempted to write “For people to build a castle”.

How utterly profound. They say that children can see and sense what adults spend such energy in hiding from themselves and others and here she seemed to express the scope of people’s feelings whether she meant to or not. A castle. A hope for something huge, spectacular, safe and ultimately from an adult perspective based in dreaming not reality. One man stopped Martin for a long time and I heard him say words to the effect of hope is futile, a waste of time and energy. I think both Martin and I fundamentally disagreed; because hope, be it in things achievable or in massive dreams like castles is tinged with a memory of joy, is fuelled with a belief that life can change, that there really can be something more. It is hope that pushes people on, keeps us trying, keeps people alive. And maybe there won’t be a massive Disney-style castle built in the middle of Hoxton but people’s dreams, once realised can most surely resemble castles – painstakingly sought after and built up, amazing and wonderful. So I hope for the castles and I hope our work out there in Hoxton will be encouragement to others.

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Happy New Year 2013

9 January 2013

Martin writes...

We find ourselves with another year gone and thinking about what happened last year and what is coming this year. Now that Christmas is over, the traces of celebrating the coming of the New Year are gone now we have to get used to normal life again.

This time of year is always filled with talk of new years resolutions, good and bad, those we might keep and those that we don’t. Everywhere we look someone seems to be talking about them, in the newspapers, online and now on the Urban Hope blog post.

Why do we go through the motions of talking about new years resolutions? It seems that not many of us do them or are successful at maintaining them for long. On Facebook at the moment there is a trend going around of doing a new years pay it forward. You put on your status that for the first five people to comment on it you will send them something special. There is probably divided opinion on this but there are plenty of people who think it is a great idea and are doing it. This is a good way to do something different and a little bit special for those we know. But how often do we do something special for those we might not know so well? Are there ways that we can do something different this year that requires more from us than a sort term commitment?

At Urban Hope we are currently looking ahead and planning out what we are doing in the different groups. Some groups are going to have a fresh approach to make the most out of them and try to make a bigger difference in the lives of those we work with. Some things will look the same but others will be different. It is our way of trying to make the most of what we have and do.

So this year as we continue what we do at Urban Hope but try to step it up and do some new things, what are you going to do? I’m sure you have had some ideas already as you read this. Maybe you are considering doing something new. If so, how about volunteering with us at Urban Hope? Consider it and why not contact Joy at joy@urbanhope.co.uk and see what you can do.

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