Sporting chance

24 May 2018

Finding ways to help Hopefuls get active can have a huge impact on their long-term wellbeing (both mental and physical), and is one of the most practical ways we can help them. A variety of things can get in the way of young people getting active, including lack of access to all but a very limited selection of sports, cost of clubs, or the fact that parents or carers aren’t necessarily in a position to support them in getting to practices. As a result, more than a third of children in Islington are overweight or obese by the time they leave Primary School, with children from the most deprived areas twice as likely to be obese as those from the least deprived areas.

Last year, we received a grant to cover the cost of a programme of sports taster activities led by specialist coaches, and over the past 10 months we have run classes in dance, badminton, Zumba, tennis, and Mixed Martial Arts or MMA which uses techniques from boxing, kick boxing and Muay Thai, wrestling, Ju-jutsu and judo. The MMA sessions have been a particular favourite with Hopefuls and the benefits go far beyond the physical: the sessions bring together Hopefuls from different age groups and we have seen some fantastic cohesion between young people who otherwise wouldn’t have come into contact with each other. We’ve seen young people’s concentration skills improve as they listen carefully to instructions and take advice from adults and we’ve seen their confidence and resilience grown as they try something they thought they would never be able to do, or that they have failed at in the past.

We’re looking forward to running many more of these kinds of activities in the future.

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This year, through our Transition project, in partnership with the Caspari Foundation, we've been supporting six young people as they make the move to Secondary School. Earlier in the year, we heard an educational psychotherapist’s view on why transition to secondary school is harder for some young people that others. This time, we asked some Hopefuls in year 7 about their experiences over the few months:

How did you feel before you started?

M: “I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen or who was going to be there.”

D: “You don’t really know what’s coming, you don’t know what your friend groups are going to be, you don’t know how the school is and if you’re going to like it. It’s a big change in your life.

What was it like on the first day?

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For the past two years, Urban Hope has been working with the Caspari Foundation to provide intensive individual support to young people making the transition to secondary school. Each year, we work with six students who are moving into year 7 and have been identified by their school or family as being at high risk of struggling with the move.

In this blog post Caspari Educational Psychotherapist Elizabeth talks about the challenges of transition, why they are greater for some students than others, and the difference that additional support can make.

“Transition to secondary school is a big shift for all young people because it involves big external changes to the pupil’s routines – finding one’s way around in a much larger environment, getting to know new people and generally being a ‘small fish in a large pond’ – and also the loss of a secure base in primary school where teachers know pupils individually and can respond to their needs accordingly. Young people might lose friends going to different schools, have difficulty making new ones, and face the fear of being bullied as the youngest pupils in the school. All this happens during the onset of adolescence, which is a turbulent time in itself.

Some young people find the transition even more difficult than others. They may have already experienced significant trauma or loss – anything from parents separating to the death of a family member – and the transition can evoke the memory of these earlier experiences. The birth of a new sibling, a house move, a parent’s mental illness or struggle with addiction can all be factors that make adaption to new environments harder for a young person. Looked-after children, having experienced a much higher degree of family break-up and loss, tend to find transitions particularly hard. Feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, difficulties in keeping up with the new pace of learning and adjusting to stricter rules and regulations are common difficulties.

In the classroom, students who are struggling with the transition will often cause low-level disruption, chatting to their classmates, making noise, tapping on the desk and other behaviours, generally avoiding learning and disturbing the learning of others. In some cases they deliberately ‘misbehave’ in order to get sent out of class so that they can avoid the learning environment altogether. In time, and without intervention, they may give up and start to truant or refuse school altogether, or, be temporarily or permanently excluded.

Educational Psychotherapy is a way of helping children and young people who have emotional barriers to learning and who struggle with social development. In 1:1 sessions, a child or young person can explore areas of difficulty with the help of a trained therapist Educational Psychotherapist (EPt) through the metaphor of books, games and other media. Problems tend to be looked at in a slightly indirect or oblique way, which can seem less threatening to the young person.

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Merry Christmas '17

15 December 2017

We finished off a great year of youth work on Wednesday night with the annual Urban Hope Christmas Party, where Hopefuls and their families plus volunteers and the Urban Hope team get together for an evening of games, crafts and eating!

This year's party featured the first ever performance by the newly-formed Hopeful Voices choir, who've been practising hard these past few weeks to prepare. Special thanks go to Rachel Lindley for leading the choir, and to all our amazing volunteers for helping out on the night itself and throughout the whole year.


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One of the things we like to do at Urban Hope is to give people the opportunity to spend time with and understand the lives of people they wouldn’t otherwise meet. So, we invite adults with different careers and interests to volunteer here so that Urban Hopefuls can hear about a wide spectrum of different ways to live life. We’d like that to go both ways, for adults to have a chance to hear more about the lives of young people growing up in Islington today. So we’ve been inviting Urban Hopefuls to give us a snapshot of what is going on in their lives now. This week we heard from a young woman of 18 who has been part of Urban Hope for a couple of years:

The things I like are drawing, reading, swimming and gaming. I did a college course in construction, painting and decorating but I’m now looking to do a different course in special effects make-up. I’ve got a part time job at McDonalds. I live on my own, and my mum thinks I don’t use my resources well enough but prices have gone up, and I struggle a lot. I think finding work is difficult for people my age – people are less likely to hire us because we don’t have much experience.

Teenagers get a bad rap. A lot of teenagers drop out of school because they think it’s not for them. I had a horrible time in secondary school, I was bullied and nothing was done about it. I know a lot of teenagers who carry knives because they feel unsafe, and they’re not told what to do in difficult situations. Adults and the older generation think we have so much because we have computers and stuff but I feel really isolated.

I worry that I’m not going to do well and get where I want to get. In the past when I was worried I used to self harm but I haven’t done that for a while so I’m proud of that. I matured quite fast because of crap that happened in my life. When I was younger my mum didn’t know any other mothers so there were no other kids around, I was mostly around adults.

I find it hard to talk to people and make friends and not be weird. I’ve been cheated on in almost every relationship I’ve been in. Hopefully in five years I’ll be settled down with a nice job, and living in the countryside. I’d like to be able to have a partner who I can talk to, who can help me and I can help them; someone who you can have a laugh and a joke with but who can sit down and have a serious conversation too. I have depression and anxiety, and for me being happy is when I’m around people who understand and won’t judge me.

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The same but different

26 June 2016

The Urban Hope team hasn’t been blogging much of late. Partly, that's because it has just been business as usual but really there is nothing usual about the business of youth work. Since our last blog post we have seen young people dealing with exam stress, falling out with friends, falling in love, struggling with bullying, finding themselves homeless, finding a sport they love, having severe health problems, following their dream and achieving success, being excluded from school, getting into trouble with the police, getting into trouble with parents, moving to new schools, learning new skills, making new friends. It’s all familiar and unfamiliar at the same time because every young person is different.

And here are a few of the things we’ve done with Urban Hopefuls in that time:

  • Cooked dozens of meals and sat together around a table to eat them
  • Entered a competition
  • Gone on two residentials
  • Designed t-shirts
  • Attended meetings with schools and social services
  • Hosted a party for residents of a local sheltered housing facility
  • Played hours and hours of table tennis, pool, table football, dobble, uno…
  • Formed a (small!) running club
  • Washed up a lot of pots and pans
  • Held a six-week sketching project
  • Talked about elections, relationships, social media, food, friendships
  • Had a dance-off
  • Held a casting session
  • Run a boxercise session
  • Made badges, keyrings, magnets, papier maché letters, cakes and brownies.
  • Been to the theatre

And the summer has only just begun, so watch this space…

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The challenges of year 7

3 February 2016

The journey from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood can be a very bumpy ride. It is one long transition, and the point of Urban Hope is to accompany young people through that transition. There are particular ‘pressure points’, one of which is the move from primary to secondary school. Over the past few months, many Urban Hopefuls have had a very difficult time adjusting to life in their new schools. They struggle with leaving their friends and a familiar environment to go to a much bigger pool with new rules (that are much more strictly enforced) and the nature of the relationship with teachers is totally different. Alongside this they are trying to build new friendships and find their own identity in a unfamiliar setting.

They deal with this in different ways some talk about it, some cry a lot, others start being difficult at home or adopt destructive behaviours like self-harming or not eating. At school they might lock themselves in the toilets or they might cause trouble at school (and sometimes, ultimately, et excluded). Some start skipping school altogether.

The primary schools that we work in partnership with feel frustrated that they work very intensively with specific pupils in order to keep them in school only to see them excluded within the first few months of secondary school. We are looking at ways to address this, through mentoring, through working with other organisations to provide coordinated sustained support for young people who are most likely to have difficulty adjusting to secondary school. Alongside that, we continue to do what we have always done, provide consistency in times of change, a safe space for young people to come back to and adults they know and trust.

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We will be taking a break from 19th December to 3rd January.

It's been a great year: thank you all for the part you've played in it, whether you've come to sessions, volunteered, donated money or equipment, or just cared about what we are doing.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years.

Look forward to catching up with you in January.

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People regularly get in touch with us to ask if they can come along to an Urban Hope session; they might be considering a career in youth work, or they might be potential volunteers or funders. They are always welcome: we want members of the community to understand and get involved in what happens here, and, one of the most important aspects of that work is the connections that are made between people who might not otherwise come into contact with each other.

But, it can be a bit nerve-wracking for the team because there is a pressure to ‘show’ exactly what we’re doing, to demonstrate the difference we are making, and the truth is that youth work, done well, often doesn’t look like much. Someone visiting an Urban Hope session for the first time – particularly if it happens to be a quiet drop-in without any special activities laid on – might just see a handful of young people and adults milling about in a hall doing a bit of cooking and playing pool and table tennis.

It’s really only during the team debrief at the end of the evening that we find out what has actually happened in a session. Last week, after one such quiet session, we shared stories and heard that a boy who has been coming to Urban Hope for months, had finally felt safe enough to open up about the recent death of a parent, a youth worker had talked to some young people about their relationship with alcohol, there had been several chats about tensions with parents and at school, and some of the girls had talked with adults about underage sex and pregnancy. That first, open conversation a youth worker has with a young person who is seriously considering becoming pregnant is a potentially life-changing moment, but it doesn’t necessarily look very dramatic or interesting in the here and now.

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13 October 2015

“It’s racist to describe someone as black.”

“There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘coloured’”.

“Why would anyone mind being called ‘half-caste’?”

These are some of the things we have heard young people saying over the past week. And we’ve encouraged it, because it’s Black History Month and we wanted young people to have some proper, open discussions about what racism is.

. . . read more


My first month at Urban Hope

24 September 2015

Tanya writes…

I’ve noticed since starting work here five weeks ago that, walking along the street with colleagues, you can’t get through a whole journey without meeting someone in the street connected to Urban Hope. It’s a reminder of how many lives Urban Hope has had an impact on – and it is wonderful to be part of a community, and one that serves our wider community.

Each of the drop-in clubs we host here brings a different atmosphere: Monday has a chilled vibe, with different creative activities, games, chats over a toastie and a cuppa; on Wednesday we crank it up a couple of notches in both volume and energy, welcoming our junior club, and Thursday is our ‘around the table’ evening, we cook and eat together, sharing experiences. Sessions are fluid so that we can work around who comes and what situations and circumstances they bring with them.

As a newbie, it’s been beautiful to watch young people from different backgrounds, with different personalities, struggles and circumstances, being friendly and accepting of one another in a way that they might not be outside our sessions. That acceptance of difference is the opposite of what we sometimes see in the wider society – and it’s all the more precious and remarkable for that.

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On Saturday, Urban Hope hosted Community Day at the Almorah Road Community Centre. It’s a free annual fun day that we run for families living in the local area. The weather was gloomy, the ground was a bit soggy and it was unusually cold for the start of September. But, more than 150 people turned up to play games, jump about on the bouncy castle, eat burgers and sausages, play bingo, get their nails or face painted, make things or just have a cup of tea and a chat with neighbours. The youngest was just a few days old, and the oldest over 90, but everyone who came contributed in some way: some brought sausages or a home-made cake, some served tea or helped to clear up, others played with small children, and some simply turned up, smiling, and made an effort to talk to everyone there.

It’s at events like this that connections are made. We love having a chance to meet the families of the young people we work with, and also giving local people of all ages an opportunity to have fun with those who they might not otherwise encounter in their daily lives. Each new conversation or interaction forms a valuable little link in our community.

Our thanks go out to everyone who played a part in what was a great celebration of our local area and the people who live there, and a fine way to mark the end of summer.

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They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and the same is true for Urban Hope; much of what we do with young people at drop-in sessions revolves around the kitchen, and some of our best conversations happen while chopping vegetables. Last week, what could have been a tense discussion about age gaps in relationships and underage sex was made significantly less awkward because we were all making jam tarts while talking.

On at least one evening a week, we cook a full meal and eat together around a table. Again, it is an opportunity to get people sitting down in a group and sharing stories, experiences, concerns and bad jokes in a way that doesn’t feel contrived.

Last year, the Marple Charitable Trust awarded us a three-year grant, which covers all our cookery costs. As food and eating together play such a central role in the life of Urban Hope, it’s a great example of how a relatively small grant can make a huge difference to our work.

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Each year we take a group of young people away for a weekend of outdoor activities. Urban Hopeful Kihyce, 13, is a big fan of residentials (you can just about see him in this photo reaching the top of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’) and has been on three now. He told us why he likes them so much:

“You can be someone who hates working with everyone else and over the three days you learn about teamwork and interaction, and you can talk to people more. You’re spending time with a group of people that you’ve known at club but have never got to know really well.

This time I did ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ – you have to climb up this ladder made of logs and the gap keeps getting bigger – I kept thinking I was going to fall but the others helped me to get to the top. On my own I don’t think I’d have the courage to do it but I did it because I had people to support me.

I really like doing the activities; I enjoyed archery the most. Every time I do something I haven’t done before I feel like I’ve accomplished something. On the first residential I did, I won the crate stacking activity, and we got certificates. That felt so good, and I just wanted to go again and again. It’s so different to London; it’s like another world. And even though I’ve experienced it before, one trip is never the same as another.”

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The youth work that we do tends to look a bit different in summer. From next week, all the young people we work with will have a lot of free time at their disposal (those who were sitting exams this year will have finished a while ago). And once the novelty of all that free time has worn off, there’s a high risk that they will start to get bored. If and when that happens, we want to help them channel their energy into positive activities; things that will develop their skills, introduce them to different people, get them outside and running around, give them new perspectives on life, and be fun.

There is a huge amount to do in London but, for many young people, there are barriers to accessing much of it. Part of our job is to help them make the most of all that their city has to offer them by taking them to museums, for walks along the South Bank, and to see street performers in Covent Garden.

Alongside that, we organise our own programme of activities. Funding from Islington Council and from FreeSport has enabled us to put some great summer sports activities again this year. We try to make sure these activities include sports that the young people we work with wouldn’t usually have the chance to try. So this year we’ll be offering free tennis coaching, croquet and rounders among other things.

It’s a great opportunity for them, and a great opportunity for us because the warm weather gets everyone out in the parks and means we can meet young people we might not see at other times of year. We have a window of opportunity over the coming weeks to start forming relationships with a whole new bunch of Urban Hopefuls. And we’re really excited about it.

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Gangs are a tricky topic to tackle in a blog, partly because so much coverage of gang culture is sensationalised and we’ve been wary of contributing to the general media noise on the subject, and partly because it’s difficult to do justice to such a complex issue in a short post. But gang culture is having a big impact on some of the young people we work with, so it’s important we do talk about it.

Here are some of the things we see happening:

– Increasingly young men being asked to do ‘favours’, carry money, deliver parcels in exchange for gifts, cash and acceptance into a group that is perceived to be powerful and that offers protection

– Young people carrying illegal weapons either because they are scared or because those weapons convey power

. . . read more


Happy endings

31 May 2015

We received a rather special postcard today from a girl we’ve been working with for a long time. She’s been mentored here, come to clubs, cooked with us, eaten with us and joined us on residential trips. She’s had a really difficult time in the past couple of years following a move into foster care: she became involved with a gang and was engaging in a variety of high-risk activities.

Having known her for a long period of time (during which her school life, home life and social services support had changed extensively), we were able to provide a consistent backdrop. It’s that long-term consistent approach that we think enables us to provide something that young people often aren’t able to access elsewhere.

Things took a positive turn a couple of months ago. She’s now been moved out of the area and is living with a new foster family where she has settled well. “I miss you loads,” read the postcard. “I’m having a good time here, it’s different to London”.The message was happy, upbeat, funny – and receiving it was a really uplifting moment in our week. It’s up on the noticeboard now.

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Hey Mr DJ

13 May 2015

Joy writes…

I know all the words to the song ‘Ignition-Remix’ by R Kelly. So do the 31- and 25-year-old volunteers in the kitchen singing. The 14-year-old boy dancing with a pool cue when he thinks no one can see him knows them too, as do the two 16-year-old girls who are ‘cutting shapes’ in the full knowledge that everyone is watching.

I’m not suggesting ‘Ignition’ is an especially life-affirming song; the lyrics don’t stand up to a lot of scrutiny. But there’s something about that track that gets everyone moving and singing. Every Thursday for the last six weeks we’ve had it on our playlist (along with Rihanna’s ‘Pon de Replay’, ‘Flowers - Sunship Mix’ by Sweet Female Attitude, and ‘All I want’ by Mis-Teeq).

The soundtrack to each session matters: loud, upbeat music makes the halls feel full and busy even if there aren’t that many people around; chilled out house music creates space for chatting; aggressive rap puts people on edge (so we avoid too much of that). Our current Thursday night playlist unifies people. It gets them singing and dancing, and laughing together.

Part of our job is to cultivate an atmosphere in which we can do youth work. We make deliberate choices about most things, and music is one of them.

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Joel writes…

Working with young people can be quite an emotional rollercoaster: excitement, frustration, annoyance, pride… they all play a part. When a young person comes to see us for the first time, we have no idea of their backstory. Our approach is always to be friendly and welcoming and show a genuine interest in them.

Young people often aren’t that friendly back. There can be a lot of hostility at the start: awkward conversations that feel like they drag on for hours, times when a young person calls you ‘moist’ or just walks off leaving you sitting on your own. But those situations offer windows of opportunity: each one gives you tools to be better prepared for the next conversation. It can take weeks or months, sometimes even years to make a breakthrough.

That breakthrough might just be smile or being asked how your weekend was, or it might be a when a girl feels comfortable enough to eat something at club after months of helping with food preparation, or a boy finally gives you his real name and starts to talk about what he wants from life. Big or small, those breakthroughs are hugely satisfying and full of hope.

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Last night was Ben and Gemma's Urban Hope send-off, and the halls were full of people who’d turned up to celebrate all that he and Gemma have done over the years to make Urban Hope the community it is today. Adults (some now in their 30s) talked about how their lives had been changed by the support that Ben had offered; there were tears as one young man told us how Urban Hope had given him a place to belong to, a family… and there was a lot of laughter and eating.

Here's an extract from Ben's speech. It sums up rather nicely what Urban Hope is all about:

“We started small, and as we grew we called it Urban Hope. We sometimes call ourselves a project or a charity but Urban Hope is not this great fancy organisation, really we’re little more than a movement, a community of relationships. And the special thing is that these relationships help bring kids up in this area. They help people find jobs, find hope, go on trips to the countryside and roll around in mud, learn to sing and play football, enjoy each other’s company, and get help with homework.

Urban Hope is about the 1,400 young people who’ve been part of it over the years, who’ve put their names on a piece of paper and said ‘include me’. It is about the 18 members of staff that we’ve had so far, and the hundreds of volunteers and the community of support we have around us. My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for sharing the journey over the past 20 years as we’ve tried to figure out how to do life together.”

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Ben writes…

I've been sorting through my files and have found all sorts of long-forgotten nuggets, one of which was a note from a few years ago based on a conversation I’d had with three 15-year-old girls about mentoring.

Their school had set them up with mentors, but they didn’t rate them at all. As mentoring is central to the work we do with young people, I was keen to find out what they thought made a good mentor. Here’s what they said, based on their own experiences:

1. Help us with our problems at school (advocacy)

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Is anybody listening?

18 March 2015

Joy writes…

The other day, a young woman came into club with her personal statement for college and asked for my opinion on it. I went through it with her and suggested a couple of possible improvements. She totally ignored my suggestions, which was somewhat frustrating.

That frustration is a familiar feeling for the Urban Hope team. It's not unusual for young people to ignore our advice. We often find ourselves going over old ground – processing with young people the consequences of doing things that we told them weren't a good idea, or of not doing things we’ve recommended.

But however frustrated we get, we know that we are not here to tell young people what to do. Trying things out, making mistakes and learning from them is an important part of growing up. Empowerment, and voluntary participation are two of the core principles of youth work.

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We’re very proud of the achievements of all the young people who come to Urban Hope and of the dedication of volunteers who help us to run sessions each week, offer mentoring support to young people and lend a hand at events. But it’s especially gratifying when those efforts get wider recognition, which is what happened this week when Gemma Bell and Keeley Tims were given awards at the Mayor’s Civic Awards Ceremony, an event celebrating the unsung heroes of the borough. Here’s why they were singled out:

Gemma Bell – It’s no exaggeration to say that Urban Hope has been very reliant on Gemma’s support over the past 15 years. During that time, she has volunteered at countless evening drop-ins, mentored numerous young people, helped to organise dozens of events and raised £17,000 to support our work.

Keeley Timms – At only 16, Keeley has already shown a real commitment to her local community. She was nominated her for the Ben Kinsella award by her headteacher, who was struck by her consistently positive influence on younger students and her support of the more vulnerable among them. On top of regular volunteering at Urban Hope, Keeley was keen to volunteer at a local primary school – and when they initially turned her down due to lack of experience, she bombarded them with emails until they said yes. We’re looking forward to seeing where that fierce determination takes her in the months and years to come.

A big, fat Urban Hope thank you to both these wonderful women for all that they do.

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Safety Matters

17 February 2015

Alex writes…

Over the past few weeks I’ve been interviewing young people for a little publication that we’re putting together about Urban Hope and what happens here. It’s been a real privilege to hear them talk openly about issues like anger, isolation and broken relationships, and how their relationships with adults here help them deal with those things, and conversely, what makes them feel happy and valued, and how they find that here. But the phrase that came up more than any other is this: 'I feel safe here'.

We describe Urban Hope as a project that offers ‘safe spaces, positive relationships and new experiences’. We tend to talk more often about the relationships and experiences aspect of youthwork, and it’s easy to forget that for young people – no matter how self-assured they seem – feeling safe and protected is still absolutely crucial to their wellbeing, and something they value over everything else.

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George the Poet said of himself in a recent interview: "I'm from a community that doesn't often get to represent themselves".

He provides unfamiliar (and sometimes uncomfortable) perspectives on the realities of urban living. His soulful poetry is an incisive commentary on diversity, inequality and injustice – all themes that are reflected in the shared experiences of many of the young people who come to Urban Hope. Check out his work if you haven't already.

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Joy writes…

This term during our Monday evening sessions, we’ve been asking young people to go beyond the short-termism of New Year's resolutions and explore their dreams.

We started by talking about our aspirations in different areas of our lives, and about how the demands that other people and society make of us might get in the way of us achieving them. We considered what a ‘dream body’ really looked liked, and talked about the role of healthy eating and exercise. And we talked about dream holidays and tried food from around the world.

There is a practical goal underlying all this: a number of our Monday evening hopefuls are working towards GCSEs and we’re keen to motivate them. We hope that by having a dream in mind they'll keep working despite feeling stressed or unsure about what the future holds, that they will see doing the best they can in their exams as the first step towards achieving what they want in life.

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Ben writes…

Jumping off bridges, out of planes or throwing myself down snow-covered mountains just doesn’t do it for me. But I can see the appeal – an element of risk, experiencing the unknown, the adrenalin boost you get from doing something edgy and exciting. And sometimes, I get a similar buzz from our drop-in sessions. There have been evenings where the creativity of young people making music has generated a static energy – they’ve exposed their vulnerabilities by singing, sharing storied lyrics and playing their new beats. You can’t predict or prescribe that kind of energy but when it happens it’s exhilarating.

Some of the best youth work here happens in the unpredictable space of interactions between young people for whom life is tough. There are moments of tension in our sessions: young people threatening each other with violence, bitchy comments, concerns that a young person might have a concealed weapon or be carrying drugs. Often, young people turning up here for the first time approach us with hostility and suspicion; they may not have encountered trustworthy adults before. The skill of the youth worker is to work creatively with the vibe in the room.

While it’s mostly the same young people who come along to our sessions each week, they bring different experiences and moods – maybe they’ve had a tough time at school or with a parent, or are hyped up on cans of energy drink. Our role is to establish what’s going on, and then try and work with the grain of the situation to achieve some kind of reflection, insight or learning within the group.

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Joy writes…

Last Monday was World Aids Day and, given the rise in the transmission of HIV and aids in Islington, a good opportunity to talk to some of the Urban Hopefuls about how to protect themselves. It’s also really important that we demystify and destigmatise HIV and Aids by giving them accurate information about what living with the virus means.

Creating safe spaces for young people to explore these kinds of issues is something we work hard at. Talking about sex and relationships can be difficult for young people and adults alike so we used a game, our conversations and Sentebale’s #feelnoshame campaign to dispel myths, answer questions and promote safe sexual practices.

There was a bit of nervous laughter and a few groans of disgust at the start, but after a while everyone relaxed and there were sensible questions asked and facts shared. No one was made to feel embarrassed about what they did or didn’t know, and the young people were really engaged in learning about the impact of HIV and Aids around the world.

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Ben writes…

When I was 16 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with myself. But I knew I didn’t want to go to school and that I wanted to earn some money. So, I got a job working in the local cemetery cutting grass and digging graves. It was easy to find work because my Dad knew a bloke who knew a bloke…

A year or so later I got another job working for a glazing firm. Again, my dad called his mate who owned the firm and soon afterwards I got offered a job. It was the same for my brother. This is a small insight into the relative privilege of my upbringing; I had parents who were able to provide me with opportunities through their social network.

Many of us in employment have been given a ‘leg up’ by someone in our network, and we’ve sought to replicate this model of using social capital to access work here at Urban Hope. We have been able to provide opportunities for many young people via our extended network of friends, family, volunteers and their contacts. It’s so rewarding to see young people take advantage of those opportunities to use and develop their skills and gifts in what can seem to be impenetrable professions or workplaces.

But, despite all the benefits, this approach sits uncomfortably with me. It's only necessary because there is a systematic narrowing of opportunity for many of the young people we know here in Islington. Their chances of finding employment are limited precisely because they don’t have a dad who can talk to a couple of people and help them find a job, perhaps because he has struggled to find one himself. So I’m torn between the idealism of seeking structural change and the pragmatic approach that we currently use to fight the corner of the young people we know and help them get jobs.

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Urban Hope always celebrates bonfire night; it’s one of many seasonal markers we use to punctuate our year. We do this because we like fireworks, we like a party, and we like bringing people together to foster a sense of belonging.

But there is a bigger picture too. By working with the rhythms of the calendar, young people are invited to see themselves within a broader social context: their friends, family and immediate community are part of a larger local community that, in turn, contributes to a wider society of dynamic relationships.

Playing a positive role in society is an important part of overall wellbeing, and looking outwards is the first step in that journey.

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What makes you angry?

3 November 2014

Joy writes…

Who do you look up to?

What do you want to be remembered for?

Over the last few years we’ve been working on creating conversation nudges at Urban Hope. These are little prompts to get young people thinking and talking to each other and to the adults at each session.

One of the ways we do this is by writing a quote, a question or a thought on our blackboard and inviting young people to respond. Sometimes in response we get beautiful pieces of art, sometimes we get rude words and sometimes we get responses to the questions asked:

. . . read more


Giving back

28 October 2014

One of the things we enjoy most at Urban Hope is watching young people we’ve worked with throughout childhood make really positive contributions to the community as adults. Maddie (pictured above, left) is a terrific example, we first met her when she came here with her friend Louisa (above right) over a decade ago, at the age of 10.

Today, Maddie is a Philosophy student at Kings and runs workshops at the Barbican teaching young people how to do film programming and events management. And just recently she’s found a way to simultaneously reduce food waste and help Urban Hope by encouraging her ex-employer Waitrose to donate unused food to us each week.

Here’s Maddie’s story:

“Louisa and I went along to girls’ club after we got a flyer at school in Year 6. It was just over the road from where we lived. Otherwise I wasn’t doing anything; we just used to play out on the street with people we knew. At Urban Hope we got to meet new people and because it was girls club we didn’t have to worry about yukky boys! We did baking, outdoor stuff, arts and crafts – and sometimes we just used to put music on and dance around.

I’ve been through quite a lot and Urban Hope was the one place I could turn to for help or advice. Or sometimes just a space that I can go, my house can be quite hectic but there I can be separate from all the chaos, no-one minds listening me to moan. I still pop in all the time.

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Growing up with Urban Hope

15 October 2014

Joel writes…

That’s me aged about five or six on the green at the Almorah Road Community Centre where Ben first started bringing together children and young people to play football and hang out together. So I've been coming to Urban Hope since before it was called Urban Hope, and now I'm doing a placement here as a student youth worker.

As a child, it gave me an opportunity to get out of the house, meet other young kids from the area, develop my love of football, and spend time with people I’d never have known otherwise. It was totally different – and a lot more fun than what was on offer at home. My standout memory is a residential I went on when I was 16. I crawled through cold, wet mud, did zip lining, tight rope walking and much more. It was a completely new experience and got me enjoying the outdoors.

Being part of Urban Hope enabled me to find a voice that was often disregarded and oppressed, especially at home. It gave me a family in a place that felt like a home away from home – somewhere I could just be.

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Joy writes....

I’ve always wanted to be a super hero.

Ever since I was a kid swooping through the air in an amazing costume and mask, saving people and solving every problem presented to me with a well-choreographed action scene has really appealed to me.

Which is kind of how I ended up in youth work.

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Spencer asks ...

“How good are you at Fifa skill games? But not on your console, in real life!?” This is the challenge we have given the young people on the Colville estate.

Every Tuesday and Friday we head down to a football cage in the centre of the Colville estate, Hoxton with our hand made football targets and an open challenge to show how good you are at real life Fifa skill games. If you’re not sure what this is the idea is to hit all four targets setup in the goal in, “This is so easy, watch!”, is often the reply from new challengers. We’ve found it such a good way to break the initial contact barrier with young people we haven’t met before, also it seems to encourage those we already know to brave the cold and come out and kick a ball around.

The football cage is visible from the flats on the estate so some of the young people can look out of their window and see us play. Over the winter period to have a football and hot chocolate wasn’t always enough to bring people out of the homes, however the targets have given us an edge over the cold weather.

Some people say that young people don’t go and outside and play as much as they should these days, why would they with game consoles, Facebook, YouTube etc.Perhaps a challenge for youth workers today (especially those who do detached work) is to find and create different ways to make outdoor play fun, interesting and challenging!

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

. . . read more


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?

. . . read more



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!

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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.’

. . . read more


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.

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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.

. . . read more


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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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.

. . . read more


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.

. . . read more


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.

. . . read more


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.

. . . read more


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.

. . . read more


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.

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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.

. . . read more


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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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?

. . . read more


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.

link to this story


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.

. . . read more



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?

. . . read more


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...

link to this story


 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.

. . . read more


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.

. . . read more


The word on the street

If churches wish to help young people escape the gang culture, they need commitment and co-ordinated approach, says Julia McGuinness

TELEVISION images of rioters on the streets of English cities this summer were quickly succeeded by David Cameron’s declaration of a “social fightback” in the form of an “all-out war on gangs and gang culture”.

The emerging picture of the unrest challenged initial assumptions that the rioters were essentially black teenagers in organised gangs. Never the less, August’s disturbing events again raised the issue of urban deprivation, and put gang culture, in particular, firmly back on the agenda 2008,Churches Together in England (CTE) published the report Who is my Neighbour? A Church response to social disorder linked to gangs, drugs, guns and knives. One thousand copies were released, and its findings were presented at key cities around the country.

The report highlighted the concern felt by churches about issues of violence and social disorder, and their desire to form partnerships with others to help to address them, but, also, awareness of their own lack of training and expertise.

. . . read more


The Poverty Trap by Caitlin Moran
The Times 15/10/11

‘There is one massive difference between being rich and being poor, and it is this: when you are poor, you feel heavy’

We’ve recently heard a lot about the gulf between the rich and the poor – the difference between those with money, and those without.

Well, I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. When I was poor, I knew I was poor because we lived on benefits, slept on mattresses on the floor, and would share a Mars Bar between ten for pudding.

Now I’m rich, I know I’m rich because I’ve got underfloor heating and could afford to eat out at Pizza Express up to three times a week, if I so chose. I’m basically living the life of a billionaire. I am loaded.

. . . read more


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