A typical day at the Seeds of Change

I have had much to reflect on today.......

For quite a few years now, I have been on the frontline coaching our young people. These days so many of my tasks take me away from them and I miss this contact, I miss THEM. I recall so many challenging moments along the way. So many memories of young people's lives, their stories, transient lives, their experiences; tragic, sad, painful and yet inspiring. Yes inspiring....

These young lives that have suffered such a traumatic start, through no fault of their own. Enduring and living through many subsequent years where numerous changes and transitions, have resulted in mainly negative experiences of human failure. Their primary care givers letting them down in their early years since birth, in fact, and in many cases before that.

These young and precious lives that are supposed to (in this crazy system of proving self worth at 16 – 18 years) take their lives forwards with vigour, energy and vision in years to come, are filled with suspicion, fear and a deep mistrust in the adult world that surrounds them, for they have been exposed to the most disgraceful treatment that it is possible for a child to experience. Abuse of the worst kind.

So what are the core needs of a child? And what happens in those early years when affectionate bonds are denied? What does a human need in order to survive, to go on to thrive and prosper? 

He needs a secure base, a base that will allow exploration and discovery, a base that will have gentle but secure arms around him, enabling the child within, to wander, experiment, play, dream a little. Basic instincts of taste, smell, to visualise, touch….. and experience love with genuine and decent physical contact. Knowing that he can return to his secure base in the knowledge that he will be loved and cared for, his emotional and physical needs met.

Young people should experience nurture, love, respect and tolerance for who they are. As they grow, their strengths encouraged, their weaknesses acknowledged and supported. 

What does this all add up to? "Positive Parenting" where two adults agree to raise a child in the knowledge that they will bring to that child's life, a secure base in which to grow and thrive, and ultimately put something back into the very world that they were innocently born into.

Today I had the privilege of working with our dedicated coaches and the young people. My role was an official one…. an observation of the coaching abilities to deliver a vocational and academic programme, an internal audit that the Seeds of Change carry out regularly to ensure standards of care are upheld. 

I joined the group of 5 young people and their support coaches as they began their day at the Acorn Centre. The coaches checked in with the young people in the usual way, handing out helpings of hot toast and warm drinks to those who had missed breakfast…. what teenager has time for breakfast?!

One young person said "we are being evicted tomorrow, I don’t know where we will go, the courts have got to decide. The hearing is next week, but they say we have to move out before that". This young person is 11 years old and has already known seven "homes" in her life. She is expecting the worst, keeping her phone to her side, waiting for news as to where her family may be tomorrow (tonight one of the coldest nights of the year).

This encourages another young person to tell more about her situation…. she is 14 years old. Her mother gave birth to her at 15 years old. Her mother has had four different partners since, and this child, the eldest, has four half brothers and sisters.  Her mother blames her for ruining her life as a teenage mum, yet is happy for her daughter to "help" with her siblings.

This intelligent, lovely (but misunderstood by many) young person is expected to care for all her siblings whilst her mother, it seems, prefers to live out her own life and find the next man. Rather than live this life as carer, this young person chooses to "sofa surf" on friends couches in what is often unsuitable and most definitely insecure places.

I have listened to these precious young people telling their stories today. I have tried to stay on the sidelines and "do my job" but my heart has reached out and reminded me not only of the need to support our coaches in this gruelling work, but to these young people who deserve our time, respect, acknowledgement and understanding. For all too often they are sunk in a living hell; of which some of us can only begin to imagine, and worse, many choose to ignore. 

What I do know is, of their time here today these most vulnerable young people have received (even if only for a short time) what they deserve: time, respect, space and safe boundaries in which to learn valuable and transferrable life lessons. Some of which they will take forwards and make some changes to enable positive choices in their futures.

Actually wake up, our futures too, depend on the precious youth - adults of tomorrow.

For a short while each week, they can access this space in which to discover what could be, to begin to believe in who they will  be, and most importantly, who they are right now….. survivors.

I feel privileged to have shared in this time today.

By Katherine Dillon