Last weekend, my 5 year old daughter learnt to ride her bike.
It hadn’t been an easy process, and her anxiety and apprehension at having yet another attempt at the seemingly impossible was only equalled by my own.
With stabilisers confined to the bin, and pedals removed, I pushed her across the car park at the bottom of the road until she was balancing more confidently without me holding on. I screwed the pedals back on, and this time, quite miraculously, she cycled.
Delighted? Proud? Relieved?
Of course I was.
But it was as nothing to the almost euphoric sense of achievement she felt. There was a light in her eyes, and a sense of such unstoppable mightiness in this tiny girl as she whooped back and forth over the tarmac that she could have moved mountains.
Which reminded me of the passion and spirit my colleague Caroline and I encountered in our recent visit to Fight for Peace’s impressive Academy in North Woolwich, East London. Born out of the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and brought to London in 2007, the inspirational Luke Dowdney’s vision for young people at risk of gang violence, drug abuse and crime has taken root here very well.
LandAid is contributing funds to a capital project that will increase FfP’s capacity by 60%, and while the plans and drawings were fascinating, the young people we met were awesome.
Evangelists for the Five Pillars central to FfP’s approach of engaging and developing young people, the light in their eyes and the sense of unstoppable mightiness was palpable.
The combination of physical, social and personal development had given these very different young people the courage to step away from the well-trodden route from poor neighbourhood, poor education, poor prospects to crime and violence. Instead they felt empowered to take control of their own lives and both imagine and achieve a very different future.
Gabriel, a towering and handsome young man, originally (and ironically) from Brazil had been helped to turn away from a seductive pathway into computer crime, and was now pursuing his ambition to become a legitimate IT professional.
Kuky, a quiet and thoughtful young woman had found the confidence to break free from the legacy of low expectations and under-achievement at school, and now, supported by the nearly 1000 young people that make FfP so extraordinary, she’s pursuing her ambition for a career in maxillofacial reconstruction.
They, and the other young people we met, generous with their time and enthusiastic in their honest and frank disclosures of hopes and misdemeanours, were lit up by something so special – the power that comes from suddenly, and surprisingly, knowing that you can change; that you can achieve; that you can make things happen.
And all of this against a backdrop of the sort of disadvantage and deprivation most of us read about in the media.
I spent an hour with my daughter last weekend, and I know now she’ll be a cyclist for life (it was touch and go!).
But the staff, volunteers and young people at FfP, as with so many of the projects we fund and support, work together week in, week out to truly transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable children and young people.
And wouldn’t it be something if all children, and especially the nearly 1 in 4 who grow up living under the poverty line, knew that feeling of smashing through their and other people’s limited or non-existent expectations? …that feeling of unstoppable, positive mightiness?
Our visit was part of LandAid’s programme of Charity Visits arranged for our Foundation Partners. Joining Caroline Fraser, our Head of Grants and Projects, were Colin Wilson from DTZ, Chris Whetstone from GVA, Alana Gilpin from JLL and Young Entrepreneurs in Property, and Fiona McArthur, SKANSKA UK. Do check out our website for upcoming visits.