A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in the Lake District– it was lovely. Beautiful, quiet and I ate a cracking Thai curry that was cooked on an open fire. But I wasn’t just here for a jolly, I was there as part of LandAid’s second Young Voices project, with nine young people who have experienced homelessness and are part of St Basils Youth Voice group.
Two years ago we ran Young Voices for the first time. The project aimed to empower young people with a lived experience of homelessness to tell their stories – to help them use their stories to create change. This is what Youth Voice does – young people stay on the project for up to three years and throughout this time the amazing Tamzin, the project leader, and her team help them to build resilience, confidence and the skills they need to recover from the trauma of homelessness. The group even go to Parliament once a year to speak to ministers.
But this year we wanted to help the group to evolve, so we’ve given a second grant to support Tamzin and her team to train the older members of the group to become Peer Mentors. Peer Mentors are young people who are trained to support the newer members – in essence to be their friends and support them at a time when they might not have anyone who is there for them outside of the group, a time when they are in a deep crisis without anywhere safe to stay.
This weekend reminded me why I do my job. Why I choose to work for LandAid. The young people I spent the weekend with were funny, spirited, cool, engaging and clever. They were just like any other group of young people in their early 20s. They are not homeless people, they are people. Emily loves Doctor Who and her dogs, Arabella was much cooler than me and referenced loads of rappers I had never heard of, Summer was all about female empowerment, Kyle wants to be a politician. They were different. They were unique. And they were all moving forward with their lives.
On Saturday we had a long day, with the young people doing their Level 1 Peer Mentoring qualification, which every single one of them passed. This gives them all a qualification to help them move forward. And on Sunday morning I got completely out of my comfort zone and went canoeing with them. It was one of my best weekends in a really long time – and one I won’t soon forget.
We’ll be keeping you updated on the progress of Young Voices as we go through, and we’ll be sharing some of their stories across the year. The next step will be to train them all in Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE).
I’d like to finish by saying a huge thank you to Tamzin, Tolaya, Emily, Arabella, Summer, Kyle, Catherine, Cat, Jack, Thelma and Archie for welcoming me.