The introduction of our “Building Characters” programme with the Honour Oak Community Centre was very encouraging, and helped us get an insight into the young people within the local area. From our previous visit, we had managed to generate a list of some of the youth who had expressed their interest in attending our programme; because of this we expected about 20 people for our first session.
Engaging with new faces for the first time is always a challenge so, upon arrival, we went inside the youth club to introduce the whole team to them in an area that they were comfortable in, before heading over to the Community Centre, to join the youth already there. This however, didn’t work as, due to an incident the previous week, the youth centre was in the process of closing early. Instead of the young people leaving completely, they were encouraged by the team to come and take part. Eventually we were able to get a strong majority over to the community centre to begin the first session of the programme.
We introduced ourselves to the group and they very quickly began to engage with us, asking questions about what we do, and answering questions that we posed to them:
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of success?
Where do you see yourself in 2020?
We got a mixed range of responses – which we were able to note down and keep into consideration for the upcoming part of our programmes, which include actually introducing these young people to their options – and we began the activity part of the session with our ice breaker which was very well received by everyone in attendance.
The next part of the session involved splitting the participants into groups of three, and re-creating our icebreaker scenario in which a person is presented with a chance to make money or reach success through illegal or underhanded means. This person then needs to make a choice: do I go down this path? What are the risks and rewards of each choice? And what are my options, if I don’t reach my success through these means? Each group came up with their own drama, and portrayed the same scenario, but with their own interpretation of what they would do next. Though there were many positives with this, including getting all the young people engaged with drama, having their attention, and getting them all to work with everybody that we assigned them to, the main thing that stuck out was that each group incorporated their own ideas of where they wanted to be in the future (their positive option), and used the platform to speak about some of their goals.
Before the session ended, we had a guest speaker give a brief talk about his own personal experiences growing up in South London, and all the things that he went through and the choices he made. At this point every single young person in the room was silent, and took in every single word. It not only left them with anticipation for next week, but it helped us begin to form a genuine relationship with them, as the program progresses. Things look very promising …