I founded Youth Futures with a fantastic team of young people and youth workers in January 2012. Before this I worked as a human rights worker and community facilitator with indigenous communities and children in some of the poorest and most deprived countries in the world including Ethiopia, India and Sierra Leone.
In 2008 after reading again and again about the cycles of violence, depression and poverty on my doorstep I made a personal decision to focus on supporting young people in London the city where I was born.
My passion now is simply to be a big brother and support children growing up in deprived areas. I have been blown away by the energy and dynamism in the communities that I have been privileged to work in. The young people I meet and work with have so much spirit and potential; it needs to be seen to be believed.
They do not need a lot, just a place to feel safe, somebody that they can trust to talk things through with and some encouragement to navigate the minefield of challenges and complex issues they need to overcome as they grow into adulthood and realise their potential.
If you want to be a part of it then read on and get involved.
Joseph Duncan and Wil Stewart took over a weekly leadership development program in Camberwell South London. The idea of the original group was to come up with ways to improve the local area and to overcome issues both personally and socially.
We started with 6 core members who all came from a local school, which was in the epicenter of a major gang conflict between Peckham and Brixton, which had penetrated the school’s students day to day life.
We ran games and activities focusing on communication skills and conflict management and invited speakers down to meet the group. We got to know each other well and had lots of adventures together, always sharing a meal at the end of each session.
The community centre we were working in closed down but we continued to run sessions, moving from one community hall to another around Camberwell. The leadership group started to advise the council, police and other local institutions on issues relating to young people and during this period our leadership team was invited to speak with prominent figures in the Home Office, and also met the Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.
We found our new home in the Jessie Duffett TRA Hall on the Wyndham estate, which became our first stable base and after a few weeks of a constant knocking on our door from the local youth, we opened our doors to all of the young people in the estate, whilst maintaining the core leadership group. The young people in the area and the rest of the local community welcomed us into the area with open arms and supported us ever since!!
Due to government cuts our funding ran out completely and the organisation that had been supporting us was unable to continue. Yet over the year the number of young people coming to our sessions grew rapidly due to other services in the borough being diminished. We had several group meetings and together decided to continue to run sessions, with the core members agreeing to help manage the large numbers of younger people and to take on more responsibilities within the session.
It was at this time that one of our core members Fola Adebimpe passed away. He had always been an enthusiastic young man who everyone loved and enjoyed being with. He is sorely missed.
The youth workers came together with the young leaders and a group of community members and on January 26th – Youth Futures was born.
Our first year was especially challenging as we only had a few community champions donating money to pay for our venue and food for the 30-50 young people that were coming down to our sessions to engage.
Despite this we managed to continue to build our work and our organisation and the young people kept turning up in increasing numbers every Friday evening.
This was a bold and dynamic year for us. We ran our first showcase involving all of our young people and attracted an audience of 125 people to our small little corner of London. At this event Southwark’s Mayor, Althea Smith, and Children’s Services board cabinet member, Dora Dixon Fyle, spoke and committed our first major bit of funding and support from the council.
The year continued to build on this momentum and by the end of 2013 we became a registered charity with several programs of support implemented and success stories to show their impact. Our core members gained employment, received offers from university and several new entrepreneurial businesses were supported and are continuing to flourish.
Here we are now, looking forward.
Watch this space…