A few weeks ago I met Rose Farrar from LoveLocalJobs.com at a GDB networking event and she introduced me to something called "Be the Change" that I found really inspirational. Be the Change is a programme of six events run with local schools that invite "disengaged" year 9 teenagers (aged 13 and 14) to spend time out of school learning a bit about themselves. The goal is to get these kids, who are generally introverted or disruptive and don't enjoy school, to realise that if they change things about their attitude, behaviour or confidence they can have a bright future.
The presenters of the programme are from a business called HumanUtopia who work with schools all over the country, visiting them to run workshops with the children. Be the Change, run in partnership with LoveLocalJobs.com, is a workshop with a difference - it includes local business leaders who join the kids in small groups to try and encourage and inspire them. Yesterday I was one of the 30+ business mentors who spent the day at the Arora Hotel in Crawley and it was a moving experience. I laughed a lot, I clapped a lot and I (almost) cried a lot.
The kids yesterday were from six local Crawley schools. They were shown into the large conference room where the leaders and mentors were spread out, and reluctantly picked their seats as close to their mates and their comfort zones as they were able. During the morning the leaders earned their trust, made us laugh and made us cry with their stories and observations about life growing up, and pushed us a little bit away from our comfort zones. Some kids found the courage to stand up and speak openly to the whole room about their experience of bullying, which was incredibly moving.
After lunch we worked in small groups to break the ice personally and build the kids' confidence. During these two hours it was amazing to see shy, cynical children coming alive and growing in confidence. Some of the teenagers who could never have imagined walking to the front of the large room and holding a microphone to speak positively about themselves somehow found the courage to do this, while some of the cocky ones dropped their act and admitted that their poor behaviour at school was something they wanted to change if only they knew how.
I don't know whether the new-found positivity will already have been forgotten this morning, but the Be the Change programme runs for six sessions during the programme including three one-to-one school visits by the business mentors, and I am optimistic that it'll make a big difference to an awful lot of these children. It's a privilege to be involved. Who knows, we might have met future members of the Storm team?
The programmes depend on sponsorship by local businesses. The programme that just started in Crawley is sponsored generously by Southern Water, Gatwick Airport, NatWest, the Arora Hotel and Crawley Borough Council. These organisations deserve huge credit for making the programmes possible.
For more information about Be the Change and about when the next programmes are scheduled, visit the LoveLocalJobs.com website. There are inspirational videos on YouTube of how past programmes have made a difference: https://www.youtube.com/user/BrightonandHoveJobs/videos
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