We received funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund to make a difference to young people living in communities affected by Covid 19.
We impacted more than 1000 young people and 50 young people in ongoing smaller groups. The smaller groups were from a school in Tower Hamlets and other places were Manchester, Leeds, Gloucestershire, Cheshire, London and Birmingham.
The workshops covered developing resilience and empathy, transforming anger, listening skills, self-care, self-esteem, resolving conflict, setting healthy boundaries, and mutual support, all of which contributes to them becoming positive changemakers.
They were able to safely share their experiences during the lockdowns, how they felt, including difficult emotions such as grief and fear, and how they felt about their future. Through deep listening and sensitive facilitation, they felt understood, supported, and validated. The participants are now better able to address their challenges, overcome the effects of trauma and look forward to a better future.
With the smaller groups, we worked on projects when they turned their fear into becoming positive changemakers. They worked on creating posters and badges which had uplifting words on them. They explored resilience and kindness and discovered that their mental health improved when they spread kindness. At the beginning they said they felt, ‘confused’, ‘scared,’ ’sad’ and they looked very worried. Once they were heard and validated, they moved into looking at what resilience is and looking how people spread random acts of kindness. When they started working on their kindness projects their spirits lifted and they become more resilient. The overall feedback was how inspired they were, and they were going to look at their problems differently.
From the young people aged 13:
‘When I came to the club, I started to be kind to myself. I saw that being kind to others helped me feel better and be more resilient.’
‘Being here has taught me that violence isn’t the way to create peace and there are many choices, I now understand empathy.‘
‘I have grown my self-confidence, and this helps when people are mean to me, as some people don’t care and will sat whatever they want. Having more confidence helps me deal with this. ‘
‘I have developed a good mindset, even when things are hard at times, I can face my challenges and have positive thoughts, so I feel better.’
‘This project we taught others to be brave, confident and how to be kind to others and this helped me feel better.’
‘This improved my self-esteem, and self-love’
‘I learnt more about kindness and realized we need peace in the world, and I realise peace means a lot of things.’
From Oliver Creed, Enriched Learning Coordinator, Mulberry School for Girls:
‘Beginning during the 2021 Winter Lockdown and continuing until May half term 2021, we ran a programme with 2 groups from Year 8 and Year 9 (ages 12-14). These ‘Peace Ambassadors’ took part in sessions with Jo structured around their thoughts and feelings over the lockdown period. Focusing on Kindness and Resilience, students took part in group discussions, expertly facilitated by Jo, developing their listening skills and ability to engage in dialogue with each other. As a result of the work that Jo did with students, students ran a ‘campaign’ of Kindness and Resilience as we returned to school after the lockdown. This included badges being made for students and staff, posters and wall displays being created, and creative pieces of work displayed around the school – to help encourage other students to be kind and show resilience.
The project helped students to become more articulate, better activists and change-makers, and also helped ease the effect of lockdown on some of our more vulnerable students. The programme had multiple benefits for these students; our students come from vulnerable backgrounds, and many have been negatively effective by the COVID Pandemic. Listening and talking, and the subsequent campaign which came from it, had a tangible benefit on the students’ confidence and self-esteem.
I would definitely work with Jo again and look forward to working with her in the future on a similar programme. The students still ask after Jo and really enjoyed their time working with her.’
From Laura Columbine, Futures Leader:
‘Jo’s talks are highly engaging and eye-opening. In speaking with us about her actions to bring peace following the loss of her father in a terrorist incident, Jo helped us to consider how we might respond in a similar situation. Jo does not offer a one-way TED talk style speech – she encourages discussion, is honest, vulnerable and open to criticism. She welcomes the fact that not everyone will agree with her.
Though speaking about a conflict largely unknown by the young people engaging with our programme, Jo drew out some powerful points, dealing with issues that are very relevant to young people today. They leave feeling heard and validated and more able to deal with their own challenges. Jo emphasises that it’s not about who is right and who is wrong, it is about trying to understand another point-of-view, with empathy being the biggest weapon we have to end conflict.’
From Dave Fisher, Forest High School, Cinderford:
‘Jo helps us put forgiveness and humanity into our practice. She offers us an extreme perspective whilst also speaking frankly about the ‘everyday’ face of restorative practice.
This is important during these times of uncertainty and with the continued challenge to wellbeing that the Pandemic has caused. In the face of discipline-oriented approaches in our society and schools, with highly marketed ‘ultra-strict’ head teachers offering quick solutions to complex problems, Jo offers a breath of fresh air and necessarily intelligent thinking.’
‘Jo has been reaching out to young people during Lockdown and has already joined us in an online seminar before delivering an online assembly to our year 11 students. We all sat awestruck and silent as Jo retold her story of losing her father. She fielded our questions about what it takes to meet such a loss with bravery and compassion. Listening to Jo’s responses wasn’t easy. We often talk about ‘being ethical’ with our students but Jo demonstrates how it is to ‘walk the talk. The assembly stirred many responses; some incredulous, some inspired, all necessarily complex.’
From Simon Lewis, Shaftsbury High School:
The students and I all had an inspirational time with you! To listen to your beautiful words of hope, forgiveness and love, while being humbled by your journey that has brought you to these conclusions was simply awesome! The students were naturally drawn to your warmth and willingness to listen to their own stories, to which they were only too pleased to share!
I have been extremely blessed this last year with the students I have had…it has been the greatest pleasure of my working life to be with them on their journey for this time. Some have now gone to college, some will stay but move onto different areas of the school, but we will all never forget the year we spent together. Meeting you and spending time listening to your wisdom and sharing their own experiences was so empowering for them. I watched their confidence bloom at being able to open up their heart to someone they only met briefly and not even in person, but through the digital learning space.
They all remarked at how much they appreciated your kind words when you listened to their creative works. Everyone felt affirmed that what they were doing was of real fortitude for themselves and others who may come across their work.
Thanks again for your precious time….it was so very much appreciated