My experience of The Winch

By Karina (intern)

When asked by others about my internship experience, I immediately grow excited to share every detail of what it is like to be at The Winch. Over the past month I have been welcomed into the Winch family with open arms and have enjoyed every single second of my time here. I have truly learned a lot from my colleagues about what it means to work in this industry and provide care for children. Working in the After School Club has given me not only experience for my future, but happy memories with the staff and children that I will keep with me forever.

Through working in the After School Club, I have been exposed to genuine attention for the children that I have not seen in my past experience of child care. During our time with the children, staff are quick to engage in play, resulting in an abundance of giggles from both child and adult. Whether it be by cooperating when being put in “jail,” giving time-outs to stuffed animals for “misbehaving,” or chasing the kids around in a game of ‘It’, laughter can always be heard at the Winch.

I often find myself simply observing the action around the room and smiling at how genuine the bonds are between the staff and children, which are evident through the activities they engage in together. Likewise, the activities planned are chosen with care for the interests of the children, every day there is sure to be an activity that each age will enjoy due to the thought and care put into daily planning. I have found that the relationships built both among children and between staff and the children are so positive due to staff’s genuine interest in their establishment. 

Rather than being a situation in which the child is relevant only when they are at the After School Club, staff care about the wellbeing of the child at all times. Even when the staff are making preparations at the start of the day or cleaning up at the end of the night, they are still discussing ways to improve relations at The Winch. Whether it is considering new activities or debating how to handle difficult behaviour or disagreements between the children, it is evident that the staff here keep the utmost interest of the child in mind when making decisions. I feel that is a magnificent quality to have in the staff of an organization such as this one. The care exhibited by the staff towards the children they are working with makes me proud to be a part of The Winch and it likewise makes me happy to see this dedication to the children of this community. 

With only two weeks left in my internship, the idea of leaving already breaks my heart. Being a part of The Winch family, even if only for two months, has been one of the best elements of my time in London. It is clear to see that the people of this organization are extremely kind, thoughtful, and passionate for what they do and I will dearly miss seeing the positive work being achieved by this group of humans. Moreover I know I will miss hearing their laughter, playing restaurant and pretend-eating the food they’ve “cooked” for me, laughing with them as we copy each other’s accents, and even being declared ‘It’ and running around the playground. Overall, I know I have to make the most of my last two weeks here. This experience is one that I will walk away from with happy memories and the assurance that the children of the After School Club are receiving the greatest possible care.

Thank you for taking the time to read my reflection about working at The Winch. This holiday season we are raising money through the Big Give. Please consider donating to our organisation this Christmas!


First time I saw the Sea

By Andre Kpodonu (Youth Work Manager)

I found it hard when tasked with writing a blog post to think of a snapshot of my day-to-day work that I wanted to put out into the world. Many youth workers have argued that our work and the relationships we hold are too complex to be explained readily. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t also a degree of anxiety at the idea of putting my practice up here for all the world to access, should they wish. Upon reflection however I found the hardest thing was in fact, the daunting task of distilling so many varied experiences into some sort of coherent message.

Seeking help, I got to talking to my colleague Jim about some of the highlights from the summer programmes we’ve run over the years. Naturally we ended up meandering around some of the more humorous situations we’ve found ourselves over the years; our attempts to save a picnic in Regents park after the heavens opened up on us; the time a pair of our young people got stuck on a ride at Thorpe Park while - to everyone’s terror – a pre-recorded announcement warned the barriers were about to open.

Despite the tricky and sometimes hilarious moments that come with working with children and young people, the moments that continue to resonate are the ones that give you the tiniest glimpse into someone’s world expanding.

What better example than watching a young person discover the sea for the first time? A 15 year-old that kept it to himself so well, that the first we knew of this was when they ran screaming like a banshee into the water, shoes and all. In the shock and joy of such a discovery, questions can often multiply. How had this come so late? How many other young people haven’t seen our shore, or any other? When was the first time I saw the sea?

The conversation reminded me of a similar experience I had on a sailing trip with young people from our Enterprise Programme, The Company. The young person was 22-year-old and happy to be on a break from their difficult living situation. During some of the downtime just after lunch they confessed that they couldn’t remember ever going to the beach, despite spending their early childhood on an island renowned for their beautiful shores.

Our next stop was going to be Weymouth. The whole crew resolved to ensure the young person would go to the seaside and experience getting in the water for the first time. It took us all pledging to do the same for him to dip his toes in. As we watched the sun go down, I was struck by how important such a small moment could be amongst all the difficulties that can come with living in London.

A young person seeing the sea for the first time, stepping into the water, feeling it lapping coolly against their feet. The summer is a time where special moments like these become possible. Once the darkness of winter has fully retreated, and the pressures of the academic year have faded away we can often find the time we need to look beyond our immediate problems.

Thank you for taking the time to read my reflections; we’re grateful for your support. This Christmas we are raising money for our summer activities, so that we can continue to broaden horizons, provide new experiences and take young people on journeys (both literally and metaphorically)- we hope that you will support our mission to do this by donating to the Big Give campaign which will match your donation- doubling the amount and doubling the impact.

Click here to support the campaign


As Promise Work Lead at the Winch, each month I set up a Promise Worker working group to address key topics that come up in practice. This learning is also ‘manualized’ in a Promise Work manual. One recent topic was that of endings.

What is Promise Work? 

Promise Work is the Winch’s targeted, bespoke, long-term support for 4-25 year olds. Promise Workers build trusting relationships with children and young people as well as (especially for the younger ones) their families. Promise Workers aim to be a secure and dependable adult in a child, young person or family’s sometimes chaotic life. This support often lasts a number of years. Through this relationship, young person and Promise Worker work together to achieve goals and develop character strengths. The Promise Worker helps the young person to feel listened to and understood and role models positive behaviours, with the aim of supporting the young person to succeed in the broadest sense.

This is a voluntary relationship, no one is forced to see their Promise Worker. There are often ebbs and flows. But arguably, the bond between them is more special because it is freely given and must be constantly worked at. Through this journey the worker maintains professional boundaries and also often feels genuine care, dare I say love, for a fellow human being. Therefore, the notion of endings can be particularly difficult.

Is this the end?

When you want to be a secure and dependable adult for a young person, ending the work together is not taken lightly. Many of us hear children and young people complain about yet another social worker who has come and gone, a new school, a new housing officer, a different care home every month, moving house or having no home and leaving established networks behind. This can feel like no control, a lot of rejection, starting from scratch and being let down. That is why the Promise Model works long-term and tries not to emulate the disruptions experienced by children and young people elsewhere. We follow the young person rather than the institution, recognising that life changes may actually be the times when we are needed even more. Therefore, within reason, yes, within reason, we do not let things like prison sentences, changes in address or a new school mean our work has ended. This freedom to continue our work comes with challenges and decisions.

When and how

Endings in Promise Work take multiple forms. Some Promise Workers have encountered young people moving abroad, or those who have long prison sentences that mean they will be well over 25 when released. Some young people are just plain difficult to get hold of, changing phones every week sometimes meaning months without contact and unanswered letters, texts and emails. Maybe they don’t want to see you now but they demand it next month. Sometimes they may not be in the ‘perfect’ place but they are already over 25. Others may have been doing ‘well’ for a long time, but because they are under 25 does this mean we should just keep working? Some children move on from the After School Club they attended for years meaning the worker no longer sees them every week. There is also the reality of limited resources and just a handful of Promise Workers to bear in mind. What do we do in these situations? When is the ‘right’ time to end?

Personally, in my practice, there were endings when I went on maternity leave. Yes, even Promise Workers are allowed to have babies. We do not pretend we will be around ‘forever’.  Some of the young people I worked with transitioned to new workers, so one ending was also a new Promise Work beginning. Hopefully these new relationships were consistent in approach but also fresh with new possibilities and dynamics. Other young people decided it was time to move on from Promise Work support, still part of the Winch family they perhaps did not require or want a new worker.  

But while endings are an inevitable part of life, how they are approached and thought about is important. I hope, in my case, it was an opportunity to increase young peoples’ resilience and to celebrate the achievements and journey we shared. Young people were given time to prepare and to acknowledge that while I may not be physically present, I still value and appreciate them hugely. I also hope they felt proud of how hard they had worked. Of course, it is easier for some young people, indeed for many people, to slip away without acknowledging an end. Not bothered, right! But I hope I at least attempted to mark the end in some way rather than hide.

What I learned

I won’t be able to go into the full details of the working group in this blog post. But some of the key insights that struck me were that we do not personally ‘own’ any child, young person or family nor should we seek to hold on to them at all costs. The key to us doing a good job is that they can flourish without us, not be dependent on us. How we bridge a young person out and support them to have multiple positive relationships and agency is key. But we acknowledge this is difficult work and has sometimes been patchy. This bridging should not just begin at times of impending endings but is key to how we plan our work long-term.

Promise Workers draw on the AMBIT approach to help us reflect and stay balanced and for the team to support the worker in making decisions. Seeking support allows the worker to discuss their own feelings with someone who is not in the middle of it all. It also promotes transparency in our work and role-models help-seeking to those we work with.

Rather than strict rules for all endings, we acknowledged that each young person and family is unique and some room for the individual’s needs were given space within general guidelines. Endings can also be openly discussed and negotiated with a young person. We also recognised that Promise Work is only one programme in an array of support the Winch offers. The young person will still be a part of the Winch (sometimes actively, sometimes symbolically), even when Promise Work with an individual worker ends.



A lot of research in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, education, medicine and economics has gone into finding out which character strengths help children and young people to succeed in life. The conclusion: Grit, Curiosity, Optimism, Self-Control, Zest, Gratitude and Social Intelligence (see for example, Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed ). As a Promise Worker working with ages 11-25, part of what I have been piloting is how we can develop these character strengths in young people in order to help them to succeed and to flourish.

My journey into character strength land has been an interesting one as I discovered there was a lot of theory and practice going on in this area, although not much specific to the youth work sector. At first I was a little sceptical. I was suspicious about who chose which strengths were universally ‘important’, who decided how much of each strength young people possess and whether ‘success’ was linked to stuff like flash cars and a big wage packet rather than being individually defined.  I value people for their unique strengths, so rating people against seven fixed strengths on a scale to track if the characteristic went up or down over time seemed difficult to swallow.

At the same time, adapting a strengths-based approach to character in a youth work setting allows for lots of positives too. For example, it helps young people and workers to think of character in terms of strengths that can be changed and developed rather than as fixed traits that people are just born with and so can’t do much about. It also helps young people and workers value these ‘non-cognitive’ or ‘softer’ skills as vitally important and linked to, rather than separate from, ‘harder’ outcomes, which fits in with a lot of the informal education values of youth work. This in turn allows us to draw on a framework that contributes to the flourishing of those who have perhaps suffered from greater degrees of poverty, inequality and childhood stress and trauma and who are thus statistically less likely to succeed.

It is also useful to remember that there are actually a more holistic set of 24 character strengths (see VIA Institute for the full list) which are all important but which have been narrowed down to the seven that are most likely to predict life satisfaction and success to make them more workable. However, I like to keep in mind all 24 and praise them in others when I notice them.  In this way, character strengths have been much more about making people feel valued, noticed and capable rather than about focussing on deficits.

It is of course a challenge to help young people develop key character strengths and over time I have seen different activities work for different people and the same activities can be used to focus on different strengths. For example, a Bollywood dance class I teach can be used to develop zest (being present, enjoyment and energy) and curiosity (openness to trying something new) but can also be used to work on self-control (listening and following instructions) and grit (persistence and the ability to keep trying even when things are difficult). Having a 1-2-1 with a young person and using it as an opportunity to discuss their optimism and social intelligence is much better if you can share research with them about why these things are important and sharing examples can demystify the whole business of character into conscious thoughts and habits. Young people can begin to notice their feelings and interactions and are supported to adopt more helpful thoughts and routines to build their strengths. Measuring character strengths (young people as well as workers are involved in this) helps us all to adopt a strengths-based way of thinking, to better understand the impact of our work and to see where to direct our focus with different young people and groups.

A young woman I work with commented recently that she disapproved of trying to change peoples’ character as everyone is different. I agreed that it is great that people are different but I wanted to equip young people with as many tools and experiences and as much support and knowledge for them to cope better with life and be happy and fulfilled in whatever they choose to do.



My name is Zenobia and I am a Promise Worker. OK, hold on. I mean a promise can be a scary thing, a bit dangerous to promise anything to anyone isn’t it? Setting myself up for failure and mistrust on one side, or, being accused of having my head in the clouds on the other. There are times when talking to other professionals, I must admit, that I shy away from this job title, substituting as befits with a variety of more neutral words …’youth’, ‘key’ or ‘support’ for instance. A lot easier than explaining things repeatedly or being met by perplexed looks or raised eyebrows.

But, actually, when it comes down to it I wear my job title with pride. The optimist in me can see those raised eyebrows in actual fact as signs of interest and intrigue and anything that makes people stop to think again about the youth sector is surely a good thing. Who wants to be conventional anyway?

So, I like being a Promise Worker and having been here at the Winch for about 8 months I wanted to share a day in the life so you get an idea about what I do and don’t worry all specific information regarding young people has been changed.

8am in the morning: Get woken up by the police on the line. Oh dear, what have I done? Panic over, just looks like they have a mix up after I reported something missing on behalf of a young person. Now they are checking the information and I don’t have it on me…ask them to please call back!

8.30am: Get a call from the young man’s dad regarding above incident as police have turned up at his door. Reassure parent and try to act as middle-woman.

10am: In the office trying to negotiate technology, the task of uploading a 14 year old young person’s photography after our last session and emailing it to her is proving beyond me…but wait, with a mix of Dropbox, Zip files and Snapfish I am not defeated and make a cup of coffee to celebrate. Right, now time for some session planning and helping to carry a 10ft mirror down three flights of Winch stairs.

12pm: Have a meeting with a 14 year old at 12.30pm so want to prepare but get a last minute call from their parent telling me they can’t come in due to bad behaviour. This is disappointing as she is difficult to get hold of at the best of times. Speak to the young person and listen to how they are feeling. I’m pleased they have opened up but there is a lot of anger and frustration. It would have been great to see her in person. We rearrange the meeting. I have some lunch and have a think with my manager about how best to negotiate things with the family.

2pm: I’m off site to meet a 19 year old. She has been out of work for a while and is feeling low.  We have a chat about how things have been, was good to share a bit of laughter and see her smile. We work on motivation and exploring options, breaking things down into little steps. Progress is not always fast but at least she leaves the house to meet me and has someone there for her.

4pm: Meet a small group after school and take them back to the Winch for a spot of boxing. Promise Workers have a number of tricks up their sleeves! Catch up with some teachers while I’m waiting for them. I’m glad they think one of the young people I am working with is doing much better at school.

6pm: Evaluate my sessions, particularly looking at character strengths (more posts on this to come!) and reflecting on practice. This is a good time for me to think about outcomes and future actions. Right, all done for the day. But wait. Just been told I need to write a blog post, I’ve never done one of them before.