First time I saw the Sea


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

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