September 16th, 2011

LEAP and Canaan

We have been working with LEAP  (and now Poplar HARCA) for a number of months and I have gone on about it, but I wanted to give you the best insight I can possibly give you about this piece of work: that of a young person.

This young person (pictured) took part in a Quarrel Shop at LEAP and as part of that did some of the Leadership Program. Prior to this the young person had been ‘jumped’ (this is where a group of other young people will beat you up, potentially stealing your things) he had ‘jumped’ other young people with friends of his, he had been involved in organised fights and street fights and he had used weapons.

I asked him what he thought he had learnt from the course, he said ‘it’s helped me look at conflict in a different light’. I asked what he meant by this. He said that he felt the course offered him the chance to look at different options and think about choices made in conflict situations and about not reacting straight away. It had made him think about what makes him angry, but also understand about what makes other young people angry and how to respond in difficult situations.

On Monday he lead his first ever session with 10 of his peers in the Teviot Centre. This forms part of the accreditation that he will get on completion of the course. He, with another young person that attended the course, from the Teviot, lead his peers in 3 games that helped to engage them in the concept of conflict. After each game the young leaders helped the group to reflect on their feelings and thoughts on the previous exercise and how it related to conflict. It was brilliant. Young people really engaged and thought about what was happening and, i believe, genuinely learnt something about themselves and others.

So after this experience I asked the young man what had he learnt. He said, ‘more knowledge’ but over all he felt ‘more confident’. I have known this young person for about 3 years and it was great to watch him confidently leading a group of his friends: he had his chest out and shoulders back and he confidently directed and commanded the groups attention. He has grown so much in this time, it has been a privilege to walk this journey with him and it is exciting to continue on the journey in to adulthood and inter-dependancy.

It is often very difficult to measure conclusively the impact of these experiences. Yes, he will get a certificate, that explains he understands conflict resolution etc, but for both the young men much more has been achieved. After the course one of the young men got a job, there is an argument that the confidence gained on the course helped that young man find and get employment, or maybe he was going to do that anyway (the cynics argue), but for me as a youth worker I believe these experiences offer life changing opportunities and that is why we carry on!