August 30th, 2016

Taking centre stage

Hi! My name is Annie and I’ve recently starting working for the Canaan Project as part of a Graduate Placement. I’ve just finished my degree in Theology, and am looking forward to starting an MA in Youth and Community work come September. As much as I’d love to keep talking about myself, I’m actually writing to talk to you about something else.

My favourite thing about working for the Canaan Project, and journeying alongside the young women that we work with, is that it is a community; a community of people from different backgrounds and cultures, with different interests, likes and dislikes. I feel honoured to have been welcomed with open arms into such an amazing community – one of our girls told me I was now “part of the family” – and it definitely feels like a family to me.

Yet within this community and this family (as I’m sure there is with every community and family), there are different characters and types of people. Some of our girls are very outgoing and confident, whereas others might need a little more encouragement to try new things, or are just quite happy to sit and observe what’s going on around them. I found myself standing and observing with one of our young women the other day. We were enjoying the sunshine and doing a little bit of people-watching. She turned to me and said “we’re just standing here and watching them all, aren’t we?” and laughed a little to herself. I nodded in agreement, and then she followed up by saying “well, we’re the best audience members they’ll ever have”. At first glance, it might look like she was massaging our egos with how brilliant we were at standing and watching, but after some reflection I realised that this young woman is probably usually an audience member, and rarely takes centre stage. In her quietness and slight shyness, she’s probably the kind of person in the community you might overlook; she’s usually in the background, or she’s cheering on someone else’s performance from the front row.

Later that afternoon she wanted a go on the karaoke machine, but she didn’t want to take away from the other girls using it. It was then that I decided it was her time to perform and to shine – and she definitely did! We sung one of her favourite songs together, and the smile on her face when the song ended was as wide as if she’d received a standing ovation. I felt so proud of her, and so proud to be a part of an organisation that champions all of our young women, and treats them with the A-List respect that they deserve – regardless of whether they are in the background or the forefront of the community. In our family, we are drawing people together who might not usually mix or spend time together, and it’s clear that everyone is welcome at the table – and that skin colour, age, or social circles don’t really matter that much at all. My hope is that as the work of the Canaan Project continues, more of the young women we work with will step out of the stalls and take centre stage – and I can’t wait to cheer more of them on.