September 23rd, 2016

A model of trying

At the beginning of the summer the Canaan Project took some of our young women on trips. We went into Central London and down the Thames in a River Boat (the Essex girl in me was super excited that you could use an Oyster card on a boat – who knew?!) and we braved the Emirates Cable Cars to take in a different view of London. We also went to sunny Southend for the day and enjoyed a walk around the Sealife centre and super yummy fish and chips overlooking the seafront. All in all, it’s been fun.

I wanted to write today about something I’ve realised in my short time at the Canaan Project. One of the main responsibilities of a youth worker is to model trying new things and experiences. The Canaan Project prides itself on being able to provide opportunities to try new things and to have different experiences – but in my naivety, I assumed that this was only aimed at the young women we work with. Over the last week, I’ve come to realise that it actually works two ways with our girls; we might provide the opportunities from a financial or experiential viewpoint, but our young women are amazing at getting the leaders to get stuck in and have a go, too. They are just as much a part of providing opportunities as we are – and they definitely helped me to try some new things over the last week.

A particular highlight for me was the Cable Cars – it’s worth point out this is something that I’ve never done before. I’m not very good with heights and definitely not good at sitting mid air in a metal box that’s essentially attached to a massive pulley by one bit of cable… but anyway, that’s beside the point. We were mid-air, and one of the girls asked me if it was safe for us to be in the cable cars. I replied that of course it was and that we would make it down again in one piece – all the while panicking that we wouldn’t. Yet what calmed me, and what I felt calmed the girls, was not asking for reassurance or even counting down until we got off the cable car again. One of the girls passed me her phone and asked me to take a selfie of all of us in the cable car – with me included in the photo. I felt so honoured, as small and maybe insignificant as being in a photo might seem, but I did. It calmed me because we were all on the cable car together, and we got a photo of us with an amazing view in the background. Suddenly, it dawned on me that whilst I was responsible for them all in that cable car, we were all holding each other up and having fun together. They contributed just as much to my new experience that day as I hoped that I would for them.

Some of our girls are bolder in their approach to trying new things than others, and some of the girls are more eager to make sure that we are trying new things too (or new looks, as one girl told me she should be my stylist over a plate of cod and chips!). Regardless of all that, what remains is that the girls teach me all the time about how to make the most of the opportunities we are given, and how to get stuck in. The work we do with our young women is a partnership and that is why it works – whatever I thought I could teach them; they have taught me at least twice as much. Who would have thought wisdom works both ways?