June 14th, 2017

Defying Gravity

During the May half term, we had a full and varied week of fun with different young women from each of our Lunch Clubs and of course, the one and only Cranbrook Girls Club. We kicked off the week with a cooking competition on the Cranbrook Estate, where each team had to make garlic bread from scratch, spicy Spanish tortilla and some seriously yummy cookie-dough. We then ventured out of Bethnal Green into Central London to go and see Wicked – and it definitely was wicked! We finished our week with a trip to Greenwich and the Royal Observatory.

Whilst watching Wicked with the 17 young women who came along, I found myself feeling inspired (and completely in awe of the green witch Elphaba singing in the air with an impressive black cape) by the premise of the story; that two young women – Elphaba, the wicked green witch (who turns out not to be so wicked after all) and Glinda the Good – find out who they are in the face of adversity and uncertainty.

Now a couple of weeks on, I’ve reflected that there are definitely a few Elphaba’s who regularly attend Canaan Project provision, and not because they’ve got green skin and can hit a top A mid-air, but because it seems that many have been misjudged or overlooked by those around them, or haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully reach their potential.

Canaan Project hopes to provide the young women of Tower Hamlets with these opportunities and experiences in the hope that they will flourish, and to feel comfortable in themselves and among the wider community and the world. During the hit song of Wicked, ‘Defying Gravity’, my hope was that we were doing just that. My hope was that the young women watching would realize that they could do the same – they, like Elphaba, could challenge the stereotypes and expectations of their peers and succeed, that they could see that life has more to offer than what our backgrounds, our upbringings or our current situations seem to restrict us to.

Throughout the half term week, these trips gave me the opportunity to reconnect with some young women who we may not have seen for a while across the full spectrum of ages. It reminded me once again that there is so much potential within each of them and that a youth worker’s role is not to instruct or to restrict, but to encourage and assist along the way. As we enter into the final half term of this academic year, and as a fresh chapter beckons for the Canaan Project come September, I only hope that we can continue to encourage and assist these incredible young women to flourish, to dream – and to defy gravity.