November 14th, 2017

Half Term Fun!

Hello again!

I have been with Canaan Project for just over a month now, and what a month it has been! I have loved getting to know the girls at all of our provision and starting Girls Club in a new school. We had a great response to our 2 new girls lunch clubs, over 50 girls attended in our first 2 weeks.

In October half-term we had the best time, we took 42 girls trampolining at Jump Giants in Thurrock. We managed to avoid travel sickness on all the journeys which is always a bonus. The girls particularly loved the jousting section and enjoyed pushing Annie and I into the foam pit. The girls also enjoyed the basketball section, using the trampolines to get super SLAM DUNKS. The Ninja Assault Course looked really difficult, lots of hanging on monkey bars, climbing ropes but one of our girls showed immense strength and agility and made it all the way across without falling – which isn’t easy!! Puffed out at the end, but still smiling, we enjoyed lunch before heading home.

Later in the week we also took 11 young women to see ‘Annie’ the musical in Piccadilly Theatre. The whole day was a blast, all the girls brought tones of snacks and one girl even brought a 2 litre bottle of coke in to the theatre – must have been thirsty?!  All of us were singing along to the famous songs and were amazed by the talent that the young actresses and actors showed.  Going to the theatre is one of my all-time favourite things to do and I have great memories as a child and teenager seeing some amazing shows! There were a few of the girls that hadn’t been to the theatre before so this was a great experience for them. There is something so magical about the lights, the music, the acting and stories that allows the theatre to take even adults on an enchanting journey.

We had an amazing half term, the young women had smiles all round!

Jess x

September 1st, 2017

The Game of Life

One of the reasons I like to think I’m so passionate and excited about youth work is because as a teenager, the relationships I valued the most were the ones that helped me navigate those awkward years of finding out who I was, where I wanted to end up, and who would celebrate my successes as well as working through my challenges with me. These people were the ones who would listen to me, and take what I had to say seriously – there was no “oh, you’re still so young – don’t worry about it” or “you’re only 14, what does it matter?” These people had good intentions for me and had my best interests at heart – two qualities I’m hoping to continue developing and incorporating into my own youth work practice today.


At Canaan Project, we really value the role that mentoring can play as part of the broader picture of youth work. Recently, I met up with a young woman and we visited a board game café and played a super intense game of Monopoly (I was sorely beaten unfortunately!) and caught up as we went along. Mentoring sessions work a little bit like a jigsaw; the more time you invest in someone, the better a space can be created where the pieces can fit together.


People ask me sometimes what the best bit of the job is, and I’d definitely have to say mentoring. I love that I have the opportunity to model what was so valuable to me when I was a young person – to listen, to come alongside, and to work through the Game of Life together. Yet it’s also important for workers to recognize that mentoring is a two-sided conversation – and to realize that we don’t always have the answers, but we can create and facilitate the space where the answers can begin to materialize. Mentoring is brilliant because young people can share their own wisdom with us as workers; their perspective on the way the Game of Life works is sometimes much more mature than their years and challenges me to refresh my own perspective on things.


Playing a game of Monopoly and eating some sweets might sound like an easy day at the office, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the space where this young woman could process, be valued and be given her time in the limelight. It’s a conversation where her voice matters and her opinion counts. It’s a time where she can work out her next move in the Game of Life, and most importantly, be cheered on from the sidelines by those who see her as the ultimate player.



December 19th, 2014

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Canaan Project has been getting in the festive spirit this week as we had our last session of the year, our Christmas party! As has now become tradition, Tanya and the team cooked an impressive Christmas dinner and we played some silly games all of which seemed to have the main purpose of making as much mess as possible. The girls had a lovely time, showing off their music knowledge in our intros quiz and some of them tried Christmas dinner for the first time! Elsewhere at Canaan we’ve visited Winterville in Vicky Park for a christmas ice skate, and visited the Christmas market along the Southbank whilst on a meal out to celebrate the end of another successful cooking project. It has been a busy few weeks for us, so we’re looking forward to resting up over the holidays before back to the busyness of 2015.


November 21st, 2014


Last week we helped run a Community Day on the Cranbrook Estate along with several members of the Tenants and Residents Association and Cranbrook Community Garden. There was biscuit decorating, a bouncy castle, a fancy dress competition, face painting and a tree mural which everyone that came was encouraged to contribute to. A group of our girls ran a little cafe with hot drinks and cakes they had made at club which were impressively good!

I really enjoyed watching how they interacted with the people that came, some who they knew well, some they knew of and some they were meeting for the first time. And also the different roles that they took, as they switched between serving others in the cafe and being served through other activities like face painting. One of my highlights was when a couple of the girls instinctively started regulating the smaller children on the bouncy castle so that everyone was able to have a go.

The day reminded me of the importance of community. Despite coming together as a group of individuals as we regularly do in our girls clubs, separate from our unique sets of circumstances, we are each part of networks of people. The girls don’t exist in isolation which is clearly evident as so much of what we talk about when we meet is their interactions with others, good and bad, confusing and exciting, frustrating and inspiring. Community can be an amazing force for good as we share eachothers needs and resources but can also be difficult and even painful as each of us also can’t help but bring our baggage and brokenness with us.

Developing independence is a defining task of adolescence but the ultimate goal for us all must be successful interdependence. So as our young women are learning what makes them distinct from others and uniquely valuable we also want them to learn how to give and receive, to accept and challenge, to compromise and stand firm, to apologise and forgive and all the other skills we use to relate to those around us everyday. Our hope is that they will be able to celebrate and contribute to all that is good in their communities starting now!


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November 7th, 2014

Half Term Highlights

Half term holidays always mean trips for us and last week was no exception. We have a whole new cohort of Year 7’s in our Year 7 Lunch Club who we are loving getting to know and a mass pilgrimage to the ice skating rink always works wonders for this process so two minibuses of us descended on Lee Valley Ice Centre last Wednesday.

After much deliberation our Cranbrook Girls Club decided they wanted to try horse riding so a group of us went and explored Walthamstow Marshes on horse back. We had a beautifully sunny day and a large number of the girls had their first experience of riding and loved it.

And lastly we took our Year 8-9 Lunch Club to an outdoor pursuits centre in Essex where we learnt to shoot arrows like Robin Hood and scale ropes like Tarzan!

Its been great being back in school this week, hearing the girls reminiscing with each other, seeing new friendships formed, glimmers of confidence found and feeling that extra bond with them that comes from shared experience.



September 12th, 2014

Summer Fun

Its been a busy summer here at the Canaan Project and lots of happy memories have been made. Each week we had an afternoon at the centre doing a variety of arts and crafts, games, sports and baking, and an afternoon of ‘shop, cook, eat’ where the young women got to choose a recipe, buy the ingredients, and cook a meal, before sitting down and eating together. We also ran a trip each week to some outdoor spaces including Epping Forest and the Olympic Park, and were able to enjoy the lovely sunny weather whilst appreciating all that London has to offer. And to top it off, we’ve found time to squeeze in some kayaking, canoeing and archery at Mile Ends Urban Adventure Base.

It has been super busy, but also an amazing time of trying new things, learning new skills and enjoying getting to know each other better! We believe these experiences are really valuable to the young women we work with. It is fantastic to see them engaging in activities where they are learning more about themselves and are having to push themselves and work as part of team. There have been many highlights of this summer for me, from the girls catching a frog in Epping Forest, to one young women conquering her fear of water and discovering she loves kayaking! As always, a privilege to have shared with the girls these moments of wonder and discovery, of themselves and the world around them.


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June 20th, 2014

Woodland Adventures

Its been a couple of weeks since we returned from our Cranbrook Girls Club residential and though the tiredness, bites and bruises have faded, the impact the trip had on the group is still very much alive.

After making ourselves at home in our woodland lodge, we soon found ourselves scrambling over walls and under nets on the forest floor, surrendering our neat city clothes and composures to the elements! I absolutely loved watching the girls lose their inhibitions and make friends with the mud, a rare opportunity to not worry about what they looked like.

Over the 3 days we did high ropes, swimming, archery and canoeing on a local lake and it was really exciting to watch as the each girl pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones, trying activities that they were previously terrified of and discovering courage, strength and skills they didn’t know they had. Some of the comments on their evaluation forms at the end of the trip were, “I learnt to try things”, “I’m really proud of myself” and “Best experience ever.”

Trips away from home are such formative experiences for young people, creating stories of fun, fear and friendship that get told for years to come. We also believe they give young people experiences that broaden their horizons and develop capacity in a really unique way. For some of our girls this was their first experience of being away from home or seeing a forest, or trying a certain activity and as always we feel enormously privileged to have been able to provide that for them. We look forward to building on these experiences and all that they’ve taught our girls as we continue our walk with them to discover all they can be.


May 23rd, 2014

Overcoming Barriers

This time next week we will be in the Kent countryside with 10 of our girls, preparing for the journey home after 3 days of navigating rope courses in the tree tops and roasting marshmallows over camp fires, exhausted but hopefully happy!

We absolutely love taking young people out of London, to explore new places and try new things and preferably get a bit muddy in the process! But we have been reminded over the last few weeks of how many barriers there are for some young people to taking part in activities that are outside of their normal experience. After the girls initial excitement when we announced the residential, almost all of them have wrestled with major concerns, either of their own or others, about attending the 3 day trip.

There have been concerns about friendships and bullying, body image and clothing, ghosts, heights, drowning, families concerned about being separated from their daughters and some daughters concerned about leaving their parents. It is, of course, completely valid for our girls and their families to have these concerns, some of them very deeply held, but we also believe that there is great value in overcoming them and we have worked hard to listen and understand and to work with the girls and their families to find solutions where possible.

Often creating opportunities for young people is only half of the work. Working with them and sometimes their friends and families to enable them to reach a point where they feel able to take up opportunities can be a much more complex task, requiring lots of sensitivity, insight and adaptability.


May 16th, 2014

Womens Rights

At our Cranbrook Girls Club this week we had a great discussion about what it means to be a woman. I read out a series of statements about women’s rights and roles and the girls had to go to a different part of the room to show if they agreed, disagreed or weren’t sure. They then had the opportunity to explain why they had chosen that position. This group of 10 girls had a range of heritages including Bangladeshi, Caribbean, Somali and White British as well as having a real variety of backgrounds and circumstances. Yet they all, in one way or another, expressed an understanding that as women, they had equal rights to education, to work, to safety and to make decisions about their own lives. This was so encouraging to me.

I was also impressed by the confidence and conviction with which many of them spoke. Far from the stereotype of teenage girls who only want to talk about celebrities, make-up and boys, these young women demonstrated that they were informed, passionate and articulate. They also spoke with balance and grace. One girl was quick to disassociate herself from a feminism which is about “man-hating” and several others to point out that men can be just as skilled as women at raising children and that skill was particular to an individual rather than their gender.

As the horrific abduction of over 200 Nigerian girls to deny them their rights to education and freedom continues, I am reminded of the relative privilege and freedom our girls experience despite their disadvantages. Mercifully, it is unlikely that our girls will ever have to face such extreme and horrendous opposition to their rights and beliefs, yet even in our society they will face challenges in holding on to and applying the values they expressed in our session, for themselves and for others. I am however massively encouraged that they have these views as their starting point and am excited by the opportunity that we have to support them in continuing to develop and walk in their convictions and to challenge oppression wherever they find it.

April 18th, 2014

Easter times

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been making the most of the Easter holidays and the sunshine they’ve brought with them by getting out and about with some of our girls.

We had the pleasure of hosting a self defense workshop run by Liz and Pete Anderson from Inner Change. It was interesting to see the girls develop both their inner and outer strength through the activities and to reflect on the fact that looking after yourself doesn’t necessarily have to be about physical strength. Liz taught us that like the character’s from the Wizard of Oz, protecting ourselves from danger begins with a strong mind, strong heart and courage. My highlight was witnessing girls that could come across in a social setting as timid, kicking and punching those bags with amazing passion, believing that they have the power within to stand up for themselves if they needed to.

We also had a lovely trip over to Greenwich where we visited the Observatory and stood in two different hemispheres. We had a picnic in the park and played frisbee (almost taking a few heads off with our professional passing!) and checked out the stunning sight of the Cutty Sark, which a few were apprehensive to ever stand under just in case it fell on top of their head!

Through my conversations with the girls this Easter, I’ve had a fresh realization that the work we do is so important. Other than the activities that we have put on over the holidays many of the girls have stayed at home with little to do. I am so thankful that we get to work with these girls, enjoying exploring our amazing city with them and seeing them flourish. I love my job.

Happy Easter