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October 17th, 2017

Welcome to our new Young Womens worker!

Hello,
My name is Jess and I am the most recent addition to the Canaan team. WOO!

I am so excited to be working as a young women’s worker and have just entered my second week of work. I have been to made feel so welcome and valued already which is amazing.

So let me tell you a little bit about me and my story. I am 21, newly married to my gorgeous husband Matt, and a soon to be graduate of CYM Cambridge. I have spent the last 3 years working for a church in Chelmsford as a Youth Intern and studying “Youth Ministry and Practical Theology”. I absolutely loved working for a Church and being able to put my knowledge and learning from Uni into practice and it was in these manic 3 year I found the area of youth work I wanted to focus on: Young Women.
I became aware of the fact that I wanted to be the person I never had when I was younger. I didn’t have many strong women, apart from my family; to ask questions to, seek advice with, or learn from. Role models don’t have to be celebrities or people in the limelight, they can be ordinary people who have made a difference, live out their values, and stand up for what they believe in. One of the reasons that I desired to work with the Canaan Project was because I could work to allow young women to become comfortable in themselves, in their communities and the wider world. I am eager to see young women be all they can be and be strong in what they believe, whether or not that is the same belief as me. I will be taking the Canaan Project into a new school after the October half term. This is a really exciting new step for the Canaan team and we can’t wait to build relationships and see the Canaan vision be taken into a new place. The foundations the team have built before me is so strong and is built on patience, kindness, love for young people and prayer; which is what will enable us to take this project even further.

I hope this has given you a little insight into who I am and what I hope to achieve through working at the Canaan Project.

Watch this space!

Thank you for reading and supporting the work we do.

 

Jess xx

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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.

Annie

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March 20th, 2017

International Womens Day

Happy Belated International Women’s Day to our male and female readers alike. This day is particularly special to me (Annie) because it was this time last year that I received the call to say I’d been offered the job as the new Young Woman’s Worker – and what a year it has been.

Over the course of the week, we marked International Women’s Day by offering the girls the chance to share their hopes, dreams and talents on a notice board that we proudly displayed during our Lunch Clubs. As the week progressed, the young women took our initial idea and went a step further – sharing the names of women that inspire them, and even writing poetry and their favourite quotes about what it means to be a woman today.

In my slight naivety, I had hoped that in putting this together I could impart some wisdom to them about being a woman and that, despite continual issues like the pay-gap and the female voice being the minority in certain aspects of public life, here in the UK we are some of the most privileged and powerful women on the planet. Yet, as is usually the case, the young women astounded me again by imparting some of their own wisdom. One young woman in particular who regularly attends our Year 7 Lunch Club shared with us her talent for writing poetry and encouraged us to not be scared to go out at night on our own, that we are worth more than our physical appearance, and that each of us are “brave, smart and beautiful”, regardless of where we come from and what we hope to be.

I’d love to take credit for that, but the fact is I was deeply inspired by what this young woman wrote, and what so many others wrote over the course of this week. Who would’ve thought that some post-it notes and Sharpie pens could be so powerful?

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One young woman said thank you to Canaan Project because she feels that we can help her to be proud of being a girl. I wrote earlier that this time last year International Women’s Day became a special day for me (more than it was already!), but this year it was special for another reason. Comments and feedback like this make coming to work all the more meaningful. My hope is that as our work continues, more and more young women will be able to say that they feel proud of being a girl, and that the word ‘girl’ can mean strong, witty, determined and inspiring – words that could definitely be used to describe the young women I’ve had the joy of working with over the last year.

Annie

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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?

Annie
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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.

Annie

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March 11th, 2016

Our Pledge for Parity

As many of you will be aware, it was International Women’s Day this week – an opportunity to celebrate the valuable and vital contribution that women make to the world but also to remember the inequalities that still exist and the work still to be done.

This year’s campaign called on people to make a “Pledge for Parity”, an aspect of which being to encourage girls and women to pursue their ambitions. This is something that we are passionate about at the Canaan Project – helping young women to know what opportunities are available to them, to have aspirations and to develop the resources to pursue them.

One of the ways that we encourage this is by inviting women to come and talk to our girls about their lives and work. We were really grateful to have two women visit this week, both of whom not only have successful careers but are also both mothers and imminently expecting new additions to their families. They shared about the steps they’d taken to pursue their chosen careers, their motivations, the challenges they’d overcome and how they navigate their various roles and responsibilities. The girls listened more intently than I’ve ever seen and many questions and conversations were inspired, preconceptions challenged and ideas sown.

I’m reminded again of how important role models are in developing aspirations. Hearing stories of people like us, who’ve gone before us, and of what they’ve seen and achieved, opens up new possibilities. So as part of our “Pledge for Parity” we commit to giving space for many more women’s stories to be told in the hope that they will inform a new generation of stories that are in the making.

Fiona

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February 5th, 2016

Journeying well

Since the last time I wrote I have travelled several thousand miles across the world and walked several thousand meters up a mountain. Meanwhile, I am stunned to tell you that the total you’ve given has increased by several thousand pounds as well! At last count we had received just over £3,500 in donations. Enormous thanks to all of you for your generosity and support, not only financial but for all your messages of encouragement before during and after the trek. It has meant a lot.

It was an incredible experience with massive highs as well as some tough lows. The mountain is stunningly beautiful and we were really fortunate to be walking with a great group of people and of course our team of guides and porters who were overwhelmingly inspiring in their kindness and strength. They somehow managed to provide us with delicious, freshly prepared meals every day, served on a beautifully laid table, folded napkins and all, met us every day from the trail to take our bags and wet gear, carried our packs when we were sick as well as their own and even produced an iced birthday cake on the last day for one of the team which was accompanied by an enthusiastic song and dance. Their generosity was humbling and left a deep impression on us all.

Despite our legs feeling strong, the altitude got the better of both of us unfortunately and we weren’t able to complete the final summit hike but both feel that we pushed ourselves further, physically and mentally, than we ever had before so have no regrets. As a porter said to us on the way down, “This rock will always be here. You can find it again. But you can’t find life here if you lose it”.

Goals are really important. They give us direction, setting us on a course and they serve as a motivation to continue. Without the allure of reaching the highest point in Africa, it is unlikely that we, or many others for that matter, would find ourselves on Kilimanjaro at all. But we often spend a whole lot longer on the journey than at the destination. In Kili’s case, 6 days versus 15 minutes!

Not having reached the summit, but knowing that I’d had a life-changing experience none the less, I was forced to consider the value and significance that the journey had had in and of itself. The beauty that I’d seen, the conversations I’d shared and the kindness I’d received weren’t depleted in any way by not standing on Kibo Peak, disappointing though it was not to complete what I’d set out to do.

I feel reminded that life is not just about what we achieve but the route we take to get there; the places we see, the people we travel with and the way that we choose to interact with and respond to those things. I realise that this is something that underpins my work with young women too. I hope that we are able to help them to aim high and aspire to great things, but also to know that their success is as much about how they journey as where they journey to.

Fiona

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December 14th, 2015

Kili for Canaan Update!

I’ve just done some maths and am excited to announce that we have raised an amazing £1,579.81 in sponsorship so far. Over the last few months we have been blown away by the generosity of friends, and friends of friends, near and far! A special mention must go to Marianne’s colleagues who not only gave money but also baked a whole table of showstoppers to raise money one lunchtime. And also to my lovely mum who’s been on a one woman mission to spread the word! We’re also really grateful to all the people who’ve offered us kit, tips and encouragement. Its so lovely to be going with the support of so many people behind us.

In exactly 3 weeks today we will be about 3,500m up Kilimanjaro having passed in to the second climate zone of four and we should be getting our first views of the peak. Starting to feel very real! If you haven’t donated yet and would still like to you can do so here….https://my.give.net/kili4canaan

Fiona

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December 11th, 2015

Sanctuary

We’ve been thinking a lot recently about what 2016 could look like for our work and held a consultation today with some of our older girls to try to understand what it is that made them come and what keeps them coming. When we put these questions to them, with almost no hesitation one girl said, “Sanctuary, it’s a sanctuary”. Another girl joined in saying, “Yeah its safe”. Yet another girl offered, “Its reliable. The place and the people. You know it’s always here”. Someone else said, “It’s like a second home”. I asked them if they felt like they had other places that made them feel like that and apart from their actual homes, which for some provided some of those things, they said they didn’t. In a world where chaos and instability seem to be an increasing reality for so many individuals, communities and nations, it brings me so much joy to know that we’ve been able to provide a place of security and consistency for even these few young women. And however impressive a programme of activities we come up with for 2016, my hope for the coming year is that Canaan Project will continue to be experienced as a place of refuge for any girl that crosses our path.

 

 

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November 23rd, 2015

Unity in Diversity

Like people across the country and beyond, I went to work last week with the events of Beirut and Paris, and all that they represent, very much on my mind. We ran our lunch club as usual on Monday and as I looked around the room of 20 young women, chatting, laughing, playing and eating together, was struck by the diversity that they represented yet how little I or they seemed to notice that. There were young women from Africa, Asia, the middle East, the Caribbean and Europe, Muslim, Christian, agnostic and atheist. But their differences seemed unimportant, in the face of what they shared in common and the friendships that they were enjoying. Various different girls wanted to talk about what happened in Paris, all equally horrified, confused and scared by the tragedy, regardless of their background.

As we respond to events like these, I’m reminded how important it is to know and understand people who are different from us, how we may find there is more that joins than separates us and how unhelpful and divisive it is to judge based on pre-conceptions or generalisations, not truth borne out in experience.