Blog: Perry Williams on Young People
Politics / Tue 10th Sep 2013 at 06:08am
YOUNG people are really bearing the brunt at the moment, don’t you think? As a recent graduate I surely am feeling the effects of living within “Broken Britain” and there are many young teens living within Harlow who I know for a fact that are having a hard time of it all. The media are consistently chopping at their confidence and the issues appear to keep being swept under the rug.
I can speak about young people in Harlow with confidence as I have been working with them for five years now, most recently during over summer. I was an employee at the Harlow Town Park paddling pool before beginning my career as a teacher with disengaged pupils.
What I have learnt is that many young people in Harlow are living in social deprivation.
For anybody who is unsure about what I mean by social deprivation, I am talking about people who may suffer from a range of different things such as not having much money, not being as educated as others or even people who suffer from a mental illness. It is something which apparently sets us apart from “normality”, whatever that is supposed to mean!
During my summer at the paddling pools I had to deal with challenging behaviour from troubled teens ranging from vandalism, verbal abuse to bullying. It is no surprise to me that they act in this way seeing as a lot of them come from poor backgrounds, are not as well educated as most, or suffer from mental illnesses. I also had the pleasure of meeting young people who were very polite and friendly and hard-working. They come from wealthier backgrounds where they are provided with better opportunities and have a bit more money. What this goes to show is that you simply cannot stereotype young people.
They’re all very different, with different personalities, different backgrounds and very different stories. I want to focus on the more troubled young people. I think this will create a bigger impact on proving just how great young people are. For safeguarding issues, I cannot use their actual names so I will name my first young person Dave. Dave suffers from ADHD and has been removed from mainstream education. He finds normal social situations challenging and does not know how to react to bad situations properly. Dave and his friends were playing in the pool and they got into an argument where Dave then decided to dunk his friend under the water which, I am sure you would agree, is unsafe and his behaviour had to be challenged. I spoke to Dave on the side and explained to him why I have removed him from the pool for the rest of the day and yes, I got a mouthful. I sat with Dave for a good hour and we were talking about why he was removed from school and he was telling me how he finds it hard to cope with certain situations. He took a liking to me as I was open and I listened without judgement! I instantly become a positive role model for Dave and he trusted me.
Dave kept coming back to the pools and began helping me with my duties. He was keen to help me check the chlorine levels and litter pick around the site. What a transformation! All I did was sit down with him for an hour, took an interest in him and listened to what he had to say. As a result he was automatically engaged and willingly volunteered in his local community without me even asking!
I am baffled as to how anybody can negatively stereotype young people in Harlow. If this sounds a lot like you, I urge you to take time to think in the future. Are you helping or hindering the situation? A little bit of understanding can make a big difference. What is that young person up against? What is their home life like? Everybody has the ability to do good things; some young people just need to be enabled. It isn’t their fault! So next time, I urge you, don’t slander and send some love instead.