Josh Williams at the Hope Family Centre
For my first community action placement (CAP) I was sent to help the Father Hudson's Society which is a charitable Christian group operating in the Midlands area. I organised to go and work with one of their many outreach groups called the Hope Family Centre (HFC). The HFC was located in a fairly central area ofWolverhampton. It was a few old shopfronts on a high rise estate that were converted into a place for group sessions to take place and the staff to work.
Wolverhampton has large numbers of asylum seekers and the majority of immigrants are black Africans. During my two weeks I worked with all of the groups that were running, for example the boys group, girls group, mixed group, ESOL and PAL (Play and Learn). I also went "visiting"Â (outreach work) to those within the community known to the HFC who needed support.
The boys, girls and mixed groups were all youth groups who would come in separately, once a week, for an hour and a half most days after school. I would act as one of the staff in just chilling out and playing games with them as it was the end of the school year, whilst previously projects had been run with the groups such as sexual health, gun and knife crime and virtual babies. The highlight of working with the groups was organising a party celebrating the holidays. We went and bought food and drinks then I organised roughly twenty 6-9 year olds to play musical statues and a version of pass the parcel.
ESOL was a group for immigrants who wanted to learn English. This was one of the biggest shocks of my time in Wolverhampton because many of these people were highly qualified in their own country, many of whom were from Iran. I met Doctors in Philosophy and Medicine and Masters in IT who could not get well paid and respected jobs in England due to a language boundary. It was really devastating to see first hand that people like this, who are given a bad name by the media, are being refused entry to this country where we need them, only to be sent back to the place from where they have had to escape, in order to save their livesÃ¢€â„¢.
"VisitingÃ¢€Â was when I would leave the HFC with a trained member of staff and we would have a pre-arranged meeting with those known to the HFC to have been in trouble before. I would say that when I went visiting I was fairly sheltered from those who were in the worst situations. This gave me a sense of underachievement because I felt that I was getting a very easy ride as opposed to a challenge to really help those who most needed it. However with hindsight, it was a very hard balance to make between exposing me to horrific situations and making sure I was comfortable with the situation. I was really expecting to be doing a lot of work when I was at the HFC but I happened to be there at a time when staff were sick or on holiday. This meant I was often left to my own devices to try and take some initiative and do a job that saved the time of the people who really knew what to do. It was actually these small things i.e. sorting files and being a spare pair of hands that was the real achievement as it gave the staff more time to help the needy.
As this scholarship is for leadership I would always keep an eye out for how leadership was being demonstrated. For example, I would often watch the staff and see how they treated people they were dealing with before I had to do similarly. I saw how the HFC ran itself, as while I was there the manager was on a placement of her own and so I observed the style of her temporary replacement.
I also found that the CAP did not just involve the charitable work side. In terms of hours that was only half. I was lucky because I stayed with a family I got on very well with. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Vestergaard family for their generous hospitality.
I think if I could give any advice to another person going on a CAP it would be to always look out for others' leadership skills and not just to lead from the front; and to have an attitude where you can be humorous as it will get you through tougher days and give those who you are helping a bit of a smile and increased optimism.
Without wanting to be too name specific, for confidentiality reasons, I would like to thank:
Sharon, Diane & Lesley who were the staff I spent most of my time with, Andy of the Father Hudson's Society for helping me organise my time at the Hope Family Centre Mr Johnson and Dr Skinner of Millfield School for putting me forward for the scholarship and finally, The Rank Foundation for enabling me to partake in this experience.