C4L visits the Guardian

The Citizenship for Life (C4L) programme was given a unique opportunity to visit the Guardian newspaper in London. This visit was to give the students an understanding into journalism and news from a national and international news organisation.20140127-090307.jpg

The students were made very welcome by some of the most senior people at the Guardian who kindly stayed with the students for their entire visit. The students got the chance to visit different parts of the Guardian and to learn  what goes into providing a printed paper, online articles and how the organisations looks at engaging with its readers and future readers.

Technology plays its part too, as we were shown a room where people are invited in and asked to play with some of the latest technology to see how they would use it, and how the Guardians apps and other web-based products could be used. This I have to say as a geek was a very cool room.

The real highlight of the day was when the students were given the opportunity to make a film and interview one the of the Guardian’s leading journalist – Patrick Butler (@partrickjbutler). Also on hand to give advice on filming and interview techniques were film makers and editors behind the recent ‘Canned Hunting’ story.

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Group photo of the visit – picture curtesy of the Guardian

With so much to see and do, time quickly shot past and sadly the day came to an end. A huge thank-you must to go to all those at the Guardian who gave their time showing the students some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a 24 hour news organisation.  It was truly a great day, enjoyed by students and mentors alike (even though we had a 16 hour coach journey!).

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Students receiving lessons in filming techniques

Citizenship for Life Awards 2012

On Friday I was invited to the awards ceremony for the Citizenship for Life program at Eden. This program is now in its second year, and like last year twelve students were selected to be part of the program. The way the students are selected, and was simply put at Friday’s awards ceremony was ‘those who will travel the furthest’. They are then assigned a mentor from different fields and backgrounds.

During the ceremony the twelve students all stood up in front of a packed house and said how the project has made a difference to them, and how they are better people. They also spoke of the experiences of visiting places and taking part in activities that they would not normally do. They all spoke of the visit to Emmaus and how meeting homeless people changed their perceptions. For me it was good to witness how these students had come a long way during the last twelve months in confidence and self-belief. At many points during the presentations I thought Eden would run out of tissues.

The project is run on sponsorship from various organisations and businesses. It is not always about just handing over a cheque and forgetting about it. These sponsors really get involved with the project. As did organisations like Cornwall Council, Coastline Housing, Rotary and the NHS.

My small bit part in all this is greatly overshadowed by three ladies who drive this program on. They are Charlotte Chadwick, Helen Sinock and Lucy Robinson. Without them this project would not be a success it is. It is also worth mentioning that these three ladies all work for Cornwall Council, who give them the time to work on the Citizenship for Life program, as well as their regular roles.

The project is set to start again in April 2013 and like previous years it needs sponsors, helpers and mentors. If you can help in this fantastic program (especially if you can sponsor), then get in contact with me and I will pass your details over to the team.

Citizenship for Life and Habitat for Humanity

The visit after Emmaus, the Citizenship for Life group visited a run down complex of flats in Southwark, London. They were in a very poor state of repair, even though they were owned by the local authority. Habitat for Humanitydecided to act (with the consent of the LA) and do something about this. After all cheap local needs housing is in dire need in London, just as it is in Cornwall.

Chris, the Foreman

The cost of renovating and putting a building back into use is expensive. Sometimes too expensive for a local authority to do single-handedly: My view is there is no excuse for a local authority to allow a building to fall into this state. The way Habitat for Humanity works is using volunteers from CEO’s of international banks, to a person with a little time on their hands carrying out jobs to help bring a building into use by doing a lot of the work, but also using qualified tradesmen for those jobs that cannot be undertaken by volunteers.

This is a great concept, as it keeps the cost of renovating down, and therefore the cost of selling down, or keeping the rent low via a registered social landlord. No one is forced to work, so the organisation has no problem with motivating someone who might have been sent there as some sort of community payback.

Like the previous visit to Emmaus the students got a lot out of the visit, and saw when people are willing to give a few hours of their time, something great can be accomplished. With so many empty and derelict houses in Cornwall, maybe something like the program Habitat for Humanity would bring a few more houses back into use?

The Citizenship for Life Students and mentors having the project explained

Citizenship for Life Students visit Emmaus

The Helston based Citizenship for Life program is now in its second year. Building on the success of last years program, 12 more young people are taking part. This year it includes schools from the Lizard and Falmouth/Penryn area. Like last year the aim of the program is to inspire, motivate and allow the participants to experience different aspects of life and work in and outside of Cornwall. Each participant has a one-to-one mentor drawn from business, local government, military, public sector and volunteers.

During the twelve month period the program runs, the participants in the program visit various places. The recent visit was to the homeless charity, Emmaus.  The motto of Emmaus is certainly thought-provoking, and makes it clear the charity is not about handouts. The often easily solution, but does not really solve the issues of homelessness. That motto is proudly displayed on the wall in the centre:

The UK patron of this charity is Terry Waite. Terry made himself available throughout the visit and was on hand to answer any question the young people (and adults) asked. The informal, but very powerful way he spoke of Emmaus and his past experiences certainly made a huge impact on everyone due to the responses everyone gave post the visit. It really made them think about homeless, and how they could easily find themselves in the same situation during their lifetime.

We were shown around the centre, by a few of the Companions, who had come to the centre when life was at rock bottom. They all said how much it had changed their lives, and how now they are standing on their own, in their own place and feeling part of society again. This was a very important message, as if you want someone to be part of society, they have to feel they are.

Emmaus is not about handouts, as when you become a Companion you have to stop claiming the dole. You also have to work, in either the shop which sells new and second-hand items; or doing something in the community. The work you do is also paid; with some of this pay put aside for you for when you have got your life heading in the right direction and helping to you get started again.

The young people when asked about the visit gave some truly remarkable answers from what they had learnt at Emmaus. Here are some of their responses:

Jennie – “I know of a homeless man in Helston and I used to think it was his own fault that he was in that situation, like a drug or drink problem, but I now actually wonder why he is homeless and if he is okay. I have learned not to stereotype anymore.

Hayd’n – “In the media and on the streets you only hear or see the bad things about homelessness. Homeless people have a hard time and its easy to see why they would choose a life of crime, it’s easier! Emmaus made me see the good things and how they can help homeless people change and do some good with their lives.”

Rhys – “Before this trip I knew that making fun of homeless people was wrong but before today I did not know how much homeless people do within Emmaus and how much they want to get back into ‘normal’ life.”

I have to say, the visit to Emmaus is one of the most thought-provoking I have ever done. The visit and listening to Terry Waite and the Companion’s made you sit up and take notice of just some of the problems in our society.  The model of the organisation is different, but from what I saw it really works. I summed it up when asked about the visit:

“Emmaus gives self-esteem and respectability back to homeless people; soup and a roll are great, but you need more than that to integrate people back into society”

If you can take a little time to have a look at the Emmaus website, and see if you can help in anyway

Terry Waite, Companions, Staff, and the Citizen for Life young people and mentors