In which I learn that being alive ain’t the same as living.

October 6, 2009

Thought for the day…Why are we here? What does living mean to you?

Living to me means loving and feeling that I am loved. Feeling that I am able to connect with others and able to build and enjoy supportive relationships.

Is just ‘being alive’ the same thing?

Last week a lady very close to my heart had a stroke. She is very poorly, slipping in and out of consciousness and heavily medicated. Her family worried sick and are all rallying round visiting the hospital as often as they can.
She is alive and that is something, there have been some signs of improvement but there is nothing that we can do to help her and I find this very hard to deal with.

In comparison I have been really lucky this week to share a lovely evening on Friday with my gorgeous friend Emma Mulqueeny and her fantastic girlies chatting and catching up (something that we must do more often by the way Em). Today I had a scrummy improptu lunch with the dynamic and inspirational Pipa Vanderburg and it really made me appreciate my lot for once.

Both of these examples are about the quality of peoples lives and it has lead me to think even more about the quality of lives that young care leavers have in comparison to you or I and this leads to today’s rant…

This time in 80 days most of us will be chillaxing on the sofa following a lovely dinner (I am particularly looking forward to my mums smoked salmon starter and a luscious trifle pudding) we’ll probably be feeling a little bit sleepy, a little bit tipsy and a little bit spoilt.
That’s right guys and gals…only 80 days until Christmas! Usually a time for family and friends spending time together- the olds will want silence for the Queens speech, the teenagers will be wishing that they were allowed to go out and freeze somewhere with some mates and the rest of us might get a bit of cabin fever at some stage but, that’s life hey- making links with people and laughing about your annoying family foibles with your friends.

For hundreds of care leavers, elderly people and other vulnerable or lonely people in the UK this won’t be the Christmas that they experience. Feeling isolated and different from the rest of society to me doesn’t feel much like living- do you know what I mean? And, feeling like that can lead people to make silly decisions which can have an impact long after we’ve finished the last of the turkey sandwiches.

With that in mind I have been thinking about my brood- the 25 young care leavers that I work with.
Unbelievably and unfortunately we don’t have any cash in our annual budget for Christmas presents for our young people. Whilst day-to-day I am really proud of many of the things that our charity accomplishes, it makes me really sad to think that young care leavers and other vulnerable people in the UK might spend Christmas without a few thoughtful gifts to open.

Last year we were reliant on donations from local Churches- they were very generous but, to me, a gift is something that has taken time to choose, it shows that you have thought of the recipient and it is something that they can use or get pleasure from.

Don’t get me wrong-I know that life is not about stuff, but, if you don’t have much, knowing that someone has taken time and thought of you it is really big, touching gesture.
I want the young people I work with to know that they’re not just ‘my job’, I want them to know that I listen to them and take an interest in what they do and enjoy and aspire to become.
I wish I could dedicate more time supporting each of them- but that is a bigger issue to do with more staff, more funding and more lobbying the government. Giving a gift seems a much more manageable task which can have positive results in the immediate term.

I have been on two visits today and they were both really great. Both of the girls I saw are doing their best to better themselves and are making some really tough choices in order to do that.
One of them- lets call her Zoë, has spent the last two years weaning herself off drugs and completing courses in English and Maths. I am so proud of her, she is now in independent accommodation and has a job! AMAZING!! I would really like to get her some soft furnishings and so on for her flat which she is saving up to decorate but…there is no guarantee that anything like that will be donated by local Churches this year and I feel very uncomfortable requesting exact items from people who are giving these items out of the goodness of their hearts.
The other one, lets call her Marie, is FINALLY accessing counselling and dealing with some of the traumas of her past. Yes she was waiting too long (but that’s another blog) but now she is moving forward and trying to make positive decisions. Marie is big into reading and music so I want to get her a few good books and perhaps educate her away from happy hard core!!

I have another 23 examples of this;
A lad who is a fab artist but has no pencils
A girl who has recently lost over 4 stone and wants some new clothes!
A guy who is an excellent cook with no utensils
A young mum who never has cash for new make up.

Get the picture?
Multiply this by 10 and you get the picture for Surrey, multiply this by a further 85 and you will get the average figure for care leavers in the UK.

The Every Child Matters Agenda aims to support all children, not just care leavers, to:

Be Healthy
Stay Safe
Enjoy and Achieve
Make a positive contribution
Achieve economic well being

I believe that a gift could go some way to achieving some of the above targets;
young people would feel listened to and valued which would help to boost their self esteem and have a positive impact on their mental health- helping them to be healthy and to stay safe. Thoughtful gifts give people some enjoyment– we hope, and I believe that by us professionals taking the time and effort to do this young people will feel more positive about the system that they find themselves in and might, in time, want to do a similar thing and, in turn, make a positive contribution to the society that they live in;

SO…what do you reckon?

Worth a go hey- could help more people feel like they are really living?


Corby! x

OH…PS: Don’t ask me to raise this with work…I already have and they said that I can only approach local branches of companies…all local branches that were approached told me to contact Head Office direct! Answers on a post card please- I only have 78 days to sort this out 🙂