Stories From the Road : 2 : Everyone Needs Friends

Last month Dave explained how he and Tim Evans as Chief Executives decided to draw attention to the good stories about young people by taking to the road.

Tim Evans and I met with £10.00 in our pocket to spend the week on the road together.  No plans, no hotels, no……….

We walked from the station praying that God would be in our journey and that we would be able to make a small contribution to challenging what we perceive to be a dominant narrative about young people that is rooted in suspicion, fear, generalisations and stereotypes.  Neither of us is naïve about young people’s potential to behave badly. However, bad behaviour is not the full story.

We very nearly missed our first opportunity to listen to young people as we passed a large group enjoying their cigarette break.  However, we crossed the road to explain our journey and to ask their help in collecting our first story….

Story 1

The group we spoke with were cautious to begin with, two middle aged guys approaching them out of the blue!  However, the initial caution turned into very real supportive interest in our project.  We chatted about their training and discovered that we had stumbled upon the Gordano training scheme. Here was a group of young people engaging in the Government’s agenda for education and employment.  They were warm, welcoming and communicative, despite the fact that some of them may have been labelled as Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) by Government definitions.

Their thoughts about hope were interesting and each of them spoke about the way they and their friends looked after each other, especially when alcohol was involved.  On the one hand it is important to express concern about binge drinking and the associated short and long term risks to young people; on the other hand it is also important to remember that this is not the whole story. These young people had all been involved with supporting and looking after their friends when they had used too much alcohol.  They had patted the back of their friends whilst they vomited in toilets and sinks and even cleaned up when the target was missed! The young people wished us well on our journey and waved us goodbye…

After 15 minutes of conversation we left the young people and it occurred to me that these were strangers who were indeed the friends that we just needed to meet!  The young people directed us to their training centre and I realised that a couple of good friends from my church worked there (serendipity!).  The Gordano Training Centre, where my friends Paul and Pamela work, is a vibrant, happening and exciting youth orientated education/learning centre where we heard our next story…

To be continued next month

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