Posts Tagged ‘self image’

According to a BBC report today:

The UK performs poorly in an international league table showing how many disadvantaged pupils succeed “against the odds” at school.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has studied how pupils from poor backgrounds can succeed academically.  It says that “self-confidence” is a key factor in whether such pupils succeed.

The UK comes behind Mexico and Tunisia in the table – with the top places taken by Asian countries.  Among leading economies, the UK is in 28th place out of 35. Among a wider range of smaller countries and regions, the UK is in 35th place out of 65.

The full news report is at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13794591


This report cites ‘self-confidence’, ‘expectations’ and ‘internal motivation’ as factors that can help more disadvantaged children have more educational success.  So with the topic of child poverty on the radar we must concede that financial positioning is not solely responsible for the factors that then go on to lead to poor chances of social mobility. 

Does all that mean an ‘I blame the parents’ response is acceptable?  Most of the people we support have low self-confidence, expectations and motivation; usually to the most extreme degree.  However, with the right approach many people can and do develop and flourish in these areas.  Feeling sorry for children and blaming parents simply leads to tomorrows parents repeating the habits of the past. 


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We had a great soup-run in Leeds last night.  Our purpose is to provide a good atmosphere for people who are out on the streets –not to attract people to the streets.  The food we offer, from our perspective is a means to an end – we are not trying to feed the hungry but to engage the disengaged!

Once we have the right people there the idea is to have a pleasant and welcoming environment where anyone who attends feels valued and listened to.  From this point we can then signpost people to appropriate services.

Last night I had two great conversations; one with a guy who is living in a hostel and really starting to struggle with coping with life in there.  An hour of listening to his concerns about what his life had been in the past and what it is at present and some questions about what he wanted changed his focus from ‘sacking off the hostel and going back to rough sleeping’, to feeling able to speak to his key-worker about his worries and trying to make the placement work.

Another guy had gone into a mental health crisis a couple of days before and was feeling lost under the weight of his own anxiety and the complexity of 3 different services that were trying to meet his needs.  A long chat that switched from very serious consideration of his own mental health to ‘banter’, sport and taking the mick out of just how green our soup was, worked well for him.  All I had to provide was a straight man role for the banter and some genuine interest in his challenges.  He clearly needed to talk to someone who overtly had no agenda; just wanted to listen.  He obviously felt better for it and seemed to have started to make sense of his own feelings.

It was a fantastic evening: great company, great banter and great opportunities to encourage some people with some tough challenges to find ways forward that might just work for them.

I love my Job!

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Jimmy came to Leeds from another city.  He had friends in Leeds who he was staying with, he needed to get out of the other city for reasons he doesn’t go into.  The friends he was staying with were drug users, like Jimmy was.  It wasn’t long before the inevitable fall out over money and he found himself with nowhere to go in a city where he hardly knew anyone.

Jimmy moved into a lifestyle of sleeping rough and begging to support himself.  His coping mechanism for this lifestyle was heroin and crack cocaine.  He describes the drugs as the reason for the situation he was in but simultaneously as his saviour, the thing that made him forget how bad it all was.  “The worse things got the more gear I did,” he told me. 

Jimmy remembers quite clearly when he first met Leeds Simon on the Streets outreach workers.  At the time he wondered, “why would they take the time out to bother with people like us.”  I was interested in the phrase ‘people like us’ and asked Jimmy how he would have described himself at that time, he thought carefully for a while and replied, “I thought I was a useless, good for nothing, tapping toe rag!” 

Much of our work focuses on the realisation that people cannot effect change in their lives when they have these kinds of self images.  We work hard at trying to get alongside people, building a trusting relationship that can help to empower them to make positive changes.  Jimmy remembers the soup run as a place where these relationships were on offer, “there was food and blankets but there were the people; nice easy going people who had time for you.”

With support from us and other agencies Jimmy finally got to grips with his drug use.  He has not used illegal drugs for over four months.  He is currently living in a hostel and is soon to move into his own flat.  In September he will start a counselling course which is the first step toward his ambition of getting into some kind of support work.  His ideal job would be working with drug users or people who are homeless.  His driving force is to try and put something back and offer the kind of positive support that he was able to get when he needed it. 

Jimmy is already putting something back into the Community, once a fortnight he makes the soup for the soup run.  Remembering the days when he used the soup run Jimmy said, “I can’t believe I used to go for days without eating anything.”  I’m not sure that the soup Jimmy makes tastes any better than any other we serve at the soup run but I’m sure it has the extra ingredient of the passion of someone with first hand knowledge of what a good job it does!

So how does Jimmy feel about himself now?  “I’m a positive, happy go lucky, healthy, stable, average Joe.  And that’s how I’ve wanted to feel for a long time!”  So there has been a remarkable change in Jimmy, and he’s worked incredibly hard to make it happen.  It would be easy to say Jimmy is now a different person, because that’s how it seems.  But if you knew him back then, in the not so good days and you were prepared to look hard enough and be patient you could see happy go lucky Jimmy busting to get out!

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