Back Up’s youth advisory group: Our first event was a success!

Despite the first half of my Easter holidays allowing my head to form a fruitful relationship with a brick wall, the second half settled a quick, clean divorce with this situation.
I found myself driving down to London on Wednesday, the day after watching Steps at the MEN (amazing night!!) to organise and hold a “youth event” a Stanmore spinal unit. I ran this along with Sophie as part of our youth advisory group that we are pioneering for the amazing charity, Back Up. The event was a great success (so we were told, even better? :). It was all for under 18s with a spinal cord injury, their parents and their siblings. There were 4 young people with sci and with all their families it came to about 20 people. It basically turned into a family fun day, we had additional wheelchairs so everyone could have a go at the activities and it was interesting to see how certain siblings were experts…(I think some wheelchair stealing has been going on!)
I went to all the parents and asked for permission to film and take photographs for Back Up and for my extended project. They were all lovely and ok with it but you could tell they were nervous and unsure about their own and their child’s future, let alone the 3 hour event! I later found out that majority of participants were still in hospital with one only having been home for a week…

We started with a presentation about who we are (Jessie J reference ;), what Back Up has done, what Back Up does in general and what the Youth advisory group are aiming to do! As I was speaking I looked at parents and kids faces…I never thought a persons attitude and outlook on life could be physically displayed upon a person’s face, until then! (And I’ve spoke in front of audiences many times, for many years…)
One parent who I remember being particularly nervous at the beginning was literally bouncing at the end and came over congratulating us, wishing us luck in our A levels as well as saying how she now knew her son would have a good life. I assured her that he would. That was the moment I realised “We’d done good!!!” and a lot of thoughts and a personal realisation of achievement came into my head…

I’d almost forgotten that feeling of thinking you had no future or worth on this planet. That exact feeling of not knowing where you would go or what you would do once you finally got “released”. The feeling of knowing that any expectations your friends, school, Mum, Dad and family had of you had completely fallen out into the enternal universe that is nowhere and it was your job to build them back up and do something…but you couldn’t do anything because you had nowhere to go. Feeling trapped. Feeling alone. You feel alone. You feel like no one will ever understand what you’re going through and all those that ever say they listen to you, don’t really, they just want to feel like they’ve given a helping hand and done their bit for the day…I want to make sure that I never become that person. If I ever inspire, help or make someone realise they can achieve and be themsleves, I want them to know that I’m not a “do gooder”, I’m just a believer. I believe in humanity and the power people have. I believe in myself. I believe in you.

I’ve experienced that feeling recently, in all honesty. That feeling of being alone with no one quite understanding you, and everyone undermining and assuming that you’ll give in sooner or later. Well…I haven’t done…and I still don’t intend too!  I’m doing what I’m doing and trying to get where I’m going because I want to and i’m be true to the person I am. That all comes from the ten year old girl up a tree, showing the boys who’s boss while gobbing off to the headteacher…combined with the 11 year old girl who spend a year in hospital with babies and adults…I’ve felt the real world for all its harshness..now I’m tasting it. I couldn’t cope with another 3 years of a bubble where people are just “talking”…so I’m doing and I’m inpsiring and making people realise they can be who they want to be no matter what life throws at them. I didn’t have that help when I was 11, sat in a hospital, waiting for Doctor Who to start with Green Day on my personal CD player…but those families did…and for three hours at least, they got to taste, remember and re-realise how wonderful, though challenging, their lives and future will be.

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