Words: Dionne
Interviewer: Alicia Edmund (Communications and Policy Manager)

I have found lockdown and the whole of 2020 a harsh reality. At times I have felt alone, I have found conflict with my family and financial uncertainty overwhelming and yet at the height of pandemic and more recently I have realised what is really important in life. I am learning to be more considerate of others’ feelings, to be more reflective and to be hopeful about my future.

Around May, I had an interview with Kirsty Lange about my experience of lockdown and the impact on my mental wellbeing. In the conversation I spoke about the rollercoaster of emotions that I went through. At first, I was trying not to focus on the negative stories about Covid, because I wanted to help my community, family and myself. As time went on and the seriousness of people’s lives kept unravelling and the death toll increasing, I was scared and felt helpless to make a difference. This year has been taxing emotionally and I don’t think those in position of authority fully understand what young people are experiencing right now.

The way society sees young people needs to change. Whether you’re a senior leader in the charity sector, youth organisation or government, they need to make more time and effort to understand life from the perspective of a young person. The world we now live in has changed dramatically and the impact on young people is not yet fully known. A post-covid society needs a collective response – education and business need to be willing to teach and invest in the next generation. The cycle of young people being taught how to pass one exam to another, move from college to uni, uni to employment isn’t helpful for me or this generation. We need to be taught life skills to navigate the consequences of this pandemic and to give space to contribute ideas and solutions.

Connecting Leap’s work to young people’s experiences

Leap’s work is so important to me. Our organisation is about conflict and now is a great opportunity to use our expertise and adapt our work digitally to discuss the issues that are most affecting young people and find ways to better support young people in abusive situations or struggling with internal conflict.

I have had opportunities to speak and perform at award evenings and last year completed my conflict training. I am now a qualified Leap young trainer. Today, I am using these skills to support Leap’s programme team to adapt its curriculum for young offenders and am excited for the opportunities to support the organisation to continue to scale and adapt its work online in 2021. The support I have received since joining in 2016 has given me the skills and the confidence to grow both personally and professionally and I want to give back and become a youth worker. If Leap’s work can have a positive influence in my life, then I believe it can do the same for someone else.

Blue-sky thinking, I would love to start a business that helps people have positive conversations about mental health. The idea behind ‘Heart to Heart’ is about two hearts connecting and for people to know that there is always community and that they are never alone.