Young people, breakfasts and hobos

May 20, 2010

A very early start this morning for a breakfast meeting (along with about 60 others!) with the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and Andy Hawthorn of the Message Trust in Manchester Town Hall.

There is no doubt that the Message Trust do some fantastic work around Manchester (and they are expanding into other areas of the country) with their Eden Projects, partnerships and buses and their latest project “Shine Your Light” provides a real opportunity for young people to change the way they are perceived by, and in, the local community.

The stories that young people have of how their lives have been changed for the better by engaging with the Message Trust projects in Manchester are inspiring, I just wish that the Message Trust would work more openly with the mainstream denominations. But, a free breakfast is a free breakfast, especially as it turned out to be a full English breakfast – something I usually only get when I’m staying in a hotel!

Walking to the meeting at 07:30 (that’s how committed I am to free food) I passed a number of street sleepers. It had been a warm night in Manchester but I still wouldn’t have wanted to be in that position. I was, perhaps, a little more aware of them than I would normally have been because, when I usually go in to Manchester, it is at a time by which they have normally disappeared off the streets or, at least, are not still asleep in their sleeping bags/cardboard boxes – they are, for the most part, invisible, and, for the last 2 days, I’ve been looking after a homeless young person.

Now, let me tell you straight away that this has been ‘virtually’ looking after a homeless young person. I downloaded an application for my iPod called “iHobo“. It’s an application written by a charity called Depaul UK and your task is to look after a homeless young person for 3 days.

For want of a better analogy, it’s a little like having a virtual pet (remember Tamagochi?) and can be really intrusive at times. It also doesn’t help when your ‘iHobo’ tells you he needs money for a warm drink and then promptly spends it on drugs (I was quite surprised by this aspect as it seems to reinforce the view that all young homeless people are on drugs and I quickly lost sympathy with my hobo as he threw away the food and sleeping bag that I offerred him because he wanted drugs instead)

But it is a reminder that there are young people out on our streets who need looking after by charities like Depaul and Centrepoint … if you have the technology, download iHobo and give it a go. If nothing else, it will make street sleepers more visible to you.

Keeping Young …

February 2, 2010

When I first started working for the United Reformed Church I was told about this event called “FURY Assembly” – a weekend where young people got together and discussed issues and challenges facing them (and the Church). It was, allegedly, a weekend at which young people took the lead and any adults were there purely to support.

The reality turned out to be something quite different. Whilst, for the most part, young people ran the weekend they didn’t do much of the planning or organising; that was all handled by the Youth Office in London. It was a weekend at which, the young people didn’t get much sleep and, as a result, as an adult you didn’t get much sleep either – patrolling corridors, offering support and advice, doing the things that needed doing.

I’ve just come back from FURY Assembly 2010 and have had the opportunity to reflect on the experience of the last few years. How times have changed! FURY Assembly is most definitely planned, organised and run by the young people themselves (a worthy group called the FURY Advisory Board made up, for the most part, of young people elected AT FURY Assembly, do all the hard work of planning the event itself). The event is chaired by the FURY Moderator (young person) and Moderator Elect (young person) with assistance from the aforementioned FAB. There is, of course, still adult involvement (particularly from the denomination’s  Youth Development Officer) but nowadays it tends to be in the form of workshop leaders and special guests. The young people ‘police’ themselves – both nights I was in bed shortly after midnight!

As many of my colleagues attend FURY Assembly as we can. Some have specific roles (AV Maestro, workshop leader, etc.) but most attend because we’re asked to. I think this is as much because there is a certain comfort for the young leadership team in knowing that we are around than for anything else and, as the last 2 Assembles has shown, they really don’t need us all – if any!

So, congratulations yo Josh and his team for this year, and to James and HIS team for the year before … and for everyone who has been involved in the development of FURY Assembly to what we see today.

I’ll be very sad the year I’m told that I’m not required, though. Not because it’s always nice to feel wanted, but because this weekend in January proves to me, time and again, that the future leadership of the United Reformed Church is in good hands. And I’ve been a part of that development. And that makes me proud.