We spent an amazing day last week filming at YMCA Crewe with staff and young people working within the ‘foyer’ model – an approach that combines housing, support and training to help young people make a successful transition to independent adulthood.
We were there with our film partners Mediashypp to capture stories that show the impact of this approach, and the innovation, commitment and positivity that makes it all happen.
The session was a strong reminder of the power of the most simple form of communication: storytelling. And it also highlighted the perils associated with our reliance on the single-sided stories we are so often told by the news media, which rely on, and perpetuate, stereotypes and caricatures, particularly when it comes to the depiction of young people.
Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie covers this particularly well in her excellent TED Talk (we, like many, cannot get enough of TED!). She tells of the narrow, one-dimensional view of ‘people from Africa’ that dictated her first encounter with her new college flatmate in America. The prejudices and preconceptions she has dealt with, and in most cases quickly dissolved, by simply opening her mouth and sharing her beloved Mariah Carey album, are parallel to the experiences young people have to face every day, fighting as they are against a tide of newspaper articles on gang culture, youth disengagement, and ‘scroungers’.
Yes, many of the young storytellers we’re working with as part of our project for the Foyer Federation have faced difficult times. They have struggled to find their path in life, and have had to deal with anger and anxiety. But they are much more than this. And, because of the work done at projects like YMCA Crewe, these individuals have powerful, multifaceted stories to share, with positive outcomes. There is a responsibility on us all to make sure those stories are shared, and that young people are seen as just that – not labels, but individuals with ideas, ambitions, contradictions, frustrations and, crucially, potential .