Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Diary room for the disadvantaged

The Big Brother Diary Room turns out to be the key to consulting disaffected or disadvantaged young people. Asking them to take part in formal meetings frequently fails; the format is unfamiliar and the power seems to be stacked on the side of the organisers. But, the advice is, put a camcorder in their hands and simply let them talk; they’ve seen it done on television and the power is theirs.

The advice comes from the experience of a member of staff of the ‘looked after children service’. She and I were at a meeting yesterday of the Trustees of the Shalom Youth Project. The Project has a genuine commitment to hearing the voices of its users, and its funders increasingly request evidence that it is doing so. The advice about the camcorders chimed in with the approach it is already taking.

Shalom is one of the jewels in the crown of the church in Grimsby. St John & St Stephen’s Church is in the middle of the East Marsh Ward which throws up some of the most depressed demographic statistics in the country. Canon John Ellis has been working there since 1972 and sustained quality youth work has been the hallmark of his ministry; it is a while ago that this was recognised with an MBE. The young actor Thomas Turgoose was ‘spotted’ at its provision for those in danger of being excluded from school. One of the youngest newly elected Councillors in the country is part of the Shalom Community, and he was also there yesterday as a Trustee.

I could really do without further evenings out at this additional set of meetings, but it is worth supporting more than almost any other Project in the Deanery, and I'm glad of the by-product of the insights attending gives me.

Meanwhile, the picture is of the new doctor’s surgery going up as part of the Freshney Green development which is the renewal of the deprived Yarborough estate in this parish.

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