BY MIKE MACLENNAN
God blesses us, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Isn’t that an incredible truth? God has made each of us unique. Viva has partnered with others in Oxford to work to fulfil the plans God has for young people here.
PIG… that was a knock to my self-esteem when I visited a Find Your Fire session in Oxford. My future aspirations plummeted to a side of pork, bacon and ham!
I was both grateful and relieved later to find out that the twelve young people I was faced with were not referring to me! ‘Pig’ is a unique snooker-table-based game they chill out over when they arrive each week.
The sad truth, however, facing young people all across the UK is that many suffer from low self-esteem and mental health challenges, which studies have shown are linked to a rise in violent behaviour, school drop-out rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement (Alexandra Delis-Abrams, PhD). These are not the plans God has for his creation.
Viva, through its Doorsteps partner network, is at work solving these challenges through their ‘Find Your Fire’ programme which aims to build bridges in relationships between young people and leaders, but also to build up each individual’s aspirations, confidence and their total well-being. The recent cuts in youth services have left a large gap in support, making the work of Viva Doorsteps an even bigger necessity.
While visiting one of the final Find Your Fire sessions for this year’s group, I had the opportunity to talk to some of the young people who have been a part of the programme and find out the impact it has had on their lives. The responses were really encouraging.
One of the young people I talked to shared that when they joined the programme they were shy and found it difficult to talk to new people or large groups but, thanks to taking part in Find Your Fire, they can now “talk to people more and participate in class more.” They summed the effect up by saying their “confidence has grown quite a bit.”
This response was shared across the group. Each young person I spoke to, while being individual in their response, shared similar answers: “I have become more confident in myself” with another having “more confidence around people”.
This build-up in self-confidence is a crucial target which Find Your Fire works towards. Others also encouragingly shared that they had become more “emotionally controlled” while another said that they had learnt to “communicate feelings better”.
Change has not only been noted by the young people themselves, but also by family members. One parent shared that their child now “deals with difficult situations better and talks more about it”. Another parent commented that their child is now “more confident taking leadership roles at Guides, Rainbows and Junior Church.”
Parents are grateful for the work of Viva Doorsteps, one noting that young adults “are quite often overlooked – it is a valuable service you provide where they can go to a safe space.”
God makes us in his image and he makes us “very good” – this is quite an affirmation from the creator of the universe! He creates us unique with different skills, abilities and passions.
The Find Your Fire team does not work to change a person and make them ‘better’; they work to help each individual find their passion, to grow in their strengths and to realise that they too have value, that they too are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The young people act as living testaments to the impact of the work of Viva Doorsteps and its partners: their self-esteem and aspirations have been raised as a result of the ‘Find Your Fire’ programme.
Mike MacLennan is a Year 11 student from Abingdon, and spent a week doing work experience at Viva’s office in Oxford.
Photos: Andrew Tallent, Eliott Reyna