So I've been thinking for some time about what I was going to talk about this evening and right up until today I still wasn't sure.
However, whilst as the Head of Business of a charity called Banbury Young Homelessness Project (BYHP), I really should be talking about it, making you aware what we do and how we make a difference, I really actually want to tell you all about relationships and the importance of good relationships in all of our lives.
This week is Mental Health Awareness week and the key subject within the week is relationships. The Mental Health Foundation has produced a new report which calls relationships the “forgotten foundation of mental health and wellbeing”.https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/relationships-21st-century-forgotten-foundation-mental-health-and-wellbeing
As the boss of a local charity and a small charity at that, I understood when I joined about how important having good external relationships and being connected to our local community and working with others is.
Unfortunately as a young person’s charity offering a range of services, trying to support 200 to 300 young people a year with a team of four full-time employees and three part time employees, six trustees and about 15 to 20 other volunteers, you cannot always get everything done that you need to get done.
Therefore, building strong relationships and working with external groups is essential and something we at BYHP work hard to do every day, hence why I agreed to speak here this evening.
As small children, our initial relationships are normally built by bonding with one's mother and father and extended family unit.
As we grow we become part of a playgroup, preschool or kindergarten and start to meet other children, make friendships, understand how interacting with others, sharing and collaborating are normal parts of life.
In our family lives, we learn how to manage living in the same space, working to rules imposed by the family unit, and getting to know each person's characteristics so that we know how each person will react in certain circumstances and building personal confidence and resilience by drawing from the support of that family unit.
Then we move onto school and potentially college or university and then into jobs - all along this journey we meet new people, find those who we are compatible with or share things in common, in order to build interpersonal relationships, links with those who we can share happy and sad times, good times and really difficult ones with.
Life isn’t always easy but that is the benefit of the crucial support network that life presents to help us cope with the vagaries of being human.
Maybe they are born into a family where the mother has a drug addiction or where the parents aren't together or where a parent dies early in a child’s life or in fact the child is given away at birth as they're not wanted.
Or simply - what happens to a young child if the parents just aren’t like other “normal” parents, are not supportive, they are not caring or not bothered about a young person?
What happens if young parents don’t know how to give a child that support network as they never experienced it themselves so have no blueprint to work from?
Unfortunately, at BYHP we see young people who reach the age of 16, 17, 18, 20, 22 and older who have had a really unstructured, chaotic, unsupported young life. They haven't built the sort of confidence and resilience that the “normal” family unit affords to many of us.
These young people have not been able to take the time nor had the opportunity to build those social, family and friendship networks - those relationships which are so important to all of us, which sometimes we take for granted and which we shouldn't take for granted – and they arrive with us at BYHP unable to navigate life’s challenges and difficulties.
BYHP spends time building a strong relationship with these young people – whatever the reason they come in to see us.
This relationship becomes a lasting bond with them and it is easy to see why they keep coming back – not only is BYHP a surrogate home but the BYHP team of skilled professionals, volunteers and trustees are like a surrogate family who want to understand what they are going through, why they are in the position they are in, what makes them tick and what their dreams and aspirations are.
Often their interaction with BYHP will be the first time anyone has truly stopped to take the time to listen to them – simply sitting down with them over a cup of tea and giving them some time to express themselves in a relaxed, safe, non-judgemental environment means a huge amount to them.
I personally was shocked by how much me spending 10 minutes chatting with a young adolescent man about something and nothing, but then remembering something he told me at a later date, really meant to him.
I have only been in my role for 7 months but I already have met young men in their late teens or early twenties who during their whole life they had never been out shopping or for a pint with their Dad, building the “normal” relationship bonds between Father and Son that so many of us took for granted growing up.
She says “Not only are these connections important for us as individuals, they are important for us as a society, as they promote cohesiveness and a sense of community.”
This takes me back to my opening points – yes BYHP exists to support many young people and their families across Banbury, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Brackley and the surrounding areas but BYHP is part of the community and working on behalf of the community we all live in.
We maybe work with your neighbours, your families and friends, who knows?
So we need to address this important forgotten foundation of our community’s wellbeing and mental health as a community, we need to ensure that these young people get the support they need to build that confidence and resilience – even if it is much later in life than many of us ourselves did.
You maybe have seen that we are reaching out to the public in Banbury via an article in the Banbury Guardian to help us in our work. http://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/news/local-news/byhp-seeks-urgent-funding-support-from-the-public-1-7391236
I am certainly not here this evening to make a sales pitch for BYHP - the work my talented team does speaks for itself - but my job is to make sure we connect to our community and strengthen those relationships which bind us, as we cannot let our young people down – nor our community.
All of our collective wellbeing and mental health relies on it.
Tim Tarby-Donald – Head of Business at BYHP