Recently, I had the surprising pleasure of seeing how one of the biggest support pillars in my life has evolved. Since becoming a single parent 8 years ago, I have faced many challenges to get some level of control in my life. The biggest challenge being that I had no idea where to turn for support, and boy did I need support. Having sole responsibility for a year-and-a-half-old boy, and a half-a-year-old baby boy seemed very daunting at the time. I didn’t have any immediate family available to support me, and I had no idea what to do with no income and a family to raise. I had to stop working to look after the children full time and I was so worried about losing my income (as I had two jobs at the time to try and make ends meet).
My friend was a volunteer at Banbury Young Homelessness Project, a young person initiative set up to support young people and their families in times of strife. They advise on how to get funds, education on key skills in home economics and the workplace, and an immense amount of support for those of us who struggle to keep our chin up when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer to the challenges life throws at us.
Before I had the children full time, BYHP helped me find a place to live with an amazing landlord who also did a lot for the youth in the community. When I had the children, it was obvious where I needed to turn for answers. BYHP ran many sessions throughout the week such as Positive Parenting on a Thursday morning, where I met other young single parents in a similar situation as me. Although I was the only single Dad amongst them, we all had something in common. We grew stronger together as we realised we weren’t alone in our journey. Other sessions included cooking, budgeting and home skills with the WI (Women’s Institute). BYHP assisted in watching the boys whilst I used the office phone to liaise with my support groups and tax credits. We lived off crisis loans for 2 months before the tax credits started. Nappies are not cheap and I needed formula due to my inability to produce essential milk.
After a couple of months, BYHP referred me onto an apprenticeship scheme known as the Zenos Academy. A training programme that ran 9-5 Monday to Friday, and leads to City and Guilds, Microsoft and Comptia recognised qualifications. A 6-month programme for school leavers to prepare for the workplace. BYHP helped find childcare through the Sunshine Centre so the boys were very well looked after during the day. By the time the apprenticeship concluded, I had achieved over 90% attendance, passed all my exams and was awarded the Microsoft Outstanding Apprentice of the Year award 2009. I had never felt so empowered. With my new-found skills and qualifications, I went into a technical job earning a decent wage, and the boys continued at the Sunshine Centre until they started school.
Had it not been for the wisdom and patience of the BYHP youth workers, I would have struggled to give my children the strong safe upbringing that I managed to provide. To this day, BYHP provide so much support for young people in all walks of life. They grow confidence and skills in a nurturing environment where the staff and volunteers are passionate about empowering young people. It makes me so happy that they have continued to get funding to provide the essential services to the young people in Banbury that have fallen on hard times. I hope that there is some way I can give something back so that other young people can grow strong and confident in a demanding world.
Author - Tom white
BYHP may no longer offer all the services Tom has mentioned above, however, we are currently developing the launch of our new employability service and these are the sort of things we can offer young people.
If you would like more information about our employability service, or other services that we offer, do get in touch.
Tel: 01295 259 442
Our blog is a great way to stay up to date with current events and projects, stories from our young people and the general goings on at BYHP.