Fighting for those lost in time
The pandemic continues to cast a long shadow over young people’s lives. Many are isolated and at risk of abuse and neglect. Our services have had to adapt, but they continue fighting for children’s futures. Natasha, one of our sexual exploitation practitioners, tells us how she continues to be there for those stranded in time.
Not going to school
No place to be
‘I work with at least three young people who didn’t get to finish school. They haven’t had an ending. They don’t have a place to be and they don’t have a place in time’.
‘For many, school is a safe place, where they are fed, seen and heard, feel part of a community, part of a thing that acknowledges their existence. Without school, young people can’t have a break from home. They’ve lost that support, those people checking in on them’.
‘I’ve also got another two young people in apprenticeships, one in hair and beauty, one in a shop, and both are shut. That sense of belonging has evaporated overnight.’
Doing the best they can
‘They can’t see their friends. They can’t volunteer. There’s nothing to do apart from be on a laptop and this can make them vulnerable. One is meeting people online and then in real life and her vulnerability is massive. She was travelling some distance to go and meet people, as much as anything for something to do.’
They’re doing the best they can.
What is normal?
Natasha fears that as restrictions continue, young people will start to see this as the new normal. They won’t know what they are missing. They might lose hope.
'I’ve got a young person that drew a chart of everything that had happened and Covid wasn’t even on there. There’s been so much going on for him that Covid became irrelevant. He isn’t even aware of it having an impact on him. He doesn’t know what he’s lost.'
‘I’d say that’s the same of many young people who don’t know they’re being exploited. They think it’s normal and this is what life is. So my big worry is for young people that think this is what normal is. That life doesn’t give you what you need.'
If you know what you’ve lost, you can fight against it.
'So, I try to be there for them, show them what a healthy relationship looks like, and show them the value I put on being able to work with them’.
Rating chocolate bars
Some of the young people Natasha supports prefer to see her face to face. They can open up. It feels more real. That is why she has made the decision to visit those she works with whenever she can. They need her now more than ever.
‘I’m insisting that I go and see young people face to face, because it is necessary. Even in the freezing weather. I am going walking and we go for a cup of tea.’
For one of the girls Natasha has been with for a while, seeing her in person makes a huge difference.
Good to talk
‘It’s all great family being there, but she needs someone that she can talk to where she can say whatever she wants and it’s not going to go anywhere. I need to see her face to face as she’s just not picking the phone up.’
It does her the world of good to talk to someone.
‘I have another young person that I post chocolate bars to. Then we meet and rate the bars and discuss which to get next time. I had all the different fake Penguins this week. There were Penguins, Seals and Arctics and we had all of them. That really works for her.’
‘They need us to step up’
They need us to step up
Practitioners like Natasha are doing all they can to support young people during this difficult time. But we need your help.
‘These young people need someone to be there. They need us to reassure them that there are possibilities out there for them, that this is not how it’s always going to be.’
‘When I was able to see my young people face-to-face for the first time, it highlighted the value of what we do because they were all pleased to see me - that sense of someone coming round to see them who cared. It will always stay with me.’
The pandemic has left many young people isolated and alone. But we help them find the strength to overcome their difficulties.
We let them know we're thinking of them. Whether it's a phone call, a gift, or just a text to check how they are.
Join us as we fight for their hope, their ambitions, and their whole generation.