I guess it started November 5th 2012. I was watching a Bonfire Night celebration at a local youth group when I saw a young lad I recognised. His sisters attended my group for primary school kids but I thought I was seeing things; he looked like a thug. The sight of him alone prompted me to ask around, find out more about him. He wasn't in school, he had no qualifications and little chance of picking any up. But talking to him I found him easy going, funny and bright. He had so much potential and it was going to waste.
I had never had an intern, and I wasn't sure how it would work, but basically he turned 16 and then spent his days with me and my husband. If I went into schools, he came with me. If I had a meeting, he would come along. If I ran an event, he helped. It wasn't structured, he just joined my life. On my birthday, he came out for a curry. It wasn't always easy but over time, he was changing, growing in confidence. He left behind childish temper and developed empathy. His family was thrilled. Nine months in, he received a Youth Hero Award from the local council, my heart bursting with pride.
Appearances deceive, because he didn't have the heart of a thug. Instead he was a gentle giant, with a natural warmth and ability with children and young people. Over the months he regularly expressed his heart for people without a home, and helped out at food projects and lunch clubs. One day he came across a youth charity called Urban Saints that ran overseas trips to Mexico, building homes for people in need. He wanted to go.
And so we do, on April 10th. Another youth leader is coming with us, along with two lads from the local High School that my intern has been mentoring. It's a first for the school. It's a first for me. But our little group will go, build a two room home using basic handtools, as well as working with local children.
We each have to raise £1300 which covers our airfare, food, accomodation (we camp), insurance and the cost of the build itself. We've been doing many things to raise money; car boots, sponsored events, cake sales, 10K race...all the usual things. The lads from the school are fortunate in that they are eligible for extra support from the governors and the local council. My intern, not part of a school and living in a different postcode, hasn't received any outside help.
And so here I am, asking for help from you. Yes, a family will benefit from the work of his hands, but this is about far more than that. There is a poverty of aspirations around our youth, especially here in the North West. This is about him seeing beyond Liverpool, working as part of a team, embracing his leadership potential, and realising that the path of his life can be different to what he thought, and what others have said. It's about more than this one trip; it's about his future.
This is about being the best supporter you can be, so don your pompoms and cheer like crazy! Please pledge today.