This blog by Rebecca Jones looks back at an amazing and inspiring year for our Story of Care Ambassadors and where they go from here.
A year ago, almost to the day, I met with our Story of Care Ambassadors for the first time. A group of care-experienced young people who didn’t know me, each other or what might come of their role. All of us were new to the Voices Through Time programme and to the archive (in most cases, archives at all), they were tasked with producing the campaign that both runs alongside and promotes the stories from it that we wanted to tell. The archive and the task at hand seemed vast and full of possibility all at once. Going in, I wanted them to be interested and intrigued – to at least engage long enough to make discoveries and create things entirely of their own. Most of all I wanted them to get to know us and each other. And I wanted all of this to happen, in different parts of the country – in isolation and over Zoom. At the end of this first year of working together, I can attest that what we have had the utter pleasure of gaining from the experience is so so much more than that.
The Ambassadors settled on #RealStoriesofCare as the nucleus of the campaign. Encapsulating the stories uncovered from the archive, the present-day care of their own experiences and what impact they would like to have on the care of the future. In all cases, the aim has been to destigmatise the care experience and show the individuals underneath.
From the first moment of that decision, I have remained permanently astonished by the hard work and sheer talent that these young people have put into the delivery. The variety, quality and impact of the work they have produced is truly astounding. Using the archive not only as the heritage it is but their own heritage and exploring it as a lens through which to look at their own experience and the care experience as a whole. Doing so in the most creative ways with the variety and depth that comes with who they are as individuals. Over the course of the last year, one young person has developed a whole collection of poems and artworks, another has written a book about being queer in care that charts the history of the LGBTQIA+ community and the adversities faced. There has been an anthology of spoken word pieces written and performed as short films. Articles that detail specific areas of the care experience like mental health, siblings, motherhood, race and culture have been written. An entire series of podcast Foundling: Found has been researched, scripted, produced and distributed. Featuring members of the ambassador group, other young care-leavers, as well as high profile guests from a variety of backgrounds who have an involvement in the system; foster parents, social-entrepreneurs, novelists and popstars. A documentary about the numbers that foundlings wear around their necks and the numbers attached to those entering the care system today has begun. They have come together on decision making for the creative projects, events for Care Experienced History Month, scripted an immersive audio drama for the Parlour project and so much more besides.
On top of all of those incredible achievements, young people have participated in multiple creative projects including What’s in a Name where they wrote spoken word pieces based on identity in the Foundling Hospital, which they then put to music, produced into an album and performed at the Arcola Theatre.
From my perspective, the most overwhelmingly prominent achievement of all has been the opportunity to watch them grow and develop, individually and together. There has been something quite viscerally evident about the small starting steps: some with cameras and microphones off, coming out of their shells and finding their unique voice. Throughout the process, they have found skills, talents, ways to deal with things and most of all they have found each other. I could reel off all the stats about how their mental health has exponentially improved (which it has), how their employability has developed, what they’ve learned and coping mechanisms they have begun to habitually implement – all of which I am unbelievably proud of. But nothing makes me prouder than the community they have built in and of themselves: the newfound family. Watching them support and be there for one another, share experiences together, be kind, have a laugh and catch each other when they’re down is absolutely the biggest privilege of all. In fact, none of those stats would exist at all without that which they have built between themselves. When I asked them what they were most proud of achieving as ambassadors, without exception they referred to their personal development and their pride in each other, above and beyond the bells and the whistles.
This group of Story of Care Ambassadors will be graduating in December to make way for the new. They don’t want to leave (and neither do I) so they will be graduating into what we’re calling ‘Boss Bassadors’ who will mentor the next generation and continue the good work.
Feel inspired? Want to know more about becoming a Story of Care Ambassador? Find out more here.