Care-experienced young people are leading Coram’s new digital campaign #RealStoriesOfCare to explore personal stories of care today and throughout history.

The campaign is part of our four-year programme, Voices Through Time: The Story of Care, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which will see the digitisation of Coram’s archive dating back to when it was established as the Foundling Hospital in 1739.

A key part of this involves giving care-experienced young people the chance to examine our archive to find out about the experience of children at the Foundling Hospital and to tell their own stories through a series of creative workshops. These are being showcased through the #RealStoriesOfCare campaign to show the realities of growing up in care over the last three centuries and now.

The care-experienced children and young people taking part highlighted that it would make a huge difference if the diverse experiences of care were more widely understood. They see personal stories told by children and young people themselves as a powerful way to illustrate the realities of children in care, reflecting on positive and negative aspects, instead of inaccurate or stigmatised perspectives which so often affect them.

Ten creative projects inspired by the archive will take place over four years, starting with the #RealStoriesOfCare campaign sharing creative content developed by young people’s ‘letters from lockdown’, supported by Royal Literary Foundation, together with blogs, poems and a manifesto for care leavers.

Over the next year there will be a spoken word performance with Arcola Theatre, a touring public art installation and a theatre production with The Big House. Young people aged 16-25 with care-experience can now register interest in taking part in these projects and there are also opportunities to volunteer as a programme ambassador to help shape the #RealStoriesOfCare campaign further. See our Get involved pages.

Nkechi, aged 20, who took part in the ‘letters from lockdown’ project and is now a programme ambassador, said:

“I am a creative by nature and was intrigued by the idea of creating and writing during these unprecedented times. Not only that, but it came at a time when as a care leaver during Covid-19, not many people were asking about our experiences and I felt like I had no voice, this project gave me one.

“Being able to learn about Coram’s archive was an invaluable experience – it was fascinating, heart-breaking and inspiring. Being able to see their faces, hear their stories, and learn about how their lives were similar and different to ours. I feel like I have a deeper understanding of myself by understanding the experiences of the looked-after children who came before me. I got so much from taking part. It revived my sense of purpose, gave me structure and inspired other creative projects.”

Nkechi describes her involvement in #realstoriesofcare

Dr Carol Homden, CEO of Coram, said: “300 years after Thomas Coram campaigned to create his charity, children and young people who have grown up in care still tell us that they still often feel overlooked and misunderstood by the wider public. This truly inclusive programme aims to tackle this as young people engage with the past, explore the present and influence social attitudes and the future of care.

“This is a timely opportunity for the government’s independent review of children’s social care and for us all to hear the voices of young people and learn from our collective history. We hope that the #RealStoriesOfCare campaign will tackle the issues children and young people continue to face and surprise and inspire you with powerful stories from the past and present.”

Follow and take part in the campaign on Coram’s social media channels using #RealStoriesOfCare.

Young people aged 16-25 can find out more about the upcoming creative workshops and volunteering opportunities on our Get involved pages.