I got involved with XLP about three years ago when the bus first came to my estate. I came on the very first day and met all the youth workers and I’ve been coming every week since. Before the bus came, my estate was quite divided. There were gangs about and a lot of crime and no-one really spoke to each other. However, the bus has given people a meeting point to have fun and get to know each other. Everyone goes to it so we don’t have a choice but to speak to each other! I think we have a great bunch of people and now if we pass each other in the street we talk to each other, which wouldn’t have happened before the bus.
After working with XLP for a while I was invited by one of the youth workers on a trip to Wales where a group of us climbed Mount Snowdon. It was a real challenge but the encouragement and support of the XLP youth workers kept me going – I nearly died half-way up! The trip brought people from different XLP projects together which is difficult in London because there are barriers between areas. I would never go to Lewisham by myself, or walk through an estate in Streatham, but XLP gives people a meeting point to get to know each other. People turn up to the bus looking like they ‘run’ the estate but through getting to know them you realise they’re nice people. I think that people are often misjudged – if you see someone in a tracksuit you think that they’ve got a knife, or they sell drugs – but XLP helps to challenge those assumptions. The bus provides a space where you can let your guard down and get to know each other. I’ve learnt not to judge people.
Last year, XLP introduced me to Snow Camp and it has literally changed my life. XLP gave me the opportunity to go for a two day course which was a big challenge for me as I’m a shy person and I didn’t know many people who were also doing it. I got bullied at school so I’m used to having my guard up. However, as part of the course they do life skills sessions; they taught us how to build our confidence and self-esteem and how to work with people around us. The highlight of my Snow Camp experience was a week residential trip to Italy. I went with XLP staff and other young people which was amazing as we’d never experienced real snow before. It also gave us time to bond together and I’ve made some really good friendships out of it. Best of all, the instructors saw some talent in me and I’m now on their apprenticeship programme which means that I’ll be re-doing the programme as a member of staff! Now I’ll be the one teaching people, encouraging them to build friendships and building their confidence.
Without XLP I would never have had a chance to ski or snowboard; I don’t have the resources and I didn’t know anything about snow sports. Before I got involved I was shy and quite lazy because nothing really interested me, but XLP has opened my eyes to different opportunities and it’s made me a happier person. Now I don’t think: ‘I won’t do that, it’s too big for me, I won’t speak out’, I think: ‘I will speak out because I could help others who had the same problems I had’. That’s why I’m so happy I’ve got the apprenticeship – I can do what XLP and Snow Camp did for me, for other young people.
My dreams for the future are to continue with my skiing; I want to be the hardest working instructor as I think I have potential and I really want to make a difference. Although I’m young, I believe that I have something to offer young people. Thanks to XLP, I have so much to look forward to now.