Amy* is a resident at Caritas Anchor House, a community centre providing support and accommodation for vulnerable adults in Newham, East London. As part of her support plan, Amy’s support worker referred to her the Khulisa’s ‘Silence the Violence’ Programme in 2015.
After experiencing a series of personal incidents and emotional challenges in her life, Amy turned to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism which led to a criminal conviction and lengthy prison sentence.
"When I was first interviewed for the programme I wasn't sure if I could cope with it... but I found that I enjoyed the creative approach and discovered that I like expressing myself through art. The programme has really made me think, stop and re-assess situations"
When she was released from prison, Amy found herself homeless and with very few people to support her in her reintegration into the community. Her previous experiences and the trauma she’d experienced continued to manifest themselves in destructive and violent behaviour towards herself and others. With help from her support worker, Amy recognised that she needed to find new, more positive coping mechanisms and they agreed she would benefit from being able to talk about her past experiences. It was at this point that Amy was referred to the Khulisa team to take part in ‘Silence the Violence’, an intensive 5-day behaviour change group programme which uses art and drama to help participants to explore the root causes of their negative or violent behaviour.
Amy joined her group programme in June 2015, and although initially she found it difficult to open up and share her experiences, after engaging in some of the creative activities she discovered that she was able to express her thoughts and feelings through her artwork. This started a profound and empowering journey of self-discovery for Amy as she started to unburden herself of the guilt and shame she had been carrying and discovered alternative ways of coping with her emotions.
Amy described one of the ‘key moments’ on the programme as being able to recognise the physiological responses she has before she becomes angry and implementing positive steps to stop her from ‘acting out’.
"I was at a point in my life where I was sick of losing my temper. My lightbulb moment was realising that certains things that happened to me were not my fault. I’m aware of the physical responses that I have now when I’m feeling angry and I’m at a point in my life where I’m sick of losing my temper. Khulisa's programme has really opened my eyes to a whole new me."
Amy’s self-esteem and confidence also grew on the programme, helping her to visualise a brighter future and to recognise and build healthier relationships with others.
In the follow-up 1-1 sessions with the programme facilitators, Amy was able to reflect on what she’d learnt and go on to identify her aspirations for the future. She began thinking about how she could share her past experiences in order to help others, turning the negatives into positives. By December of 2015, she had identified some goals for her future, building a career in youth work and moving on to living independently.
Over the last 18 months, Amy has made great progress towards these goals and has:
- Secured her own accommodation and preparing for independent living - she loves having her own space and thoroughly enjoys cooking and even cleaning.
- Secured employment as a Volunteer Co-ordinator for the hostel where she currently lives – she manages the hostel’s volunteers and all administration of the volunteering programme.
- Successfully applied to complete a diploma in ‘Helping, Mentoring and Community’; the course will start in January 2018.
- Been accepted onto an Expert Advisory Panel for a national charity, using her experience of homelessness to help inform policy and practice.
- Applied to be on the Youth Volunteering Team, using her experience to support young people in her local community.
Silence the Violence’ has had a transformative impact on Amy’s life and she firmly believes that the Khulisa programme was the catalyst for this change. Even with her fantastic progress, Amy continues to work on her emotional well-being and has developed a keen interest in psychology. Over the last two years she has managed to deal with several challenging situations in a positive way, even acting as a role model to others at the hostel. Her creative flair (that she discovered on the Khulisa programme) has become a passion and a positive coping mechanism for times when she feels stressed or anxious and she continues to channel her emotions into creative writing.
Amy describes her life now as being one of excitement and intrigue:
“I’m so glad that I took that first step in exploring my emotions, I’ve come a long way since doing the ‘Silence the Violence’ programme. Although at times I still have my challenges I am so far from the angry person I used to be, I can manage so much better. Khulisa's programme has really opened my eyes to a whole new me. I take each day as it comes but I see it as being exciting now and who knows what is around the corner for me with all the options I’m exploring.”
*Participant names and images have been changed to protect privacy
James* began the Milestones Mentoring programme after taking part in Khulisa’s ‘Silence the Violence’ programme in prison. James is an IPP offender (Imprisonment for Public Protection). IPP offenders are given minimum sentence terms and only released when the Prison Parole Board assesses them as safe to reintegrate in the community. For James, this made him feel like he is always under the spotlight and unable to make any mistakes. He felt like all decisions around his life have already been taken away from him.
In prison, James experienced a sudden bereavement when his brother died - something he has since struggled with emotionally and mentally. He described great levels of guilt and shame around his behaviour that had led him “not to be there” for his family. Throughout his mentoring, James has spent more time working to understand the bereavement process and how this has impacted on his emotional wellbeing.
James showed a great interest in mentoring and coaching and has been engaging positively every fortnight in his mentoring sessions, focusing on his release back into the community. James has worked on his consequential thinking patterns and identified his tendency to default to negative thinking. With this awareness, he now focuses less on what he can’t do and more on what he is now able to do.
James has good and bad days, but with the support of the mentoring programme, he says “it’s easier than last time… I will get there this time.“
James is engaging incredibly well with the Milestones Mentoring programming, using the techniques and skills learnt in the mentoring and coaching sessions to make positive steps into his future. James has shown an interest in mentoring others and has the ability with coaching support to pursue this in the future. James has the strength and ability to sit back, observe and listen and to support others when they need advice, which will serve him well as a mentor.
*Names and images have been changed to protect privacy