When he was 14 years old and a student at Rokeby Secondary School in North East London, Alex* took part in Khulisa's 'Face It' programme. Alex moved to England from Poland when he was 3 years old, after his parents separated. From the age of 11, his teachers had identified that he was regularly getting into trouble with other children and having trouble managing his emotions. His mother was also struggling to cope with Alex's behaviour at home which had become aggressive, particularly towards his younger siblings.
"I learned about the different levels of violence including physical, emotional and verbal violence which helped me to realise that some of my behaviour that I thought was normal, could be seen as being violent by others... I enjoyed the programme very much and use the coping skills I have learned in my everyday life."
According to facilitator reports and feedback from Alex's parents and teachers, Alex also showed the following improvements as a result of his participation in the Face It programme:
- Alex was better able to identify his own triggers to anger and aggression; Alex identified that other students triggered him in class and he was able to develop coping skills to manage this, such as focusing on what the teachers were saying to block them out
- He was more able to show empathy towards others; Alex recognised that things may be difficult for his sister and that she is young and may not understand. This empathy has helped him to relate to her better strengthening their relationship. He has also applied this to other relationships.
- He identified goals for the future; Alex has started to believe in his potential and is considering going to college and then university when he leaves school. He would like to pursue his new found dream of becoming a sports coach. This has given him a clearer focus in his lessons at school
- Alex demonstrated enhanced consequential thinking; he now recognises that in order to achieve his goals he needs to remain focused and manage any potential conflict situations. Having clear goals to work towards acts as a deterrent for acting out on any of his negative thoughts.
*Participant names and images have been changed to protect privacy
Rajan* was 13 when he joined Khulisa's Face It programme and says it has helped him to recognise and manage his anger problems. After years of experiencing difficulties at school caused by his short temper and regular outbursts during class, Rajan is now attending mainstream school regularly and has aspirations to build a career as a sports coach.
"I was introduced to the programme by my teachers ... they told me the Face It programme could help me develop better anger management skills. In the past some students would annoy me but now I have learnt to manage my temper and instead just concentrate on listening to the teachers and carrying on with my tasks. I have learnt to step back and think about my actions and rarely get into fights in school any more."
According to teachers who work with Rajan, the programme has resulted in a signficiant improvement on his attendance to class and his behaviour at school. They also reported an improvement in his relationship with fellow students and noted that he seems to be using better coping strategies when he feels frustrated.
"If I don’t understand anything in class then I don’t get frustrated any more and instead just ask my teacher to explain the task a bit more. I am now focused on my education and my ambition is to go to college and then university. I would really like to become a sports coach because even if I don’t make it as a professional sportsperson I can still help others to do well in sports. And if that doesn't work out then my back-up plan is to become a chef because I really love cooking."
A school teacher at Rajan's school said:
"Khulisa's Face It programme has been a great success and our students have benefited from taking part. For me, the mask-making task deals with the two sides of a person's personality and is a real turning point during the programe.... the Face It programme’s use of role play is also very engaging and the post programme support run by trained and highly skilled facilitators is invaluable. We are looking forward to running more programmes in the future."
*Participant names and images have been changed to protect privacy
Nila is 12 and she attends alternative provision after being excluded multiple times from school due to her violent verbal and physical behaviour. She lives in an overcrowded household, and recently lost a parent to suicide. On first meeting Nila she acknowledged that her anger and frustration had heightened since this time. She had already made the link between this and her behaviour being “harder to manage”. However, she was reluctant to receive any bereavement support, and shared that this was partly due to feeling let down by adults in the past.
"The smallest things trigger me and that I'm constantly fidgety, sometimes I find it hard to concentrate just zone out completely”
When Nila first joined the programme she wanted support around her anger. We hoped that her participation in the group would give Nila more coping strategies to manage the intensity of her internal experiences. During the programme Nila seemed open to the process and the content, and willing to learn. Initially, her contributions were shut down by other group members, which had the effect of triggering her, distracting her, or causing her to exclude herself from the group and disengage. Nila often left the room, stormed around, regulated herself and then returned. During these times she always seemed appreciative of being checked on by the team, and we always reminded her that her anger was welcome in the programme room too – she didn’t need to leave to express it.
“it’s ok to be yourself and not to hide”
Nila was incredibly encouraging and supportive of others and seemed to know her power to de-escalate her peers when conflict occurred. As the week progressed she was increasingly able to turn up regardless of her mood. Sometimes she let us know what was going on for her, and sometimes she observed the group until she was ready to re-engage. We also saw Nia take more risks and opportunities to get her voice heard and take up space, and she seemed to shine with the validation she received for this. At one point she assertively told her peer to ‘let her speak’ when she was interrupted, and we felt she had finally grasped her sense of belonging and value as a group member. She enjoyed our mask-making artwork session and identified that it was ok not to hide.
On the final day of the programme Nila spent more time out of the room than in it. Rather than storming around and fuming she opted to do some artwork and write poetry in a side room and we checked on her. We let Nila know that we understood that endings can be hard, and that she was welcome back into the group whenever she was ready. She joined us for the final circle time and we finished the programme with the full group that we started with.
She reflected that she now felt ready and receptive to bereavement support, and also wanted a referral to our partner organisation to engage in their sports and music projects as a way of expressing and releasing her emotions.