Khulisa Voice: Shiloh’s Story

Shiloh is a twelve year old boy who recently moved schools for a fresh start, following gang involvement in his previous location. He simultaneously moved into care, as his parents’ substance misuse and mental health problems meant that they were unable to provide the support, stability and sense of safety that Shiloh needed.

Shiloh was referred to Khulisa’s ‘Face It’ programme due to displaying  aggressive behaviour towards staff and peers at school, which put him to be at risk of exclusion. We believe his disruptive and disrespectful behaviour is likely an external manifestation of internal battles with trauma, transitions, intense emotions and a sense of not knowing where he belongs.

Shiloh was motivated and enthusiastic about participating in our ‘Face It’ programme aimed at building social and emotional wellbeing, resilience, self-esteem and coping skills, and shared that he wanted to attend to ‘get into trouble less’ and ‘feel better’ about himself.

Shiloh’s behaviour was turbulent during the programme: sometimes he shut-down completely, pulling his coat over his head and withdrawing from the group, other times he became hyper-aroused and over-excited, struggling to transition between topics and becoming disruptive, yet at other points he was one of the most articulate, confident, energetic, caring and engaged participants. We witnessed him really considering and battling with some of the content of the programme and applying the concepts to himself and his own life.

On the final day of the programme Shiloh became particularly disruptive and aggressive towards other group members and we reflected this back to him, asking whether he felt motivated and ready to remain in the group and complete the programme. Shiloh acknowledged the impact his behaviour was having on the group as a whole, shared a deep commitment to finishing the programme and let us know that being in this group was giving him a sense of belonging and developing his ability to trust others. Other group members vocalised that the group “wouldn’t be the same” without him in it and encouraged him to complete the programme.

We felt that by having an open dialogue with Shiloh we allowed him to acknowledge the impact of his behaviour on others in a non-shaming, safe way, and have his needs and wishes heard, respected and responded to, as we encouraged him to finish the programme and have a positive experience of belonging and endings. We’re glad to say that Shiloh shone for the rest of the day, and used the appreciation circle to let some of his peers know how much they meant to him, commenting that they are ‘like family’ to him. Shiloh was beaming from ear to ear when it was his turn to be appreciated by others. In the final group check-out Shiloh reflected that the programme “has made me a better person and helped me be more confident around other people.”

When we followed up two weeks later and asked Shiloh how he had found the group he said,

“It was as if this programme was made for me, I was in the right place, and I learnt that people want me around. I learnt how to trust people. It helped me get more confidence and It helped me a lot to control myself when I’m angry. I’m proud of myself, I did really well compared with how I am in class”.

Shiloh shared that finishing the programme has given him a sense of achievement and he asked for feedback around his engagement to be shared with his social worker and carer. When we asked what the best thing about the programme was for him, he said simply “just knowing that people wanted me there”.

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