What are you doing now?
As a qualified social worker I am currently based in South Africa as Programme Manager of Maranatha Streetworkers Trust, an NPO with a residential child and youth care centre as well as additional projects such as township outreach initiatives and work with destitute adults. As the Programme Manager I am primarily responsible for the service delivery given to 32 children aged between 5 and 20 who have endured highly traumatic experiences in their short lives leading to them being taken into care.
I have to ensure they all receive caring, recreational, educational, developmental and therapeutic services whilst also acting as internal therapist to many children myself using various counselling methods and techniques such as play-therapy.
Further to this I am a Director of Maranatha Care Children, a non-profit charity registered with the Charity Commission in the UK which I founded in 2009 to assist with my efforts to fundraise on behalf of such projects. Since the charities formation we have been able to raise over £50,000. I have just been awarded a British Citizen Award for my work in the category of International Achievement.
What route did you take up to this point?
I had planned to take a gap year when I left DHSB in 2006 and had signed up for a volunteer teaching trip to South Africa for three months having deferred my initial place at university where I had planned to study Modern Literature and Media. I worked at an entertainment marketing company in London after leaving school to save up for this trip.
After travelling to Port Elizabeth in South Africa I was first coaching sports and then teaching in one of the township areas before being transferred to a school called Protea Primary for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. However whilst doing this I also had the opportunity to volunteer at the child and youth care centre which served as a residential children’s home to victims of abuse, neglect, children who were orphaned and those who spent time living and working on the streets. This experience was life-changing for me in that I actually postponed my university ambitions on my return and began saving up both for my own return as a volunteer for a longer period but also in a fundraising capacity for the projects I was involved in.
After spending six months in South Africa I made the decision to start on a BSc Hons Social Work degree at the University of Plymouth whilst also starting the process of setting up a charity which I founded in 2009.
This was a huge change from what I had initially planned!
After finishing my studies and work placements and becoming a registered social worker I embarked on the process of basing myself in South Africa on a full-time basis. I had to sell my car and make a number of sacrifices to make this a reality but then in 2014 was able to obtain a work permit allowing me to stay in South Africa and utilise my work skills to help children overcome the trauma they have experienced whilst still continuing my fundraising efforts as Charity Director simultaneously.
Any significant crossroads?
I would have never seen myself heading in this direction. On leaving school the thought of both working and studying in London and becoming successful in a completely different way was to me a goal to aspire to. Even whilst working in marketing there were incredible opportunities of working on international events which for any young person would be hugely appealing. Yet it is incredible how one trip can change your life. It was on leaving South Africa for the first time in 2007 that I strongly remember that feeling of wanting to do more. Whilst anyone who goes to do such work for any period should always be commended, I came to realise that I could make a difference on a longer-term basis and set about achieving that aim. It is not work without its sacrifices or challenges but it is one with tremendous rewards and I continue to be inspired by the young people I work with on a daily basis.
What have you learnt most about yourself?
You know there are many quotes about how a life lived for others is a life worthwhile and for me this rings true. My most valuable achievements are seeing the success of children and young people who came from the worst circumstances imaginable to actually become successful independent adults in their own right. I have also learnt that my own emotional strength and sense of humour are both invaluable skills that no one should ever take for granted.
What words of wisdom would you give to a student joining DHSB in Year 7?
You are in such a privileged position attending a school of this calibre. Make the most of the opportunities available to you. See things like being involved in the school council as chances to grow in confidence and allow your voice to be heard. Strive to be the best you can be but also remember the memories, friendships and fun of learning should all be part of your school experience – you must always have a balance.
And for a Sixth Former leaving DHSB?
Make sure you explore the opportunities that are out there and available for you. You may think you have it all worked out but what you think you were going to become may not be the route that you end up taking – and there is nothing wrong with that! Coming from DHSB you are in a prime position to make a huge contribution to society and a difference in the world and whether that be whilst working in your childhood dream job or something totally unexpected it is important that the decisions you make are the right ones for YOU and not just for the expectation of others. No matter what career path you embark on remember that you always have the capacity to make a change. Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it.
Any fond memories of school you can share?
Where do I start? I absolutely loved my time at DHSB. In earlier years I remember presenting with the school council to representatives from local bus companies actually feeling proud that we were being listened to and addressing real issues. I had a fantastic sixth form experience made even better by being House Captain and helping to drive my house to winning the house shield – running around the track and cheering on our competitors at sports day was like running a half marathon myself! But actually one of the absolute highlights was a week away in France with my Media Studies class where we were given an assignment each day ranging from making a music video to a documentary to a drama. This week was incredible! There are just so many memories that I will treasure a long time!
Do you have a message for any of your teachers?
I definitely do. I am so grateful to the school’s English Department who equipped me so well that going on to teach English and now help those with A level equivalent studies in South Africa with their exam revision and study periods has come naturally. Being able to analyse, question, compare, debate and broaden knowledge are skills that first come from my English Literature lessons which was only built upon as I went to university.
Media Studies has had a huge influence on me both through my initial work in marketing and even as I have progressed through to establishing a charity. Mrs Wilkinson helped us to literally think outside of the box and continued to challenge us to be able to challenge ourselves! I remember how much I truly looked forward to these media lessons with both her and Mrs Delve.
I also studied Drama and Theatre Studies in sixth form and am so pleased to see how the school has supported drama in such a big way as Mr Norris was a teacher who encouraged self-expression and channelled it to see us fulfil our potential and strive to achieve our best. I just recall the class having a lot of fun in between the learning – or doing both at the same time!
Then of course my form tutors who in my last years included Mr Adams and Mrs Johns who were big sources of support as was Ms Davidson who encouraged us to lead by example and see the opportunities waiting for us.
To all of my teachers I can only say thank you and hope you know how much what you are investing in the adults of tomorrow is so appreciated. I have a lot to be thankful for to DHSB!