When I first heard about the Encompass programme I jumped at the chance. To me, it was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t ignore. There was something about it that spurred my mind… I knew I needed to go for this.
For some reason, whilst walking from the station to Faraday House for the initial preparation meeting, the realisation struck me that this was something way out of my comfort zone. But when I entered the building and met the other British participants (who were naturally all Londoners in one way or another!) this realisation slowly began to ease. In the sense that it was not going to be as nerve racking as I originally anticipated.
The fluctuation of confidence between the initial preparation meeting and start of the programme was very real. I had experienced a number of negative frustrations in the past few weeks that kept having a knock on my confidence. Even though I graduated July 2013, I am still unemployed, despite continuous efforts in attending graduate fairs, assessment days, phone interviews and interviews themselves. More frustrating still was the attitude I grew continuously tired of surrounding the whole issue of youth unemployment by people who simply don’t know what they are talking about. They aren’t in the position that others and myself find themselves in.
Following a poor experience with various leads in and around where I live, after feeling continuously like I was walking round in circles, it was getting to a stage where it was making my mental health worse again. I started to feel worthless and undervalued; just like school, college and university had often made me feel. I felt that no matter how hard I tried; it just never seemed to be ever good enough. I always tried to be continuously positive, but sometimes it was really hard, as I was surrounded by some people who just didn’t take me seriously at all.
Shortly before the Encompass programme was due to start, I lost all faith in my confidence to do the programme and at first stated in an email to the organisers that I was no longer able to go. The reaction I got from them surprised me, because rather than them just accepting it, they really put an emphasis on the fact that the programme would not be the same without me. This changed my perception entirely, and although it was too late to meet up with the group at Heathrow airport and take the coach with them to the Lake District, I was able to meet them at the hostel for the start of the programme. Since then I never looked back.
Upon arrival to the hostel, a sudden weight had been lifted off my shoulders somehow. It was a bizarre feeling, but I felt a lot more at home than I had first originally anticipated. As I got to know the participants, I knew that I was surrounded by intelligent people who all had a common goal: to be able to conciliate with others and understand that differences are a gift and not something to condemn. This was the start of discovering redemption and understanding the true purpose of religion. That is in my view, to always have faith in life when it can seem so bleak, tough and uninviting. The programme has made me realise that in fact, that human bond is a very magical thing in saying to life, that no matter how hard it tries to bring us down, we can always be stronger.
Just like many of the other participants, I wanted to escape a life where I felt like I had no identity and felt like I had to continuously be something I’m not just to please those who refuse to accept difference. UK Youth had given me that first step, but now I needed to take the next step. Encompass offered me that next step. As the discussions about conflict and identity progressed, so too did the bonding, and it became apparent just how much we truly gelled with one another. It in effect became my idea of a perfect life, which is something I will always cherish for the rest of my life and something that I will always have in my heart for my second family. I know in essence, that it is the perfect life, just the ability to celebrate difference.
I still sometimes have negative thoughts, that I’m somehow not good enough, or that I’m not trying hard enough. One of my biggest battles is still yet to be won, the fact that the only person I often seem to punish is myself. The people I have had the upmost privilege to meet during the Encompass Programme and that of UK Youth Voice, have shown the true me, and not the person that the negative demons want me to believe. Just by being given this power to see the true me, has enabled me to be able to make such a profound impact on the lives of others, this, is truly magical. Not a day goes by, not a single day, that I forget those moments. I miss my second family more than words can describe.
Love from t’ Dale, North Yorkshire,
Laurence, February 2014