Young people and their mentors reflected upon a successful year when the Community Interest Company, Citizenship 4 Life (C4L) held its annual Celebration dinner at St John’s Hall, Penzance on Friday, April 21. C4L Patron and guest speaker Sir Terry Waite, CBE who was held captive in Beirut for four years, described the event as “an inspirational evening”.
Following dinner, each programme participant gave a speech about their experience with C4L. Most had overcome extreme shyness, lack of confidence and panic attacks to do so. Many chose the residential trip to Dartmoor as a highlight, which included an introduction to Dexter, an inmate at the category C men’s prison; and a visit to homeless charity Emmaus, in Brighton. “It has changed my views on homelessness,” said mentee Oliver Classey, from Penryn. “I’m now aware that homelessness is only two steps away, and can happen to anyone at any time. A Cornish Emmaus should be set up to enable our homeless to set themselves back on their feet.”
As part of her mentorship, Mentee Muirne Macleod raised funds for mental health charity Mind – a cause close to her heart. “Today I am a happy, confident 15-year-old – another person from the one who attended the interview for C4L,” she said. “Then, I was bewildered to find myself crying as I opened up about my father’s death and his struggle with mental health.
“I had reached a breaking point I couldn’t quite explain. My whole life was a series of unanswered questions and only one person could answer them, who was no longer here. All the inspirational people here tonight helped me to answer my father’s final question: is there hope? C4L, I’d like to thank you because you gave me hope.”
Guest speaker Sir Terry Waite, CBE said: “It has been an inspirational evening for me. Mentors have given freely of their time, and young people have been able to respond: hesitantly at first, but then with great confidence, and to recognise that they themselves have an invaluable part to play in the next generation to come.
C4L, he explained, helped them to become citizens. “It has enabled them to convert sympathy for those on the margins of life into empathy. Sympathy is to feel sorry for someone – empathy is to feel as they feel. The young people visited Emmaus in Brighton, and they picked up, without being lectured, that many people who find themselves homeless are not carefree drop-outs. They understand the reasons why people find themselves in that situation.”
Chris Ring, Manager of the Black Swan in Gweek, has been a mentor with C4L since its launch four years ago, and is now on the board of directors. This year, he mentored Kian Barnett of Truro. “I give my time willingly, for the feeling that I’ve done something that has really changed a young person’s life,” he said. “It might not be today, or even 10 years down the line, but at some point they will remember what they did this year. Kian lacked confidence, and I was there to befriend him and give him that sense of confidence that is all we need in life.”
C4L Chair Charlotte Caldwell added: It was really special and very emotional. A real window on how 12 months with the right people can change the confidence in someone so young. That to take them to such influential places – we thought it would make an impact, but to hear them say it really brings home how we need to keep doing this for more and more people.
The Mentees also paid tribute to C4L Project Co-Ordinator, Sarah Taylor, who was responsible for forming successful relationships with Mentees and their parents, organising monthly trips and liaising with Schools.
Kirstie Newton, Editor of Cornwall Today Magazine - June 2017 edition