Monday morning. I found myself on a miserable two hour
journey across London, hit at every turn in my trip by an obstacle;
5 full buses drove straight past me, I took a bus going in the
wrong direction after missing the tube that would get me to my
destination on time.
I turned up at the house of one of my donors
feeling stressed out and frankly a bit fed up. We got in the car
and headed to Birmingham, where my donor was to lead a workshop
with some disadvantaged young people with the aim of raising their
aspirations and challenging perceptions about what women can
achieve – particularly those who have had a tougher than average
start in life.
These young people were part of a programme that I
talk about all the time to individuals when I’m trying to encourage
them to give their money, time and expertise to support our work.
They are ‘the most marginalised in the UK’, ‘facing three or more
serious barriers such as homeless, mental health or drug abuse
I talk about how 75% of them go on to do something
positive after the programme; return to education, get a job or
embark on training. I talk about young people all day every day.
I’ve met many of them in the 18 months I’ve worked for our charity,
but those I met today I won’t forget in a very long time.
Exercise and I have never been close bedfellows. I spent most of my P.E. lessons at school sneaking off with to loiter on benches in the woods during cross country, making fart noises from the sidelines as the other girls scissored over the high jump bar, or – on one occasion – getting sent home for sort-of-inadvertently throwing a javelin in the general direction of our Mrs. Trunchbull-esque, obese, teacher, after she failed to respond to my requests to demonstrate a suitable overarm technique.
And things didn’t really improve from there. I think it’s safe to say that sport at my school wasn’t a particular priority; we were allowed to spend our GCSE year either doing sport or getting changed into jeans (a true thrill for a 16 year old girl trying to get attention from the local acne-covered talent) and heading to the bowling alley up the road to fling the balls down as quick as we could before congregating at the local McDonalds. Ah, the heady days before Jamie Oliver lisped himself into a frenzy, when it was perfectly acceptable that our school canteen stopped selling home cooked meals and turned swiftly into a (undoubtedly horsemeat-laden) burger bar.