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Behind County Lines: The lived experience

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Wait for a text, a call. Pick up location confirmed. One package this time. One train journey. Make the drop off. Make a bit of money. Easy, right? What if you were 15 years old, or even younger than that? This is a routine for an estimated 46,000 children in England. This is the cycle that leads them into an even more toxic one; one founded on manipulation, sexual grooming and abuse. This is county lines. Sure, I took this from what search results Google gave me-I even got a clear cut definition from the UK government which defines it as gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other forms of deal line’. But, what I couldn’t find was a why. Why are children as young as 11 being targeted deliberately by these gangs to carry Class A drugs? Why did more than a third of police forces report evidence of child sexual exploitation as a direct consequence of county lines? Why, is this happening and most of all why is it on the rise? As a young person myself, witnessing the a surge in knife crime that clouds and defines my generation, I believe that there is never one why. But by speaking to two young adults, previously part of county lines, I found that what’s important is that there are reasons, there are cutbacks, there are inadequate services, there are barriers of communication, there are failings. There is always a reason why children like them get ‘in’ to county lines and as living testimonies themselves, there can and should be a way to get out.

county lines child exploitation

 Criminal exploitation of children is at an unprecedented high.

A county lines kid looks like…

From what I’ve explained so far, I wonder if you have already started to form a picture of the kind of child likely to find themselves exchanging, selling and delivering drugs. Is he or she black, Asian or from a minority ethnic group? Do they come from a low income household in a typically deprived area, have neglectful or absent parents? Are they falling behind at school or even just not attending? You certainly would not be alone in thinking this; just like the police, the government, crime prevention organisations-everyone-we are all guilty of presuming based on a generic and more often than not false opinion. Not only did I confirm the embarrassment felt when you make these kinds of assumptions,  but crucially the danger in what you assume. By listening to the experiences of a recently graduated university student, there is no denying that county lines transcends any assumption, speculation and preconception. High achiever, prospective undergraduate, from a fairly stable home doesn’t set alarm bells ringing. But it shouldn’t have to. In his case, county lines was a final and desperate resort in the midst of worsening mental health. Seeking solace in a older acquaintance, was a step towards alleviating his feelings but inevitably was a step toward entering an unknown world of drug supply. At the age of just 15, he entered the ‘trap line’, and was given a ‘trap phone’, navigating the drug trade while at constant risk from weapons, abuse and in extreme cases the possibility of murder.  This lasted for around 11 months, a relatively short period among the majority of cases, until he was lucky enough to get out. But it’s easy to see why you feel as though you’re never truly out of it as he repeatedly stressed.

‘A child can be out of it but they can’t forget it’

There’s no way in saying that if a scheme was in place or if such system had been established,  allowing him to open up about his mental health, that he wouldn’t have ended up talking to me about county lines. However, it’s as if young people are collectively calling out for the help they need and frankly no one is listening. No one is listening to the three-quarters of children and young people with mental health problems who do not get the help they need. Equally, more and more parents find themselves shocked to discover the reality of their child’s well being. That’s not to say these same parents are failing parents, regardless of race , creed or culture, but that we all need to be supported in spotting the signs and crucially combating the stigma that comes with talking about mental wellbeing. Perhaps more so than ever, it  is essential to open up dialogue between young people about these topics and break down walls between parent and child in a dangerously digitally obsessed age .With better services in place and mainly more of them, it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to assume that those children who maybe are struggling with their mental health will be able to turn to these people, these services, and these outlets, before they turn to gangs.

parents county lines dialogue

Has dialogue between parents and children become threatened by the digital era?

A shift in mindset

Essentially, this first meeting had offered an exception to what we are constantly told when it comes to child criminal exploitation. As I began listening to the experiences of another young man, at one time part of county lines, I found that as much as there are exceptions there are also patterns. Of course, generalising ‘at risk’ groups, won’t eradicate the problem entirely. But, there is some value in recognising where and among whom county lines seems to prevalent. In a separate conversation with this man, I found this to be true. ‘How did you come to be part of this?’ I asked. His response was simply’ it was and wasn’t random’. Over the course of our conversation, surprisingly,  this revealed itself to be the best and perhaps most truthful way of explaining many young people’s connection to county lines. To put it short, a person’s likelihood of finding themselves in a world of gang exploitation is in many ways just as much as the next person reading this.  In fact, young, old, rich or poor, county lines makes no one exempt. However, it is evident that there are recurrent yet different factors, which take that possibility and turn it into a reality. For this young man looking back, his poor family life, high level of responsibility in a household as well as a disrupted education were his factors as it were-that’s to say that everyone’s are individual. But, in situations of social precarity which are compounded by troubled home lives, a lack of parental figures and any other circumstance which may disadvantage a child, what happens is the creation of a mindset. A mindset that maybe doesn’t look beyond the situation they are faced with. A mindset that sees such a process like county lines as the ‘only way’. A mindset that simply hasn’t been exposed to anything else. But once we acknowledge this, then what ?  As he maintained we can acknowledge, we can identify and we can become aware but what we aren’t doing is preventing. There is an inadequate infrastructure in place to either alter his mindset or steer it towards a different outcome. And no, more police, more prisons, are not that infrastructure.

police fight county lines

The solution to criminal exploitation of children isn’t necessarily more police.

‘It isn’t a fear factor’

There is no single thing that will deter, reduce or prevent another child from becoming part of this exploitative and lucrative cycle. But where government punishment or a possible criminal record go wrong is that they do very little for the individual. The individual needs to feel valued, needs to know that they have an outlet or purpose and needs to understand the kind of world that they are entering. It’s safe to say that the individual has been left behind. Well, that’s in amongst number crunches, data collections and consequently some of the most severe cuts to youth services the UK has ever announced. In just under 10 years , overall spending on youth services in England has fallen by £737m (62%) and the West Midlands is among the hardest hit regions, with local authorities cutting spending by 71% since 2010. Importantly, these figures have repercussions. In fact, the correlation between less youth services and an alarming spike in knife crime as well as the criminal exploitation of children by county lines gangs, has been stressed by youth workers, social workers and, if not every leading children’s charity.

youth cuts increase county lines

Cuts to youth services are linked to higher levels of youth crime.

For the young men I was able to meet, now working to fill the gaps the government has left, there’s more to it than just building more youth centres or promoting initiatives-that’s just the beginning. As Lyfeproof fundamentally aims to do, providing young people with life skills is another thing that  cannot be forgotten. Currently, Lyfeproof is working with Aspire4U in order to educate professionals on county lines and is also creating a lived panel experience. Through this, it is young people themselves who are seeking to not only use their involvement in county lines to hopefully lead others away from this path, but also develop their own life skills. If I’m just one young person to go by, during my time with Lyferpoof I have certainly valued lessons on financial literacy and event organising. I was grateful for the advice I received on how the workplace works and I really needed to see how and where I might fit into that world. All young people need to receive, see and learn this- perhaps as part of a dedicated requirement of the school curriculum or through a community project- so that ultimately they aspire to be part of this world rather than the alternative.

Written By Tiah Shepherd.

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.  

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people. 

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

 

 

From racial riots to rising stars:A hidden Handsworth

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Perception is a fascinating thing. It has the power to alter an entire way of thinking, transform an entire opinion and even cause you to regret a judgement you made. But there is also a fine line between perception and misperception.  Having been a resident of Handsworth for 17 going on 18 years now, I have experienced this first hand in the reactions I get when I reveal where I’m from, where I live and where I go to school. To put this to the test, I took to Instagram and simply asked people a few questions. The results: 82% think that the area has a reputation for gang crime, 57% consider it a ‘bad’ place to live and 75% believe that the area has a reputation for drugs. The Flyover show isn’t aiming to completely eradicate these ideas-partly because there is some truth in them. Instead, it seeks to highlight what many didn’t know about Handsworth and its surrounding areas as well as recognise that it is just as important to understand why many preconceptions exist in the first place as it is to change them.

 

old Handsworth

Changing perceptions of Handsworth

100 years of Handsworth

Perhaps surprising to even most people from the West Midlands, is that Handsworth was at one point the complete opposite to how it might appear today. Picture horse drawn carriages, five bedroom Victorian houses, inhabited by those leading truly opulent lifestyles. As someone who has lived here all my life, even I was not aware that the name Handsworth originates from its Saxon owner Hondes and the Old English word weorthing, meaning farm and that this North West Birmingham suburb is recorded in the Domesday book. It is difficult to ignore the rich history within these areas, largely through its distinct architecture. Fast forward 100 years and still, small traces of the past remain. But as you fast forward a century, it’s also easy to see how this has been lost and what some might say replaced by a less appealing and upsetting reality. According to the latest Indices of Deprivation (2010) Handsworth is the fifth most deprived ward of the 40 in Birmingham. Additionally, it is one of ten wards in the region with the largest proportion of its population living in the top 10% most deprived areas of England which can be attributed to the fact that the annual household income reaches around £19,000, compared to an England and Wales average of £35,000(ONS, 2011).

 

Culture in Handsworth

The well-known Handsworth Soho Road

A statistical look at Handsworth

At the same time, the area has become the home away from home for countless immigrants who span the continents, including Africa,  India, Eastern Europe and Asia. The proportion of ethnic minority residents is well above the city average,  amounting to 88% of the population in total (42% is the average in Birmingham) and this multicultural influx hasn’t gone unnoticed, with GP Registration data revealing that people from 170 different countries moved to Handsworth between 2007-2010 (Phillimore 2011). As a result,  Handsworth is somewhat renowned for its variety of cultures, people and of course cuisines. The Soho road is a feast for any foodie, from Indian delights, Polish delicacies and Caribbean classics. However, for many long-term residents,  this wave of many different cultures hasn’t always yielded peace and harmony. Just  13 years ago, the 2005 Handsworth riots took place having allegedly been caused by a gang rape of a teenage black girl by a group of South Asian men. Over the course of two nights,  (Saturday 22 October and Sunday 23 October 2005) four people were stabbed, including a 23-year-old black man who later died in hospital, a police officer was shot in the leg with a ball-bearing gun, and West Midlands Police reported that between 30 and 50 people were responsible for 80 offences in 75 minutes of clashes.

Handsworth riots

The 2005 Handsworth and Lozells riots

Uncovering a new Handsworth…

They say that bad news travels fast but it lingers longer in the mind-my polls seem to echo that with 76% holding the view that racial and/or social divides still exist within the area. Although this is a small sample size, perhaps my followers show a tendency to latch on to the past rather than look at the here and now. In fact, recent figures reveal that, of the 282 crimes in Handsworth and its surrounding areas,  only 7 were drug related. Undoubtedly, crime does still dominate the image of Handsworth. But, that does not and should not stop people from trying to forge a new image of the North West Birmingham suburb. Therefore, it is people like Soweto Kinch, founder of the Flyover Show, who continue to reclaim an ignored space and equally ignored group of people, transforming the Hockley Flyover into a vibrant music festival. In this celebration of talent, the festival is able to bring high quality art to a neglected space while bridging the gap between detached groups of people. Old and young, black and white, rich and poor are united by a shared love of music, regardless of style, audience or genre. Handsworth no longer has to be the place where gangs form, where drug problems overwhelm the streets but is instead a place where talent and art is considered, cultivated and celebrated.

Festivals in Handsworth

Handsworth hosts the 8th Flyover Show

Written by Tiah Shepherd

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people.

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

Summer plans sorted with the Flyover Show

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You can breathe a heavy sigh of relief. You can turn off that alarm clock. You can close the door on your cupboard of revision cards, textbooks and exam papers. You can finally start your summer. That’s until you realise you have absolutely, no,  plans. Nothing. Why settle for 6 weeks of sofa slumming,  TV marathons and non-negotiable babysitting? Instead get involved,volunteering with the Flyover Show taking place on Saturday 18th August 2018.

festivals in Handsworth

Volunteering with The Flyover Show 

Whether we like to admit it or not, giving up our time is a commitment many of us are reluctant to make, especially if we aren’t particularity interested in what we are volunteering for. But, what if it didn’t involve sorting out people’s old clothes in a local charity shop, what if wasn’t about spending hours doing the same thing? What if it did involve working on one of Birmingham’s most diverse, innovative and contemporary festivals whilst boosting your skills and increasing your employability? What if it was about meeting the creatives of tomorrow, event managing and jamming out to the beats of rappers, the melodies of jazz artists and bars of M.C.s?

Summer doesn’t have to be like it always is. The Flyover show is a celebration of the talent that often goes unnoticed, unrecognised and unheard of in Handsworth and its surrounding areas. It’s a celebration of the community that thrives, strives and vibes together, all over a shared love of great music and great art. Come and be part of this celebration and make your plans for the summer now!

 

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Flyover Show 2018, contact jen@lifeproof.co.uk for more details to see how you can get involved. 

Written by Tiah Shepherd

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people.

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

 

6 months at Lyfeproof: More than just work experience

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If you told me 6 months ago that I’d be writing my own blog, working with one of Birmingham’s most innovative youth engagement organisations and helping to collaborate on creative projects in and around Birmingham, my reaction probably would have been one of the following. Firstly”I couldn’t possibly do that’.Or,” How can I get involved?” I’m so glad it seems that I went with the latter choice all along. Now, being a part of Lyfeproof has first and foremost affirmed the passion I have for writing. But beyond the blogs I craft, it has given me so much more. I’ve had first-hand experience in a real workplace( which for a 17-year-old, is quite a big deal). I’ve been given an insight into the logistics of managing a successful business and perhaps most importantly, as Lyfeproof aims to do, I have been made to feel a lot more ‘life ready’.

On a journey to becoming Tiah Shepherd: the writer

Since entering my first short story contest at the tender age of 7, I’ve been hooked by words and more importantly the power they harness. The ability that a piece of writing has to evoke a message, spark a thought and leave an impact on someone else lies at the heart of my fascination with writing. Until I started working with Lyfeproof, it was a fascination I rarely shared, partly because I didn’t think anyone would want to listen. Beyond that though, I just didn’t know or wasn’t aware of how I could voice it. Lyfeproof gave me that voice- a platform from which I was able to immerse myself in a whole new world: blogging.
To an extent, I was thrown in at the deep end, without armbands too. I didn’t drown though. With the guidance and expertise of Lyfeproof, I began to navigate the ins and outs of how to write a successful blog. Quickly I came to realise, that there is a lot more behind the words that appear on the final webpage. In the space of a few months, I’d spoken out on the issues I believed deserved a voice, I’d put my thoughts and my opinions out there- albeit somewhat daunting. In the process, writing became both a vehicle for passionate expression as well as a means of inward self-reflection. Often, I’d read or heard people speaking about how writing or rather the writing process is a deeply transformative one, not just for a writer but also the person. Half a year later, I’d happily testify to that and be one of those people. Admittedly, I’ve learnt that I’m ,if anything ,more self-critical than I thought I was. But I’ve also realized where I’ve been missing things, not scoping out the finer details. By no means am I claiming that I’m a changed person-this isn’t one of those turning point life epiphanies. Nothing of the kind. But maybe it comes close. Close in the sense that it has opened my eyes up to who I am in my work and who I perhaps want to be. I’m quite sure that all good writers know who they are and what they want their work to say, but great writers didn’t always know this, they evolve and even then there’s always room to change.

bloggingexperience

A new experience with blogging.

What work experience really looks like…

Most of us at some point have probably had to find work experience because our school has told us it’s compulsory. I don’t speak from experience here, but for many, it’s a quick dash to a local charity shop or a phone call to your best friend’s brother who happens to own a dentist surgery. Personally, the whole concept of work experience is pretty self-explanatory. You experience the real workplace, in an area that may well end up being your calling in life, but if not, at least you can cross that one of a very long list. It was only in an attempt to find such a work placement or volunteering position, that I stumbled across a request for bloggers and writers while scrolling through Doit.org. In a tentative computer click, I registered my interest in the post. A few days later, my inbox told me that Lyfeproof wanted to see a piece of my work and have me come for an ‘interview’(I say this loosely because the team were so incredibly lovely I ended up forgetting about that part). There was no major interrogation, no attempts to catch out the incredibly nervous 16-year old writer. Instead, I was greeted by a diverse office of people, all sharing their journeys that somehow lead to Lyfeproof- and a diverse office it most certaintly is. Throughout my time at Lyfeproof, I’ve been introduced to performers, writers, graphic designers, event organisers and animators -to name a few. You never really know who’s going to walk through the door and honestly, I love that. For me, that’s what a real workplace is all about. Of course, there are periods where deadlines need to be met, where Lyfeproof is organising countless events such as creative networking and it’s fairly hectic, to say the least. But, my workplace experience at Lyfeproof has been characterised by meeting new people, networking and quite frankly being ready to introduce myself to the next exciting person that happens to come in.

creative work experience

It was the kind of work experience I had been looking for

There are always new people to meet

If my friends and family had to describe me they would probably say that I have a tendency to be quite introverted -when I want to that is. As someone considering a career in writing, journalism and reporting, having the skills to regularly encounter, approach and work with new people is near to a must on the job spec. For me, this was one of those times where my shyness in other situations somehow now didn’t really exist. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to talk to anyone and everyone. I wanted to voice the concerns, thoughts and ideas that were my own and my generations. As you can see, I had a lot of very big ambitions, which with Lyfeproof I’ve somehow managed to fulfil for the most part. During a three month period, I happened to be involved with an NCS social action project aiming to break down misconceptions about the homeless and raise awareness for the growing issue. We were looking for people, who have witnessed and really witnessed what living on the streets means. I also wanted to find out what some of the biggest barriers are that stand in our way to solving this crisis. I put this to Lyfeproof and through them made contact with Angela Hunt, the founder of Sunday Breakfast Club. I’d now done my first interview as it were and used this to form the basis of one of my personal favourite pieces to write. In addition to this, Angela was kind enough to take part in our sleep out event and gave enlightening talks which tackled the reality of homelessness today. These were the kinds of people I’d been hoping to meet and the kinds of stories I was adamant needed telling. Personally, this is what writing is all about and with Lyfeproof, I’ve been able to do just that and more.

Maybe I can survive in the real world?

People always tell you that as a teenager or young adult,, you’ve got it pretty good. We don’t have to have a job, we don’t have to pay the bills and we essentially don’t have to face up to the harsh realities of this real world. Sometimes it is easy to feel like you’re living in what I can only describe as a bubble. Well, in a matter of minutes, Lyfeproof very much so popped that bubble. But I don’t resent them for it-I’m extremely grateful. I haven’t learnt how to become a better writer, I have learnt how to become a better writer that and take that skill and passion into as I keep coming back to the real world. Though attempts are made, education doesn’t really prepare you for much beyond the restraints of a textbook or a course syllabus- and if it does, how much really and I mean really went in? Lyfeproof, has in bits and pieces, shared with me invaluable advice and guidance from: exploring career options, maintaining a healthy mind and understanding how business operates. 6 months later, I won’t deny that I’m still very much scared of what will or won’t happen in the next few years. But Lyfeproof has reassured me that this often feared uncertainty is both normal and actually kind of exciting. More so, with the right knowledge, awareness and support, this real world just may not be as bad as everyone makes out.

real life experience

The experience has taught me a lot about coping in today’s society.

It’s quite strange to think that not long ago that I didn’t even know who Lyfeproof were, what they did and how I could fit into the amazing work they do. I was just a Year 12 student, who in her 16 years, had developed somewhat of an affinity towards writing. Now, I’m still a Year 12 student, with the same love of writing, except what I’ve learnt in my time at Lyfeproof, I hope has changed me completely- and I’m 17 as well. As I continue my time at Lyfeproof, growing as both a writer and young adult, I have come to realise that I’m not just getting a period of work experience: I’m getting life experience.

Written by Tiah Shepherd

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people.

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

Arts4Lyfe:The Motive:A new kind of networking

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Hosted at Cielo Café on the 4th April, Arts4Lyfe’s first of many monthly networking events got underway, with a diverse range of gifted, innovative,  and emerging creatives showcasing their skills. So what happens when the paint meets its canvas ? When a melody finds its lyrics? Imagine, a room full of realisations, where you’ve finally found the writer your story needs, the beat you’ve been trying to find a voice for or the passion you think you have been missing. Over the course of the evening, it was realisations like this that inspired a collective. In its debut,  Arts4Lyfe:The Motive has definitely made its mark.

‘I was surprised but pleasantly surprised’.

During the evening, the performances covered all areas of what being creative truly means. There were passionate rappers, energetic actors and talented artists all eager to share their latest project. Admittedly, both attendees and organisers were overwhelmed by what they heard, saw and witnessed. Perhaps what this proved, was that no one really knew how much talent or how much creativity was present in Birmingham and the Black Country. But now we do know, isn’t it time we both showcased it and shared it? It’s events like this which celebrate the creatives of tomorrow. They connect these up-and-coming performers and artists to other people like them. For some, they’d hit a dead end in their latest project but now they’ve met someone that’s given them a new route to explore. For others, a quirky collaboration awaits (a violinist is set to create new music together with a grime artist). Whatever the result, it’s about the collaboration, the connection and in turn possibilities that arise when creatives come together.

networking events

The networking event will run monthly.

Getting from A to B with networking

In amongst lively performances, inspiring exhibitions and the exchanging of contact details, Arts4Lyfe:The Motive did more. Passionate speakers also attended, answering questions and sharing invaluable knowledge as experts in their creative field. Beyond that they inspired. One budding actress shared her thoughts: “I liked talking to the speakers because they gave me advice of who I can speak to further my acting”. Its safe to say that the creative industry is by no means an easy one to navigate, but knowing the do’s and don’ts can really make it all the less daunting for any creative starting out.

BACK OF FLYERnetworking

How networking can help you as a creative.

A different kind of motive…

For many that attended, it was the first time they had experienced youth networking like this. Here is where the problem lies. That’s where Arts4Lyfe comes in. They aim to change the way young people access growth, resilience and progress. In doing so, events like this will no longer be just a one off. As one audience member expressed, you just don’t get a lot of this these days”. But, the truth is, that when such opportunities are made available, we as young people want to fully immerse ourselves in a venture that could take us to new levels. An evidently diverse creative scene is right on our doorsteps, so maybe it’s just about opening people’s eyes to it- even if that is just for two and a half hours. With Arts4Lyfe:The Motive, the outcomes truly are limitless.

Arts4Lyfe:The Motive takes place on the first Wednesday of every month in Sandwell and we are looking to expand to Dudley and Walsall.

Written by Tiah Shepherd. 

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.  

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people. 

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

 

 

 

 

Calling all creatives!

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Is this you?

Are you a budding performer looking for a stage to showcase your latest piece? An aspiring film maker, keen to premiere your most recent blockbuster? A passionate artist, with a new master piece that you want to exhibit? If you’re creative, in whatever shape, form and outlet this may take, Arts4Lyfe: The Motive wants you. If you’re not quite sure of how to get your vision off the ground, this is your chance to collaborate and build a team.If you haven’t quite found the art form that really excites you, this is your chance to get inspired.In our monthly meetupsthat have the aim of bringing like minded creatives together, these networking events, could be the ideal opportunity for you to get your creation and your passion out there.

creatives meetup

Creatives can showcase their work. 

Perhaps you’re in a scenario similar to this. You’re a creative. You have something to share-but maybe it needs the innovation and talents of others. You might also lack the knowledge of how to really ‘make’ it in this industry-after all, school doesn’t really teach you these skills. That’s where we come in. Arts4Lyfe is driven by giving young people the chance to both present their work while at the same time hear from expert professionals. Collectively, it is hoped that this can and will only enhance you as a creative, in a frankly tough industry. But, it’s an industry that you certainly shouldn’t give up on, especially when The Creative Industries Federation Chief Executive has stressed that these industries “will be as important to future economic success as traditional industries, such as cars or oil and gas”.

So, whether you need a stage to fill, a catwalk to model, or a screen to project, we’ll sort that, all we need from you is your passion and a positive mindset. 

So, if you need creative talent or want like minded people to grow a project with, this is the place. Fill in this form to perform or exhibit your art form.

Written By Tiah Shepherd.

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.  

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people. 

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

 

 

passion creatives

Get Motivated at Arts4lyfe Monthly Meetups

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The Motive – Monthly Networking for Creatives.

Lyfeproof develops an additional platform to get life ready in creative ways.

Breaking into the arts is tough, especially in such a competitive working world. You’ll hear countless advice that stresses the importance of ‘standing out’. But with education, apprenticeships and job prospects clogging up free time this can be a tricky task. Arts4Lyfe is our programme that uses the arts to develop the right skills and mentalities for tomorrow’s world.

 

A4L Monthly Creative Networking Green

Networking is perhaps one of the best ways to ‘stand out’ and build up your status with other creatives working in the field. For this reason, Arts4lyfe is hosting a series of monthly networking events to help anyone who is looking to break into the creative industry.

 

 

This month we’ll be meeting at Café Cielo in West Brom on the 4th April with the theme of:

#opportunities.

From visual to performing arts; from film-making to make-up artistry we invite you all to this free, friendly and exciting event. With live performances and a panel of experts from the creative industry, this is an unmissable opportunity to meet new people, share ideas and most importantly to get networking and building your career prospects in the arts. There will even be a chance for creative call out opportunities – where requests for collaboration, creative skills, team members and mentors can be made.

 

TAG A CREATIVE gif

So if you need creative talent or want like minded people to grow a project with, this is the place. Fill in this form to perform or exhibit your art form.

This is your chance to stand out among the crowd and exhibit your art form among peers.

Don’t miss out. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more information.

 

Written by: Phoebe Kelly

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.  

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people. 

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

 

Forget everything you think you knew about homelessness

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Arguably, at a crisis point, homelessness conversations are on the rise, but what are people’s misconceptions of it? If any. After meeting and discussing the enormity of the issue with Angela Hunt who is the founder of SBC (Sunday Breakfast Club) an independent outreach project that seeks to provide both a hot and valuable meal as well as a listening ear to those sleeping rough ,Tiah Shepherd considers what this meeting revealed to her about what in fact is the reality of the situation. 

homlessness and rough sleepers

According to the recent figures surrounding homelessness around 4,751 people are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night(Homeless Link).

We see the news reports, listen to the pleas for donations and most likely see at least one example on our way to school, work and noticeably Birmingham City Centre. Many of us may think we understand what it is, what’s being done to relieve the situation and what we perhaps all should be doing to help. Before I sat down to talk about homelessness with SBC founder Angela Hunt, I didIn just under 60 minutes, Angela managed to if not completely reform and remodel my outlook on the issue, an outlook I think we all need to as she stressed ‘open our eyes to’.

Misconception #1: Someone is homeless for 1 of 3 reasons: Drugs, dropout, delinquent.

Maybe we’re not entirely wrong in labelling the man or woman we pass outside the Bullring, begging from an old Costa cup as a drug user. Considering figures from Homeless Link reporting that from 2,590 responses from people using services in 19 areas across England, 39% said they take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem and 27% have or are recovering from an alcohol problem. So, perhaps the odd £5 they happen to receive from the one person that decides to stop, will feed their addiction. But, where we are wrong, is supposing that every homeless person is now asking for our change because they spent all of their own on getting their next fix. I’m being lenient with people here, myself included. By supposing, what I really mean is judging. As Angela rightly emphasised, it is inherently within us to judge others and crucially ‘it’s always the negative’ that we see- homelessness more times than not finds itself on the receiving end of this. In turn, this has given way to a collective disregard, a disregard for the countless other routes that someone may have found themselves on, routes that lead them to call the streets their home. We can’t keep dismissing this, not when Crisis reports that people sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence, not when Mental Health Foundation finds that 32% of single homeless people reported a mental health problem and not when people like Angela have seen and heard the stories of as she calls them the real ‘road lovelies’(this being one of Angela’s many attempts to rebrand how the homeless are viewed). 

Approaches to homelessnes

Different approaches are necessary to help combat homelessness.

Misconception #2: You can solve everything with a cuppa.

You probably feel as though you’ve done your bit, if you can recall a time you decided to do something for a homeless person. A time where you’ve given a rough sleeper something to eat, or bought them a cup of tea-why wouldn’t you, feel like quite the good Samaritan after this? How would you feel though, if you knew they’d thrown away that half a sandwich you couldn’t finish, that leftover from your meal out, that cuppa even? What Angela repeatedly reiterated to me, was that, it’s this kind of ‘stick a band-aid on it’ approach, that many adopt. That it is this approach, which is stopping us from making any real forward movements. The effort is being put on what we think people want- not what they need. What if I told you, that they don’t want your food, money even? What they actually want costs you nothing. From what I can see,there is somewhat of a divide between the homed and the homeless, when in reality we’re only a step away from being where they are and vice a versa. The way to unify these two ‘sides’?

Talking.

For most and must I emphasise genuine rough sleepers, the last sort of interaction they had with someone else may not have been for days or even longer. Angela has recognised this, seeking to address it in her concise yet more than powerful 3 C’s approach: community, connections, cuppa( but the difference here is the cuppa is optional). Through talking with our fellow citizens, we can establish how to support them, we can make them feel like their not the stigma that deems them worthless and we can ascertain their real needs: not assume them.

Misconception#3:The problem’s just too big.

Some people might think that there are certain things that cannot be fixed. That some issues are simply beyond the point of being helped. And if this is the case, there is no point doing anything. This is potentially what has happened where homelessness is concerned. Sitting down with Angela gave me the chance to understand and acknowledge homelessness for all that it has come to be. Admittedly, this understanding was merely adequate, limited by my own failure to expand it. It’s not like homelessness wasn’t, isn’t and indeed, will not be something I only see from a news report. Instead, homelessness is right on my doorstep-it’s on the whole of Birmingham’s doorstep. As the second city, Birmingham is ranked 25th nationally for homelessness and Shelter says that 1 out of 88 people in the city are homeless. With this is mind, there’s no way for us to ignore it. So why does it feel like we’re trying to? Or is this feeling, really a culmination of our own inability to see what actually can be done? Optimistically, I want to say the latter.

Doing something for homelessness

There’s a lot that can be done for homelessness. 

By no means am I condemning those of you that have made a conscientious choice to stop on your journey and give whatever change you can find in the bottom of your purse. I’m certainly not advocating that you don’t offer a cup of tea, to someone you think needs it more than you. More so, what I took from my conversation with Angela is that she isn’t either. What I did take away and what hopefully I’m translating to you, is that we can all play our part, but the way we do so possibly needs re-thinking. Like many other issues society is facing, there is undoubtedly always going to be more than one approach we wish to take. However, we must first recognize that there is something that can be done, that’s not beyond us. And if you can’t see this consider the fact that Angela’s 5-year old grandson volunteers with his Grandma on a Sunday morning of SBC .So really where’s the rest of our excuses? Equally, you don’t have to vow to end homelessness- the truth is you couldn’t on your own anyway. But, there’s definitely a middle ground.

In keeping with her many awesome hashtags, I took a particular liking to Angela’s #inmypocket initiative. Explaining this, she urges people to think about what they could fit in their pocket, that they could potentially offer to a homeless person that would massively appreciate them. A Mars bar, a pair of socks, sanitary towels. An odd combination yes, but by no means could such overlooked things go such a long way. Beyond that there’s the obvious- volunteer with people like Angela and outreach projects like SBC. As I listened to her explain a recent holistic pamper day she put on, offering haircuts, shaves and all round pampering for her road lovelies, I was both inspired and a little surprised at first. It showed me that it’s not all about soup kitchens but is about making a connection with someone. It’s about getting people together in order to link them to the help that is available and it’s about just doing something kind because you can.

Homelessness approaches

Anyone can do something to help the homelessness crisis.

So, maybe next time you pass someone homeless, your first thought this time won’t be, ‘druggie’. Maybe, next time you notice someone sleeping rough you’ll ask if they want whatever it may be you’re offering. Maybe, next time it will be you giving up your time and compassion for someone who will appreciate it more than you even realise. There are no guarantees, but there is the potential, for all of us to better the lives of those living on the streets of Birmingham. 

Written by Tiah Shepherd.

For more information about the amazing work that Angela does check out the following link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1910305109216960/

 

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mind-set. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.  

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people. 

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

Could my ‘gender identity’ stop me from getting a job?

By | Blog, Young People's Blogs | No Comments

Transgender and other gender identity statuses are important to more and more young people. Finding and keeping a job can be affected by many things. Tiah Shepherd, a 16-year-old student in her first year of A-Level studies, reflects on equality in the workplace following her first paid job.

Is the workplace even safe anymore?

Working hard and being yourself may not be enough …

As we move into 2018, on the verge of what many would describe as great change for the world as we know it, I find myself questioning if all things have evolved as they appear to be. It’s something that once was shunned, disputed and challenged. Or should I say still is. Today, I am not limited by my female sex, as it stands biologically or outwardly. If I wanted to, I could identify as transgender, meaning that as the BBC explains in a guide to transgender and gender identity terms my gender is different from my “assigned” sex at birth – that written on my birth certificate. Equally, I could tell people that I am non-binary, meaning that I am in fact neither female nor male.

Gender identity matters to young people

Many would argue we have reached a point where this sense of individual, autonomous freedom is widely accepted, celebrated even. But maybe this acceptance is a lot more feigned that many us would like to think.It is, what I have witnessed  first-hand, as a sister to an openly transgender brother, far from genuinely being, a notion, a choice, a right, that is acknowledged positively in many significant aspects of daily life.

So, was I shocked to discover that according to Totaljobs , 53% of trans employees have felt the need to hide their trans status from colleagues? Sadly, no. Was I then shocked to find that the survey also stated 60% have experienced some form of transphobic discrimination in the workplace? Undoubtedly, yes. It is evident, that in spite of most people’s attempts to make universal acceptance a reality, this isn’t the case for society. Again this sadly does not surprise me. But what does, is that the world of work is not that safe for people to be themselves. Somewhere, that as a professional environment, I believed was protected from the disparities that hinder the prospects of others. The workplace for me, as a young person dipping my feet into gradually is a place where your contribution to an enterprise or organisation is what both defines who you are and how others perceive you. By no means should gender affect this.

Something for everyone

More than just male and female…

I’m not trans. I’m not gender fluid. I openly identify with what in the simplest sense, health forms, surveys, and quite frankly what public restrooms constitute as female.  I am the girl with the skirt on the door.

Young people explore their gender identity

So, what is my issue here? The important thing to bear in mind is that the often coined ‘umbrella’ of terms, now used to convey one’s gender, is where more so than ever, the younger generation find a safe place to belong. When my brother began his transition more than a year ago, I was like most people, who were to a degree roughly familiar with what ‘being trans’ meant. What I didn’t know, also like most people, was actually how much more there was to it. Lyfeproof exists to support young people and of course, this support stretches to all young people. And ‘all’ really means a lot nowadays as emphasised by the sheer number of articles, explorations and explanations offered by organisations such as Stonewall. Ranging from Cisgender (or Cis), where someone’s gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth (that’s most of you reading in fact), through to ‘aporagender’ a fairly new word stemming from the Greek ‘apor’, meaning ‘separate’, where one has  “a gender separate from male, female and anything in between” while still having a very strong and specific gendered feeling.

To me, it’s my social peers, my equivalents, my friends, who are increasingly choosing to consider their gender identity in a way that is clearly not bound to the two options, science, history, and rather practicalities limit us to. The thing is,  it’s also these people, that are the pioneers of what is to come. Young people are more than ready and eager to enhance the industries, the research and ultimately the thinking that continue to change and progressively better all our futures.

But, will they even be given the opportunity to do so? That is largely unclear, when the same Totaljobs report disclosed that more than one quarter (29%) have faced discrimination as early as the interview stage. I distinctly remember hearing my brother talk about his previous employer and I say distinctly because what he revealed was worth me remembering, perhaps for the wrong reasons: ‘I was purposely made to clean the female toilets and both my boss and my colleagues refused to call me by my chosen name and  instead I was addressed by my former female name, even though they explicitly knew of my trans status’. Workplace discrimination because of gender identity in the workplace

 

 Its all about change

Embracing gender identity in the workplace…

There are many more examples like my brother’s, which is my issue. In today’s climate, where finding work is only becoming more difficult for job seekers – particularly for those that Lyfeproof seeks to engage – transgender discrimination is yet another unjustified reason to refuse their employment. Thankfully, there are many instances where action is being taken to combat this downright depreciative denial. In the UK’s Gender Recognition Act of 2004 and the 2010 Equality Act, discrimination based on gender identity is officially recognized as unacceptable. Many large companies are beginning to develop zero-tolerance approaches to discrimination. There’s even a book by Jennie Kermode (Chairperson of Trans Media Watch – a charity encouraging positive media representations of the transgender community), called Transgender Employees in the Workplace giving employers guidelines for maintaining a fully inclusive workplace.

Gender identity in the workplace

But whether our businesses, companies and franchises, will and are following such suggestions I am not too sure of.  What I am sure of, is that a job opportunity should at least be there. Importantly, it should exist as a result of their skills and passions; where as far as I am aware gender, has no bearing on your capabilities. Especially, where meeting the job spec is concerned.

 

Written by Tiah Shepherd.

 

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mindset. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.  

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people. 

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.

One Small Step for a Student… One Giant Leap Towards the Future!

By | Blog, Team Blogs | No Comments

For many, starting university includes moving away from the family home and supporting themselves entirely. Often that means finding a job, but for some, like myself, becoming entangled in a rigid, inflexible paid job during this stressful time is not the most practical or effective plan for doing well in our degrees.

But without a paid job under our belts, how are we supposed to gain experience in the career that we wish to pursue?

Note to Self-Number 3 billion and 1:

Expect the Unexpected

Volunteering offers a route into the world of workVolunteering was an idea given to me by my mother’s friend, who had recently taken up an opportunity through DO-IT: a brilliant and ridiculously easy to use website if you are considering a volunteer role. It was an option that appealed to me for a variety of different reasons, one of which being the flexibility. With university looming, I knew that my spare time would dwindle to perhaps a few scattered hours per week; certainly not enough to satisfy an employer. Through volunteering I now am able to balance the work from the role alongside my other responsibilities, both at home and in terms of my education.

What I didn’t expect, however, was how much becoming a Lyfeproof blogger would teach me about the basic and specialised skill sets necessary for pursuing a career of your choice.

 

Note to Self-Number 3 billion and 2:

Just because you studied Creative Writing A-level doesn’t mean you are ‘a writer’

Although the government likes to believe that education prepares us for the harsher and more brutal realities of the world, the truth is it doesn’t. Here at Lyfeproof, the team are providing opportunities for young people to cross that cavernous gap from education to work.

Lyfeproof Help Bridge the Gap Between Education and EmployabilityAlthough they do not build the bridge for you, they would never leave you with only rotten rope to swing across. They allow you to stumble and make mistakes, and they provide the safety net if you fall. Volunteering at Lyfeproof allows my imagination to thrive and has helped my restless mind to hone the necessary skills that employers look for.

Volunteering isn’t all about skills to make your CV look shiny (although it does help). It’s about a sense of personal achievement, a confidence boost that we all need to take that first step into the world beyond education.

Before becoming a volunteer here, I had no means of getting my writing out there and honestly didn’t believe that I ever would be able to. I lacked the confidence in myself and I will admit that I still do to a certain extent. Despite only volunteering with Lyfeproof for a short time, they have given me the opportunity to begin building my own bridge over a crevasse I never thought I’d be able to cross. Just by writing this blog, I have an opportunity to prove to myself that I am capable, something that my creative writing A-level never could do.

 

Note to self-3 billion and 3:

Give a Little, Learn a Lot

Volunteering sets you up with the life skills that are needed to go far, the kind of skills that Lyfeproof are trying to make more accessible to young people like you and me. But you might be reading this now wondering why you’d want to volunteer for free when you can gain experience through a job that pays a wage. Understandably, it is not something that will suit everyone as many young people would rather have the money as well as the training. For me, volunteering can offer training in jobs that are perhaps a little out of reach for us young, inexperienced adults. A paid job for someone straight out of college or sixth form doesn’t often lead into a career, or help you start building for one.

If I hadn’t taken up this voluntary position, getting professional writing experience meant I would have had to travel to London for a few weeks of work experience, a journey that would have been very costly and would have only supplied a large burst of knowledge in a short space of time. This is not a learning style that suits me and it was a comfort to come into an environment with people that actually understand young people.

Lyfeproof have instead given me the opportunity to learn and retain the information. Instead of criticising mistakes and failures like school sometimes seems to do, the Lyfeproof team will nurture your skills so that they can be moulded and shaped into something small but permanent that you can carry in your pocket, sound in the knowledge that nobody will ever be able to take that away from you.

Finding Your 'Why' in Life

Note to Self 3 Billion and 4:

You haven’t finished finding your ‘why’ in life just yet…

So no, you will not be paid in cash for volunteering. Instead, you’ll be rewarded with something much more valuable.

You’ll earn the skills that will boost your CV and in the process, gain greater confidence in yourself while being exposed to a working environment that might not be so different from the one you will find yourself in for your career.

 

Written by Phoebe Kelly

 

Lyfeproof – Finding creative ways to get young people life ready. Particularly through mindset. We explain things that help you move forward in life or prevent negative outcomes. We create experiences and invite people to join. We share knowledge across sports, arts, sciences, financial literacy, employability mental health & wellbeing.

Our Vision: Imagine a world where people understand their brains enough to make better decisions, then imagine fully understanding money to never be at its mercy; now thread both with individual and collective purpose so that poverty and disadvantage can be overcome for generations to come.  

Our Mission: Lyfeproof works to help young people towards well being. We aim to do this by what you see (online experiences with us), or what you feel (our events, workshops or programmes).

Our Intuition: We believe in sharing things that are proven to work for different people. 

If you care enough to share and would like to blog for Lyfeproof, please email info@Lyfeproof.co.uk, using “I want to Blog for Lyfeproof” as the subject header. We appreciate you all.