Tuesday was one of my life highlights.
I was honoured to be asked to speak at Mosaic, a charity founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007, to share my story from child to now blogger, filmmaker and vlogger.
If you’ve not heard of Mosaic before, they are a truly vital UK charity, offering mentoring programmes which inspire and create opportunities for young people growing up in deprived communities. Their vision is that all children realise their potential.
With the help of volunteer mentors acting as role models, they aim to bridge the aspirations-attainment gap.
By linking young people with inspirational role models they boost their confidence, self-efficacy and long-term employability.
An incredible charity making a huge difference, I was honoured to speak to eighty 9-11 year olds whom were graduating from their primary school programme.
I cried three times, as did most of the adults in the room, as we watched the children give their presentations, and with such poise and confidence- on how they got to that point, feeling they could look people in the eye, more sure than ever of their goals and aspirations, bright eyed and excited about their future.
I heard from mentor Ali Mortimer (below) and her journey on helping the children realise their potential and know their worth, in an ode no less.
Moving and honest, Ali is someone who has supported and inspired her group of children, and they, her.
As she built their confidence with compliment strings, pass it along and compliment your friend, and other activities, they in turn built hers.
Some of her poem:
14 Year 6 girls, St Mathews Primary, Chapel A…
Mosaic the aim, to mentor, encourage, to show the right way..
In the Music Room, all girls, all 10 years old…
To earn their trust, I had to be bold…
I told them about Barry, my bed time bear..
I told them my dreams and of having no fear…
In a big circle, we played the picnic game
And I was totally rubbish at learning everyone’s name!
I left on a high! What a fantastic class, what a start…
A privilege to work with Lucy, Lulu, the girls, play my part..
So now to our lessons, so much fun our hour flew past…
Who remembers Wendy? Our role model for the class?
Qualities and values, we dressed her in post-its until she was done…
Happy, strong, giving, honest and kind, healthy, caring and fun
I learnt all about Nicki Menaj and Fetty Wap
Who inspire you, with talent, style, music and rap..
We learnt about confidence, balance and feelings..
When angry, shocked, lonely, tired, frustrated or sad
Thanks to Lucy we know how to stop feeling so bad…
Draw round your hand, and for each one of your fingers
Do something to change your mood, don’t let it linger…
Eat some chocolate, go for a walk or cuddle your Gran
This really is such a simple and cunning plan!
You can read the rest, and Ali’s experience as a Mosaic mentor, over on her superb blog the ali sandwiches dot com.
…How wonderful do the children look in their caps and gowns (all photos with permission and were taken by Michelle Heseltine of the Image File).
They truly capture the pride and sheer joy of the children, teachers, charity representatives, mentors and parents.
And the words I listened to from the mouths of ‘babes’ was empowering.
One girl declared she wanted to be a midwife after listening to one speak at her school thanks to Mosaic, another a blogger and YouTuber, a taller girl declared with steel she would be an artist, and more.
There, I saw the gleam, the determination of children excited and passionate about their future.
I saw myself in them too, and in my keynote recounted my own story of begging my dad to hire VHS cameras so my brother and I could make films of our own- and I was frank about how I felt different at times, growing up.
There were few role models for me as a child that looked like me, originally a Greek Cypriot.
An ethnic minority family growing up in Ilkley, a quintessentially English town, we might have had a comfortable upbringing but I wasn’t shielded from feelings of being ‘the other’.
I explained how few children or adults who looked like me, were visible in the media growing up, and how that spurred me on to create those unique stories, to become a director, to document the untold and unseen through my work-my short film Rifts and Broken about Cypriot immigrants (which won awards all over the world and accolades from Channel 4 and more)- and which eventually, led me to becoming a full time professional blogger and vlogger.
I kicked off with my showreel and in front of huge projected pictures from my childhood, shared the moments that contributed to where I am today, still on a journey but passionate about my career and what I hope to achieve in the future.
I explained the importance of believe in yourself even when others might doubt you, on the power of ambition, study, academia and life experience.
…I shared my Carpet World style sample worthy monobrow, the fact my Dad would boom Greek music from his car as kids at the school drop off and force Moussaka and meatballs on friends who would simply wanted fish fingers when they came for tea.
I took some of the most intelligent questions from the audience I’ve ever had on how I started my blog, how I deal with negativity and even whether I enjoyed school.
Primary, yes, high school, not so much-sixth form and university YES and YES-the latter, Goldsmiths,University of London where I studied my BA and MA, was undoubtedly the making of me.
…Oh and my eyebrows, they’ve definitely upped their game too.
There was laughter and nods of agreement, and most of all this most tangible, glowingly positive energy in the room.
Giving out certificates and chatting to the children, teachers, and one of the mums too, I couldn’t feel more proud, of every child in that room, and also for the child in me and how far I’d come.
I ended by telling them all, that little people with big dreams who work hard and follow their dreams, can achieve anything.
I tell this to myself and of course my own kids, everyday.
As I left the children were about to go on a tour of the university, hopefully a place they one day will study at.
I left walking on air.
Thank you Mosaic and all the children today.
I can’t wait to return and speak to children in the classroom next year.
If you want to help Mosaic too as a mentor, or to share your story in school, please read about how HERE.
You can also DONATE HERE if you choose too.