Rehna. Youth worker and mentor.
Rehna is a Youth and Community Worker at Lindley Educational Trust. Lindley, along with Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre and The Outward Bound Trust, have been trialling a new 12 month outdoor leadership course for young people from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Rehna is a mentor on the programme which has been sponsored by The North Face.
I am a 26-year-old British Pakistani and for me the outdoors just wasn’t something that we got involved in throughout my childhood. We didn’t go for walks like your average white family or go to a climbing wall, etc. I first got involved in the outdoors through a youth club I attended as a teenager.
My youth worker at the time encouraged me massively to get involved. He took us to the climbing wall, we went on mountaineering trips, took part in the Three Peaks Challenge and went to Morocco to climb Mt Toubkal. I had a huge role model at the time which helped my engagement so much.
Fast forward nine years, I am leading our youth and community project, which enables me to become a role model for many young people within our community. I think when people see someone they can relate to it’s somewhat reassuring to them - that’s how it was for me anyway!
Being a mentor on this course has been a privilege (you can read more about our collaboration with Outward Bound, Shadwell and The North Face here). Building and maintaining relationships and rapport with the young leaders, being someone they can come to at the time of need, even things like helping them fill out a DBS form before their ambassador week, has just been wonderful. Having six young people from BAME backgrounds receiving opportunities that they possibly wouldn’t have otherwise, is life changing. I think our young people have benefitted so much from being on this course. They’ve increased confidence, met new people, been to new places and have then become ambassadors within the wider community. For a group of 15-18-year-olds that’s inspiring if you ask me!
Other young people have seen this lot in their The North Face kit, or seen us waiting at the train station as we were setting off for Ullswater and it really makes them want to be part of something similar. It makes them think “if so and so could do it and they come from … then why can’t we?” Especially when these young people may have come from situations which aren’t exactly the easiest.
Helping parents understand certain parts of the course and why we were doing certain things was a challenge at times but could have been much more difficult if they didn’t already know me and my intentions. Some parents actually said, I’ll only send them because I know you’ll be there and that is reassuring, “I trust you”. I think that’s a big deal, knowing that you’re basically the reason for making it happen for these young people.
Mentoring young leaders during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly brought extra challenges, but also the opportunity to adapt and put some of the skills from the leadership programme into practice. At Lindley, we've seen young people particularly struggle due to this crisis, whether through lack of structure, not seeing friends or not being able to come to youth club.
We very quickly came up with an alternative service plan, ranging from online meetings and engagement to detached youth work out in the community. Lindley along with a partner, Active Communities Network, decided to do some work on upskilling young people around COVID-19 so they can then act as ambassadors within the community. So that is what we did with our young leaders. We have met with them remotely every week to discuss certain areas. We got health professionals on these calls and the group came up with some wonderful questions. Siblings and parents also engaged. We have set them up with infographics and lots of info and they now feel they can help educate the wider society, their friends and families.