Chris Randall, Performance Coach, Haringey
How did you know about abob?
I knew a couple of men who were involved. They chatted to me about what abob do and it just seemed perfectly suited to what I was looking for at that time; the opportunity to develop myself and be of service to my local community was a huge attraction. I’ve always been aware of what’s going on in Haringey like the gangs and the stabbings, but I’d felt impotent to make a change. Abob gave me a means to step up and be involved in a positive way.
How was the rites of passage weekend for you?
I did it a year ago. It was freezing, it snowed and I loved every minute of it. I’d never been in a group of men where I could share shameful personal information and be witnessed, accepted and not judged. That was huge for me. It was my first real feeling of brotherhood and love from and for men in this way.
Did you become a mentor?
In Haringey, as well as the work with under 25s, we also invite more mature men involved in the criminal justice system to do the rites of passage weekends alongside the young men. They act as a bridge (when needed) between the mentors and the young men in Haringey and put a friendly arm around them literally and metaphorically.
They also go through the mentoring. I mentored one of the “uncles.” It was incredibly challenging, and I learnt a huge amount. I found out I really had no idea what men like this go through in their daily lives and mentoring this man introduced me to the awful reality. When there’s substance abuse, trying to turn up on time is almost impossible, there are so many other priorities. And the unemployment and what that means for their daily lives in terms of how to make money to live. I had to go through this experience for me to face up to the practicalities of these men’s lives. And then look at how abob can help to bridge that gap.
Those of us mentoring formed a mentor support group which helped enormously. Also, taking a very pragmatic approach to what was possible to achieve. Our work is to support these uncles and the young men to becoming more responsible for their own lives. It is their journey to go on and find a way through and our role is to support them in their decisions and choices.
How big is the weekly circle in Haringey?
There are around 12 men who come regularly but this can often swell to 20 because we have around 40 men on our books. We’re talking at present about how to encourage young men to come, and this will mean creating roles for the older mentor men to engage much more closely with the places young men congregate in Haringey.
As an example, we’re forming better links with care leavers, boxing gyms and sports coaches (alongside existing relationships with probabtion) in the borough so that we can reach out to men in this way. We also want to develop an ongoing relationship with one housing estate in Tottenham.
Everything we do is linked to a clear intention to put the needs of the young men in Haringey first, and how we can do that in a way that also supports the needs of the wider community.
How do you see the future for Haringey abob?
We’ve just spent the last 6 months getting really clear on our vision for Haringey abob; over the next 2 years we want to engage much more closely with the young men in the borough, become much more agile and fast moving in the way that we support those young men and also draw into the mentor process as many of the local businesses and business leaders as possible.
Personally, I want to see a future where local employers in London choose to employ abob young men, because they are the best candidates for the job – irrespective of any criminal record they may have incurred in the past. That’s one of my intentions for the future. I want the young men to believe that they can fulfill whatever potential they wish.