#CharityIs helping, sharing and reflecting

Mar 19, 2016

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Aged 17, Jamie Miller became homeless while studying for his A-Levels. Five years later, he’s an apprentice youth worker with V4C, a project working to reach isolated young people in West Kent, and winner of the YMCA Young Achiever of the Year award.

Jamie's remarkable journey has included initiating a now-annual football tournament, which brings together local supported housing units and neighbourhood teams to help hostel residents integrate with the wider community.

Jamie stayed in a few hostels before arriving at West Kent YMCA’s Ryder House, where he would spend the next two years. “My college helped me get in Ryder House because they could see I wasn’t enjoying my life at college and didn’t want me to drop out again, they’d already seen me drop out once because of homelessness,” he explains.

“I didn’t really know where it was, although I’d walked past it a thousand times. I don’t know what clicked there, but I think it was the help of my support worker. The support worker and the people in there helped me because I felt like I could talk to them, I managed to get most of my problems out in the time I was there, which cleared my head up and made me realise that I had to do something.”

Jamie started volunteering with Vehicle 4 Change (V4C) while he prepared to move into independent housing. He’s now midway through a V4C apprenticeship, has his own flat and intends to work with young people throughout his career – maybe even at the same kinds of supported accommodation in which he was once a resident. “If you grab people at a younger age, they’ll be able to change their life for the better. I know the system from the support worker’s point of view and the young person’s point of view, so I think I could give a lot to it,” he says.

"People aren’t aware enough of charities that could help them; they know about the big ones with TV adverts, but not the smaller ones near them that could make a difference.”

Jamie Miller

Part of V4C’s work is engaging young people in bad situations and alerting them to the services available. Youth workers like Jamie use a variety of resources to engage young people in their communities, encouraging them to come up with positive ideas for changes and follow them through.

Jamie, who had only heard of his first hostel through a college fundraising project, says not enough people know about the help available in their communities. “That’s the shocking thing; you don’t hear anything about certain charities,” he says. “People aren’t aware enough of charities that could help them; they know about the big ones with TV adverts, but not the smaller ones near them that could make a difference.”

“To me, the word charity means helping, but also sharing,” says Jamie. “It’s about sharing experiences – because in this line of work, if you haven’t lived it, you’re not going to be able to relate as much. Charity is helping, sharing and reflecting.”

While his experiences in the past help him to connect with young people, he’s careful never to lecture. “I can’t tell them how I did it and say that’s why they can do it. It’s their experience and it’s going to be completely different to mine, even if it’s the same on the outside and I see that they’re doing things I used to do. A lot of them know I used to live in supported accommodation and it helps them feel like they can come to me, but I don’t try and shove it in their face.”

And although Jamie has worked on successful major projects over the past few years, he most treasures the everyday work of helping young people make gradual, positive changes:

“Seeing their development and their happiness and knowing that they can come to me for help, that’s the best bit.”

This blog is part of the #CharityIs campaign to champion the charity sector. Join us as we use the power of social media to highlight how charities improve our daily lives.