Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Living the T-shirt

Day 7 (Wednesday 7th December 2016)

7 young adults graduated from High School in Iowa -
they are the world's first surviving set of septuplets and the first 
to reach maturity, the McCaugheys. Born on 19th November 1997,
the 4 boys (Kenneth Jr. Brandon, Natahn and Joel) and 3 girls
(Alexis, Natalie and Kelsey) were born at 31 weeks, 
weighing between 2 lbs 5 oz. and 3 lbs 4 oz.
Picture by Rachel Mummy, The Registrar

Today's piece is contributed by Gavan Burdan, the Managing Director of Burden Dare - an executive search and interim management business. You can reach him on Twitter via @burdendare. Gavan lives in Sevenoaks and is a passionate supporter of the local cricket team, Sevenoaks Vine CC, where he chairs the Management Committee and, when asked, still plays for the Old Vines (the Club's over 40's team). He cares about society and the people in it - he is a mentor supporting individuals down on their luck in London (but more of that to follow). Gavan commenced his career in Retail Banking (we are both Lloyds alumni - although not there at the same time). He transferred into consulting and has not looked back.

Gavan's piece is in some ways a tough read. It is for those who have a moral conscience and a realistic outlook. I find it interesting that this is one of a number of posts in the Advent Blog series this year that touches on society, our awareness of others, ethics and making the world better by understanding and being there for others. Gavan is one of those who has been prepared to put himself out, but it is clear that he gains and learns, as do those he interacts with. He is an all-round good egg (and a devoted dad to boot).


Living the T-shirt 

I’ve lost count of the number of business courses I’ve been on: NLP’s folded arms, Myers Briggs’ types, Kübler-Ross’ denial, Johari’s double glazing, Hetrzberg’s Jelly Beans, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – I’ve got all the T shirts!

This year I learned how they work in the cold, hard, real world that you and I live in.

I joined a private members club with a conscience in central London; it has a mission to break the cycle of homelessness by means of an employment academy that provides basic skills training to help get homeless people back into sustainable employment.

The Academy team are simply awesome, to a person; they regularly win awards and depend on the club for income.

You should join up.

The people they help don’t have even bread, but they want to be JAMS; they always need mentors to “just be there” for their graduates - I’ve now had two mentees.

The first was a young guy, disowned by his family, no job, no prospects, no real home and no real hope. After graduation, which is a truly magical ceremony sprinkling stardust over the really disadvantaged, he found a part-time job. For him, this was the first step back on the ladder back to our world, and then Christmas came along – always a hard time for those on the breadline – and I never saw or heard from him again; I felt hollow, I can’t really imagine how he felt. I don’t know where he is now, but I heard he is alive.

My second mentee was born in the UK and moved to the USA when 3 months old; he’s 34 now and was deported a year ago back to the UK, it doesn’t matter why but he knows he messed up.  He arrived with a T shirt, a pair of “pants”, trainers with no laces and a spine held together by tungsten plates. He was sent to live in a rat infested dilapidated house in Croydon and immediately received an eviction notice, at the same time as Universal Credit cut his benefits. I’d never seen anyone look so disengaged and sound so desperate. So alone, in a world he neither knew nor understood.
He could only afford to eat one 69p Iceland pizza a day.

For three months he talked, he denied, he got depressed, I listened, and Johari’s window began to open; his arms unfolded, we drank fruit juice and he ate beans and fruit, he smiled, he was bargaining; it became crystal clear that he needed to sleep without fearing eviction, to wake up without wet lips and wondering why?

We got him moved into a social housing enterprise in Kentish Town, a room of his own, with a key, in a big house with others. For the first time in 5 years he slept all night. Maslow clapped.

We sat side by side at a benefits tribunal, with a judge judging and a doctor interrogating him. He was passionate, he doesn’t want benefits or pizza. He wants help. We got it.
A few weeks later he got a part time job at Old Spike Roastery (you should buy your coffee there), an agonising trip across London that torments his spine– but he wants to do it, you see he wants to be like you and me; he’s jumped and grabbed Hertzberg’s Jelly Beans, now he wants JAM. He has a big heart.

He sends me texts every day, he keeps thanking me (what have I done...all I did was be there, and say what I thought - you could do that too), he does the hard yards; he keeps checking, we keep talking, now he listens, he’s full of ideas, he has dreams – and he thinks he could probably work a full week.

He’s accepted his lot. Next year he may even be accepted. Some high!
Happy Christmas Dr Kübler-Ross.

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