One of my main motivations for working in the charity sector is to do my best to help people reach their full potential and be who they want to be.
It wasn’t until perhaps adulthood that I finally seemed to find my own voice and confidence in knowing who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do professionally. As a child, I constantly succumbed to peer pressure and familial pressure on the kind of person I should be, what I should study, and who I should aspire to become.
With hindsight, I think just gaining confidence and maturity were important, but I was also lucky to come across people who saw something in me and encouraged me, whether they knew it or not.
Sometimes, all it takes is that one person to have confidence in you and show you what’s possible. Even if I may not actually always meet the people I try to help, I went into charity work because I realised that I wanted to be that source of hope for others — a voice for the voiceless or for those who have had their voice taken away from them.
I paid very little attention, if any, to charities when I was younger. I hated sponsored events at school because I don’t come from a family that pays much attention to charities. But, the constant was that I always hated just letting things be without questioning why and how these things came to exist. I also never felt like I fitted in and felt alone a lot of the time.
Ironically, it took my original ‘well thought-out’ plans not entirely going to plan for me to get here. I didn’t get my first choice of A-Level subjects because of timetabling problems, so I switched to Politics from History — and learnt all about how government can be both a force for good and a serious threat to equality. I completed an internship with a big company that turned out to be a terrible personal experience that completely put me off a corporate career, and confirmed that the part of my mind that was saying “maybe you should consider another sector” was probably right.
As a fairly independent and stubborn — but also lonely and shy — child, sometimes all I wanted was to be free and ‘follow my dreams’, whatever that meant in my young mind. The characters in the many books I read seemed to be able to do what they want. People on TV seemed to be able to do what they want.
What these people have in common is the availability of opportunity and support.
I am lucky to come from a background where — whilst not upper-class — I was able to pursue further education without having to make any major, life-changing sacrifices. I was lucky to have had access to opportunities to try out charitable work, even if, at the time, I still had no idea what I wanted to do. I was lucky to have gained experience in charities that allowed me to see how I could make a difference whilst also granting me the freedom to be my own person — to be free and follow my dreams.
I am increasingly aware that this is not the reality for many people, especially children from marginalised, disadvantaged, and minoritised ethnic backgrounds. It took other people paving the way and having faith in me for me to be able to pursue some sense of my dream and aiming towards my full potential. Since I have the passion and knowledge to try to be that source of light for other people, I want to do so, and I will.
I have had plenty of experiences of discrimination, but I have also been able to build a solid support system and overcome some of those obstacles. I couldn’t possibly imagine the struggles of facing discrimination and abuse every day with no support at all. The fact that I can’t possibly imagine what this kind of life would be like is also the exact reason why I am pursuing charity work — I want as few people to be able to imagine this reality as possible.
Far too many people are unable to follow their dreams because of discrimination, limited resources, and entrenched inequality.
I still don’t have an exact idea of where I will be in twenty years, but I know that it will have something to do with making a difference for other people, and that I will be fortunate in having comparatively few struggles in my way.
Working with JAN Trust lets me pursue my dreams by speaking up for those who can’t pursue their dreams because they have nowhere to turn and are being discriminated against. Charity work can be tiring and isn’t always glamorous, but, at the end of the day, I know I’m making a difference and contributing towards something bigger.