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Wed, 05 Jul 17 13:00

Looking after each other

I’m often amazed by the strength and resilience of our young people. The challenges they face today are a world away from the ones we faced ourselves as children.

Today’s reality for our young people is so often a landscape of terror, grief and loss. The horrific attacks in Manchester and London in the last few weeks have driven home the message to us all that terror attacks can happen in any place and at any time.

It’s a lot to take in. Imagine a child seeing the world through this lens for the first time…

The bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, in particular, was a premeditated, targeted attack on our children and young people. It brought it all so close to home.

So you’d think the answer for many would be to pull-up the drawbridge; cancel your plans, don’t venture out, but instead wrap your arms even tighter around your children to keep them safe from harm in what can sometimes seem like a terrible world.

But the way our young people have responded is an inspiration to us all. Far from hiding, the #OneLoveManchester concert was a fantastic coming together of people to remember those we lost and those affected, and to celebrate love and hope. Their message was clear: we won’t be ruled by terror; we’ll continue to lead our lives in an open way.

It’s an example to us all!

Huge numbers watched and listened to the concert last Sunday night – and even more shared their feelings on Twitter and Facebook. Rather than grief, it felt like a great outpouring of hope and determination to not be defined by this atrocity.

And as for Ariana Grande… she’s an inspiration! Before the attack, she was a well-known figure in pop music to most teenagers. She could have become synonymous with the terror attack in the week following the bombing. It could have defined her for the rest of her life. But I believe that this brave 23-year-old will now be remembered for her heroic, humanitarian response to the crisis; by arranging for a public display of love and togetherness – and for raising money for those families affected by the tragedy.

This inspirational response has made me reflect on two things:

  1. We are defined by how we respond in times of crisis
  2. We need regular conversations with our children and young people about how we keep them safe.

And it’s a conversation we have to keep having. We all know that dialogue is central to our working lives; talking about the issues that confront us – in Nottingham we call it ‘the voice of the child’, which ensures our work is focused on the needs of our children and young people.

Using this focus and understanding children’s perspectives is essential. There’s a fantastic webpage set up on CBBC Newsround on how to talk to children about the terror attacks. It’s well worth a read, not least because it reminds us that we must continue to look at these issues from the perspective of our children and young people: What is it like for them? What are they thinking? What are they feeling?

The advice is that these events are rare: but we must all talk about how they make us feel. I believe this applies to everything in our work. It’s the only way we can move forward together.

I was astounded by the offers of support that were offered to people in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in London and Manchester: free taxi rides and lifts home, offers of a safe place to stay or just the use of phone chargers so that people could stay in contact with their families.

Can you imagine what our work with children and families would be like if this amazing ‘coming together’ of support could happen all of the time in our cities and communities? The challenge we all face is how we get the ‘best’ of people at all times without having to have the ‘worst’ of events.

In Nottingham, we’ve worked on a campaign of ‘Looking After Each Other’, which asks everyone to try to do a bit more to help other people – from the small, everyday things like picking up litter or giving up your seat on a bus, to the bigger, life-changing ways of helping others, such as fostering and adoption. Over the course of the campaign we registered an increase in people’s intention to either volunteer or do more to help others. It’s a small step, but one in the right direction.


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