Our latest Thought Piece comes from Aysen, a former member of our income team and someone that continues to be part of the Fight for Peace family as a dear friend, volunteer and supporter. In this piece, Aysen explores the importance of having supportive influences in our early years. She reflects on a sliding doors moment in her own past where someone helped her realise her potential and direction, and shares her experience of how this supportive influence manifests itself at Fight for Peace. 

Newly embarking on my fifth decade, it is with a degree of haze that I think back to my teen years. But it’s hard to forget the key elements of those formative years, which were in no way unique to me, and reflective of the challenges many young people face. 

Battling against the will of parents, who had clear ideas about what they wanted for me, at extreme odds with what I wanted for myself. Cultural dynamics that came with being the daughter of first-generation Cypriot immigrants, at that time. Struggling at school with an undiagnosed learning difficulty, grappling with identity, navigating social dynamics and wanting nothing more than to fit in and feel accepted.  

The setting was a poor London borough at an under-resourced school.  An abundance of nervous energy, I remember having little interest in studying and having no idea or care for what came next.

There was one person who changed things for me. An English Teacher – Miss Lee. As well as teaching the only subject I had any interest in, she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and believed in me in a way that I needed to be believed in. I could talk to her – and felt as though she was on my side.

When I left school and got myself a job as a sales assistant, she came to find me – what was I doing with my life? What was next for me? What were my goals? It was with her encouragement that I enrolled onto a course to continue in education, which led to university and a degree.

This was a game changer for me. There were so many reasons not to go to college, it would have been the most natural thing in the world, and no one else would have questioned it. I have a lot to thank her for. Sadly, Miss Lee passed away before I could realise and express that gratitude. Working with Fight for Peace over the past eight months has brought her to the forefront of my mind.

I’m reminded how powerful it is as a young person to have a trusted adult on your side, when the way forward isn’t that clear. The phrase ‘someone in your corner’ comes into its own at Fight for Peace. It’s the coach in your corner during a boxing match, and it’s the mentor in your corner in life. This is only strengthened by the support networks found in Fight for Peace’s community.

One of the most beautiful things for me has been to see how young people at Fight for Peace, as they grow and blossom, turn around and pour all of the nurturing they have received into relationships with other young people in the community. It’s an expression of gratitude, generosity and unity that states, together we rise.

Blog author: Aysen Norton

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