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#What25MeansToMe – Akai, Redthread Youth Ambassador

May 26th, 2021

“Becoming a father at 19 was the biggest obstacles of the time to overcome…I chose to stand up and be a parent”

We spoke to Akai, a young person who was supported by Redthread and is now one of our Youth Ambassadors. Part of #What25MeansToMe, Akai shares his experience of becoming a teenage father, those who have supported him in his transition to adulthood and why society needs to listen to the needs of young people more.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m 26 and an Independent Support Worker, this involves me supporting teenagers in their transition to adulthood. It’s a lot of one-to-one work, supporting all their needs from cooking to supporting them into work and support with the transition into housing. It’s a fulfilling job and one I chose to pursue on the back of my incident with the supported of my family, family friends and Redthread. I am also a Dad to two young children.

What obstacles have you had to overcome during your adolescence?

Becoming a father at 19 was the biggest obstacles of the time to overcome, the pregnancy wasn’t planned and was a big shock. It really changes your mind frame from being in the world on your own and all of a sudden having the biggest responsibility. After finding out, I made the decision to leave college and went to get work. I chose to stand up and be a parent and although difficult at times I look back positively at the change and effects it has made.

I was not necessary on a bad track, but this was a reason to pick myself up and be a ‘proper adult’, to evaluate myself.  Society assumes when you turn 18/19 that a magic switch flicks and you are prepared for adulthood, but many are mentally still young teenager’s – it’s like kids parenting kids.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

🔺 My Mum and Dad – they have been the rock since I was born. Their support help and guidance has help me to be where I am today and will help me in the future.

🔺 Myself – it’s you who wakes up every morning and has to make the decisions. To use the saying, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it’ – I give credit to myself in aiding self-progression.

🔺 My kids – even though they are young, they give you this drive which I didn’t understand until I had them.

🔺 Local youth clubs – growing up, they provided a safe space for me, somewhere off the streets and provided opportunities. There was a woman called Helen who worked at one youth club, she would take us camping and on outdoor activities. These trips opened my eyes to what’s outside the city and created my love for the outdoors and being in touch with nature. With a long list of others who have help me throughout the years in which I will save for another time.

🔺 Redthread – after being supported by a Redthread youth worker and the local team at my first point of contact beside. The charity has given me lots of opportunities, the top ones being: attending an event at 10 Downing Street and meeting the then Prime Minister, Theresa May – not many people can say that! Attending an APPG at the house of parliament, speaking at City Hall and meeting the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Redthread have paved the way for me to have those opportunities to help create change.

What advice do you wish you could have given your younger self?

When I was younger, I lived in tunnel vision which was foggy. I was in a very high-pressured environment, always living up to expectations from how I dressed to how I acted. I was a product of my environment. The community had a representation for gang culture which made growing up there very volatile.

I’d say to myself listen to others around you, including adults and those who are trying to help. Don’t take for granted what people say to you – if I had listened, I could have made better choices at times and understand they are trying to help and not always against you.

How can society better support young people going through this challenging transition?

Society on a whole can better listen to the needs of young people, especially the generation now – if you listen you can better understand what drives them to their actions. Lots of young people don’t feel listened to today so don’t feel valued.

Everyone in society has a role to play in order to create longevity. Making sure young people have the opportunities to do what they want to do, not what society assumed they want to do for example, a more dynamic approach to work culture and generational interests such as forms of expression including music and art.

I look to be part of this change with my initiative start-up around lived experiences and using that to mentor people who have been through similar experiences or may need guidance on how to avoid those experiences including but not limited to people being on the risk of violence my that a perpetrator or victim. I took to deliver this through a number of channels including Public Speaking, Peer to Peer mentoring, Facilitation/ Training workshops and Community Consultation. You can get in touch with me here: akaidouglas@innerprove.org

Please donate here to enable Redthread continue its vital work in supporting young people.

You can download the full blog here

This is part of our ‘What 25 Means to Me’ campaign. To celebrate Redthread’s 25th year, our blog series provides different perspectives on the eclectic experience on ‘growing up’ and how society can better support young people going through this transition. 

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