All the Children’s Commissioner’s work is driven by what children told us is important to them
Louise is a Story of Care ambassador on Coram’s Voices Through Time programme. The Story of Care ambassadors are a group of care-experienced young people aged 16-25, taking part in creative projects inspired by the Foundling Hospital archive and sharing their experiences through a campaign called #RealStoriesOfCare. Here Louise shares her own and others experience of the programme.
When I was first asked if I would like to write an article about Coram’s #RealStoriesofCare campaign, my first thought was – okay, I haven’t written anything in months. Can I remember how to write an engaging article that people will want to read? Do I even know the words to say? But then I thought, I could ask my fellow ambassadors some questions to get their views on the project.
I joined the project much later than the other ambassadors; mainly as my younger sister had got involved and she kept name dropping me in conversations with the Youth Engagement Coordinator. I have a big heart for changing and challenging the foster care system in the UK (and worldwide) and despite being 25 – the oldest you could be to join the project – I thought I would give it a go. At first, I struggled to settle into the group dynamic because everyone else was so involved with each other. However, soon, I began to find my feet in the group. A range of voices from different care experienced young people from around the UK – what more could I want?!
By day, I’m currently on the Civil Service Care Leaver Internship Scheme and during the project I was a high school teaching assistant, but my heart lies in the creative arts: theatre, music, writing and baking to name a few. It’s why my individual project in response to the Foundling Hospital archives and the #RealStoriesofCare campaign was to write a series of blogs. I was hoping to develop them into a theatre piece, however, as we all know – life doesn’t turn out the way we want it to. I wrote a series of blog posts based around my personal experience of mental health in the care system, education in the care system, stigma in the care system, siblings in the care system and Christianity in the care system. All of which I wrote really quickly. Within ten days – all five of my blogs had been researched, written, edited, and sent to Coram for their viewing pleasure. All the topics I wrote about I am incredibly passionate about and so to be given the forum to discuss them for such an established charity made my heart sing.
My sister found a new creative outlet of painting and writing poetry. I’ve always been the poet in the family but suddenly – there were two of us. She’s since gone on to write tonnes of poems about her experiences of the care system, even setting up her own blog to showcase them to the world. When I asked her why she became an ambassador, this is her response:
“I became an ambassador because we were telling the stories of those who have lost their voices.”
How cool is that? Finding a voice for those who have lost their voice, or never had a voice to begin with like the first children of the Foundling Hospital.
So far in Voices Through Time, there have been a number of creative projects that us, as ambassadors, and other care-experienced young people have been able to get involved with. One project that proved quite popular was the “What’s in a Name” spoken word project where young people looked at the theme of identity, with rap artist Ric Flo – who is care-experienced himself. Using the Coram archives as inspiration, the group wrote, recorded and performed a mix of rap, spoken word and poetry. Performed at the Arcola Theatre in London, this group of care-experienced young people took to the stage – to share to a paying audience their experiences. Amazing. One ambassador who has excelled at spoken word said the reason they became an ambassador was so they could share their story with other care leavers. To think that the spoken word project and #RealStoriesofCare has given a space and an opportunity for story telling is incredible.
Another ambassador-led project that has come out of Voices Through Time is the Founding: Found podcast (found on all podcast platforms) where the care-experienced host, and guests explore the care system past and present, using a range of stimuli. The podcast has proved to be quite popular with audiences with numerous topics being covered over twelve episodes. The host of the podcast decided upon this format due to the humongous increase in podcast listeners worldwide.
Finally, a project that also proved to be popular – but had limited spaces – was the Stitch in Time project. This is pretty much what it says on the tin – using various textiles forms to explore, learn and develop a response to the Coram archives. This year, 2022, the end result of the Stitch in Time project will go on display at the Foundling Museum before touring museums around the UK.
Ultimately, the Voices Through Time project and the #RealStoriesofCare campaign have fostered – no pun intended – friendships between young people who may otherwise not have met, or even become friends. One thing that warms my heart is that there is a specific text chain for a core group of ambassadors who have become ‘best friends’; they spend time at each other’s houses, many an evening on FaceTime (so I’m told) and simply becoming the family that they have always wanted. Despite moving from England to Wales (during a pandemic), starting a new job (that didn’t work) and suffering massively with my mental health – the VTT group has always been there, even when I didn’t know it. I am now 26; technically too old to be an ambassador – but I hope Coram allow me to stay on!
You can find out more and sign up to be a programme ambassador on the Coram Story website.
We spoke to Louise series 2 of the IMO Podcast about loneliness and isolation in the care system, the lack of support for care leavers who want to study at postgraduate level, and her experience of building relationships at university in. She was also featured in our Turning 25 series, sharing her experience of losing support from her Local Authority.