Aaron is Having a Long-Term Impact in The Leys
Over 4,000 young people live in the Leys. It’s Oxfordshire’s second most deprived area. So four months ago, Thrive launched our second team here with a vision to see the Leys impacted for good through the service of young people.
Thrive Leys carries on the work of the Leys Youth Programme and we’re delighted to have inherited from them two passionate youth workers, Kerstin and Aaron.
Aaron, now 30, has spent most of his life on the Leys. Like a lot of the young people we work with here, Aaron faced more than his fair share of ‘hard knocks’ growing up.
His parents split up when he was a kid and he ended up living with his grandparents.
‘I left school after my GCSEs. I didn’t even sit some of the exams. I was a bit of a drop-out.
‘I would describe myself as “lost” at that age. I didn’t know where I was going and what my future would look like.’
A NEW PURPOSE
Then Aaron was given a mentor when he was 19-years-old. Some of his family started going to the Leys Community Church so he decided to go too. Shortly afterwards he followed his Dad and brother and decided to become a Christian. And it made a big difference.
‘Whenever I spent time with someone from the youth programme or church, it felt like family. I felt like I was gaining purpose.’
But Aaron was still struggling with the working world.
‘I couldn’t keep down a job. I was temping in construction but I couldn’t find anything that I felt was going to take me somewhere.’
“I COULD DO THAT”
‘I’d always enjoyed hanging out with kids and playing football’, Aaron continues. ‘Kids on the estate seemed to look up to me.
‘I remember watching Daddy Day Care [the 2003 film] about these blokes who started their own kids’ centre and thinking,
“I could do that!”’
So in 2006, Aaron was volunteered to help out with the football club.
And he was brilliant! Even though other volunteers had been living in the area for years, Aaron was able to strike up a bond with these young people much quicker because he had grown up here. They knew him, and they looked up to him.
‘When you know an area,’ says Aaron, ‘you know certain ways of how to talk. It definitely meant something to the young people that I was from round here.’
The next spring, Aaron moved from volunteer to staff. Now in 2016, he has just re-taken his GCSEs and has entered his 10th year as a youth worker in the Leys. Not bad for someone who couldn’t hold down a job!
LASTING CHANGE FROM A LONG TERM INVESTMENT
Aaron’s impact in the Leys has been huge. Luke, now 18, remembers having to move schools when he was younger because of bullying. Even when he came to Aaron’s youth club, he was bullied in the first week.
‘But Aaron sorted it out,’ Luke recalls. ‘It helped me realise not all people are bad. He actually cares and he’s helped me loads with my confidence. Now I’m much more confident around new people.’
At Thrive, we believe that if we want to see lasting change, then we need to make a long-term investment. That’s why we choose to live in Barton and the Leys. That’s why we’re delighted that Aaron has been working with young people for 10 years. And that’s why we’re so grateful for our supporters without whom none of this is possible.