'It's about being given hope': How charity helps to transform young lives
PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 January 2019
Canning Town charity, Community Links, is celebrating its' 40th birthday.
Canning Town charity, Community Links, is celebrating its 40th birthday.
To mark the milestone, it’s created the 40 Stories project, sharing 40 inspiring tales from those whose lives have been changed by the organisation.
The Recorder spoke to just a few of those featured, to find out what difference Community Links has made for them.
“I truly was a Links baby. My mother and father set up Action and Rights of Disabled People in Newham. My mum was a local councillor so when I was literally a bump they went to visit this organisation they’d never heard of called Community Links. Although they were never part of it, they had strong ties with Community Links.”
Karl Rowe, 40, spent his childhood helping at Community Links. From volunteering at their family fun days, to delivering presents for the toy appeal, it defined his youth.
When he turned 19, he started working for Links Event Solutions – the charity’s logistics company which helps organise the 10 events Community Links run a year. After a while, external agencies asked the company to start running their events.
“It came from a need that people saw we could deliver,” Karl said.
“Someone said, you run all these events, could you help us do ours? It snowballed into doing hundreds of events for other agencies and providing a profit for the charity.”
While the company was busy in the summer, winters were a struggle. Karl was tasked with developing a winter income – which is where he came up with storage services.
“Our event customers started asking about storage services and I saw the gap in the market,” he said.
“At a similar time, we had customers asking us about transporting equipment, and the storage service came from that. It was one of the things I was allowed to run with. Across the two models, we have hundreds of customers now.”
It wasn’t always easy for Karl. He’d always struggled academically, and being 19, some customers didn’t trust someone his age to act professionally. But he’s grateful he got the chance when he did.
“Community Links gave me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had elsewhere at that age,” he said.
“I had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from so many good people, and to do so in a supportive environment.
“I think the problem now isn’t that there aren’t opportunities – it’s being prepared to grab those opportunities. If you’re not academic, it’s whether you’re happy or not to take those chances. The way I’ve always seen it, if you’re not going to sit at a desk, you’re going to be out and about, engaging with people.”
Going forward, Karl wants to give other people some of the opportunities Community Links afforded him. He’ll soon start interviewing for summer 2019 work, and wants to use agencies to find young people from Newham to take the jobs.
Academia was also a challenge for health administrator, Asiya Tirike. She struggled at school, and turned to Community Links for her education instead.
“I wished I took up the chance of education, but I didn’t enjoy school much,” she said.
“It was too hard to focus at that time. I used to see the school receptionist and ask how hard it was. I was told it was hard because you have to remember a lot of things.”
Asiya enrolled on the Future Links programme, a pre-employment scheme for disadvantaged 16 to 24-year-olds. She gained skills, confidence, and felt like she’d achieved something.
“When I look around a lot of young people I know feel like they have lost ambition to strive in life,” she said.
“They then circle themselves around bad people, out on the streets and even involved with gangs. It’s about people believing in you and being given hope.
“I want to be somewhere where I can help and make a big difference to people’s lives. It’s not been a straight path but I really feel I will achieve my ambition I want now.”
Community Links will be publishing the entire 40 Stories collection this year.