|The Grounds at St. Paul's Cathedral|
This is one of my favourite stories to tell about when I was a Work Coach at the local Jobcentre here in West London.
It's interesting for me in several ways, and it's significantly one of the main reasons why I believe in being kind to others can result in the most positive change you can help influence in someone's life.
This happened sometime around 2011-2012, around the time that the world was starting to rebound from the recession just a few years prior.
I was working in a Jobcentre as a Work Coach. A Work Coach is someone who meets the unemployed and helps them secure opportunities that will eventually help them get back to full time employment.
My "cohort" at the time was focused on 18-24 year olds who were unemployed for at least 13 weeks, or 3 months. Young adults, basically. I have met many interesting personalities, and it wasn't always pleasant.
There was a young lady who was kicked out of her parent's place the moment she turned 18. She was currently staying at a YMCA.
Another was a young man who confided in me that he has to deal drugs in order to provide for his siblings. That same man would then send me a couple of death threats sometime later. But I digress.
And we have a good percentage, probably at least a third, of young adults who have mental disabilities that prevent them from moving forwards towards employment.
There was this one person who I thought definitely needed help. Let's call him Bill (not his real name).
|Cleveland Park in Ealing|
When I first met Bill, he was what you would call a standard textbook definition of an introvert. I'm willing to even go as far as describing him as an "aspie". And it took me several meetings spanning over a few weeks before I could sense that he finally was comfortable talking to me.
During the time that I saw him, which was not to be longer than 13 weeks (after which they go on to Stage 3, which are those who are unemployed for longer than 6 months) I decided that the long term success of my interactions with him would be dependent on how I raised his confidence.
Bill you see, was a NEET. A person who is Not in Employment, Education, or Training.
There's context behind me using the word here. Disclosure: I'm a bit of a Nipponophile. I love Japan. I love its nature, its culture, definitely its food, but most of all, I love Otaku Culture. And this is something that I shared with Bill.
Alas, unlike Bill, by this time I had a wife and autistic son to provide for. And as each day progresses, the time I have for the things that I love, lessen to make way for the things that I have to do.
I used this shared affinity for all things Otaku to get to know Bill. We shared anime and manga recommendations with each other, and I steered the conversation usually towards how it would be like to live in Japan. I was a work coach after all and the goal is still to help Bill get him to employment.
The 13 weeks where I was supposed to help Bill get employment came and went by fast. I don't think he was anywhere near what employers would have wanted, but I was definitely proud to have nudged him closer to recognising that he had a lot to offer as an individual.
|The 112 Bus at Ealing Broadway|
It wasn't until about 6 months later that I saw Bill again, and our meeting wouldn't even last more than 10 seconds. But it was a most significant moment for me.
"Hey Alan! How are you doing? I just dropped by to say thank you. Thank you for helping me. I'm off to Japan next week to be an English teacher. It's all thanks to you, man."
I was with another jobseeker at the time. Bill just went straight to the second floor where I was working, and he just said that out loud where everyone could hear.
I was surprised to say the least. I remember my work colleagues congratulating me. It felt great.
I knew how hard it was for Bill. When I was seeing him as his Work Coach, he would often allude to the fact that no one would take him seriously. And I would joke about how he could use his current skills and combine it with our shared passion for Japan, and he could make a career out of it, especially considering I was out of the race having a family to support.
Live our dream, Bill!