My name is Gabija Cepelyte and I work at Future Youth Zone, which is a charity that aims to transform young people’s lives into more positive ones. For young people we are somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.
I live with my mother’s best friend who is like my aunt so I feel very lucky to be able to stay with her family. I personally find it really difficult coping with the social distancing measures and it has definitely affected my work and my life. I am still learning and need others to help me out with it. I live with those I consider family so can still hug them and sit and laugh together. It is quite strange, isn’t it?
I am very proud of my community and how it has reacted to the crisis. I’ve seen so many acts of kindness in the past few months that I haven’t seen before. The best bit has been seeing young people in a completely different light as they are being so great with others even if they were not this way before. It is this new vibe of ‘I will help you’, I appreciate the most.
In terms of supporting people, I feel that mainly it’s about communication, through bringing in positivity to people’s lives and trying to be a kind human being.
The recent crisis has really affected my organisation and we have had to adapt. Our organisation has had to change its offer to young people. We usually have around 200 young people in an evening, so had no chance of operating in the same way.
When the government rules became stricter we teamed up with the local response BD CAN, delivering food parcels to people, supporting all, and also collecting and delivering medication.
Our youth work now involves calling young people and checking in and seeing whether they’re safe and not going crazy indoors and showing that we are here if they want to talk. We are very fortunate to have a trained counsellor who provides those kinds of sessions every week, analysing feelings and providing valuable emotional mental support and guidance during these uncertain times.
The crisis has enabled me to work closely with organisations in my community. For example, we have collaborated with Barking and Dagenham Youth Dance (BDYD). We have worked with them previously, and have continued the partnership during the crisis and offered live dance sessions together, and connected audiences. We have also worked very closely with the Council. We are a trusted partner and the relationship is so visible right now.
If I had a platform, the message I would like to send to the general public and to decision-makers in the coming weeks would be simple, I just hope that people can stay united and kind to each other during this time, and do nothing that would affect others in a very negative way.
I would shout from the rooftops ‘stay safe together!’. People are for people after all.