We’re halfway through Black History Month and this week we’re looking into our history as an organisation.
Our 54-year existence has tied in closely with a lot of the issues facing Black young people in London and our mission to improve the health, housing and financial futures of young Londoners with nowhere safe to go has remained unwavering. For this blog we interviewed our trustee Hu Clarke, who has been involved with New Horizon for 27 years, from frontline youth work through to sitting on our board. He’s shared some of his experience, learnings and hopes for New Horizon.
Can you tell me a bit about your history and the work you’ve done with us over the years?
I started out working in youth and community decades ago, from teaching through to managing a day centre for people who were HIV+ to more recently training as a therapist. I’ve always wanted to work closely with young people from disadvantaged groups, especially those from LGBTQ+ and BAME communities.
Our intersectionalities and the fact that people are so different and diverse has always been at the core of the work we do at New Horizon. We want to ensure we see the whole person for every young person we support. Whatever they bring to the table, we need to look at how do we support, manage and allow them to survive, thrive, and move on.
“We want to ensure we see the whole person for every young person we support” – Hu Clarke, Trustee
How have the experiences and challenges of the young people we support changed?
Sadly, it has been very consistent. We’ve always had an overrepresentation of young people from minoritised groups, especially the Black community, coming in because they’re the most likely to fall through the gaps in the system. Especially if we’re looking at youth justice, there’s an enormous overrepresentation of young Black people in the penal system and that causes more issues around finding accommodation. These issues have pretty much stayed consistent. If we want to see real change in this, we need to look at these systemic issues.
What are the lessons from our past you think we need to take forward?
New Horizon has a culture and understanding of the way that we work which is very different to other organisations. We support every young person without holding them. It’s about allowing people to become confident that they have someone in their corner who can give them an understanding, space and opportunity to fulfil their potential. It’s one of the cornerstones of how New Horizon works with young people: we meet them where they’re at.
I often liken the work New Horizon does to Sherpa guides: young people are journeying up a mountain, we will support them, carry their bags for a while, allow them to get more acclimatised before they move on to the next part of their journey, which is getting to the summit. I think those are the things that New Horizon has really stood for and we’re respected for that.
“It’s about allowing people to become confident that they have someone in their corner who can give them an understanding, space and opportunity to fulfil their potential. It’s one of the cornerstones of how New Horizon works with young people: we meet them where they’re at.” – Hu Clarke, Trustee
What are your aims for us an organisation supporting and advocating for minoritised communities in London?
I’m hoping that there is going to be even more visual representation among the staff group of the communities we serve. It makes a huge difference to a service because people feel supported by people they could relate to and identify with. We’re investing in this even more now to ensure young people are represented in our work, decisions, and leadership. It’s taken time but we’re still moving towards being more inclusive and representative and listening to what we need to do to make it more user friendly.
I would hope that as an organisation we can keep doing work related to BAME issues and we’re going to keep championing that more. I’m pleased we’re in a place where we’re doing more proactive work. As a youth and community worker that was always the main thing, the campaigning and active work to look at how we can empower, facilitate and support. We need to deliver that for system to change, which they must.