I have known Kimberley since January 2010 when she impressed our selection panel at A New Direction looking to recruit 5 out of 35 year 10 students from Stoke Newington Secondary School in Hackney and was chosen to take part in a unique Olympic focussed journalism project including a trip to Vancouver. During that time, I have witnessed Kim blossom from a bright and articulate but rather shy 15 year old girl, into the confident, tenacious, determined, capable and considered young woman she has become. She has taken part in a number of schemes that I have run since 2010 whilst simultaneously doing her voluntary work, completing her GCSE’s and A Levels. Over the past year, she has worked a day a week as my assistant, carrying out research, writing some content for my website, as well as conducting interviews (audio and filmed) contributed to brainstorms and even attended the occasional production meeting. Kim has a particular flair for using words to capture an emotion or a situation and has made a very unique version of spoken word impressionistic photo poems her own. Here’s one she wrote after our 2010 trip to Vancouver.
On the eve of a new chapter in her life as she prepares to ship all her stuff up to Nottingham to read English Literature, Kimberley Nyamhondera reflects on this past gap year and valuable lessons she has learned in getting to know herself.
Guest blog by Kimberley Nyamhondera on Gap Year’s and Pasture’s New:
The beginning of this year was tinged with nerves. I knew I wanted a gap year; out of education and the rigid routine I’d known for the last 10 years but I wasn’t ready to ‘discover’ myself by spending months and months abroad. I wanted my discovery, of sorts to take me out of my comfort zone but I was also wanted to use my time to do something that was meaningful on a more personal level and admittedly, a bit closer to home. Changes felt like they were happening too quickly and I wasn’t quite ready to carve out a path on my own.
When Fran offered me a role as an assistant, half of me realised that I was so far removed from the girl starting out at school, sitting at the front on the carpet poised and ready to absorb and learn and the other half of me was ready and excited at the idea of using my perspective as a young person to be able to help shape the nature of the youth debates and other work and events she was working on over the course of the year.
My official role saw me working as an assistant for Fran and helping to facilitate her projects to give young people from various backgrounds an opportunity to gain experience and network in the creative industries in London. This was a truly valuable experience as it allowed me to amongst many things, to contribute to organizing a series of youth debates for 15-25 year olds at Free Word Centre, centered around the theme of young people and their feelings about Trust in relation to those who shape and govern our society in some way. My role in these debates, extended to researching and generating content for each one, for example interviewing Brian Cathcart, journalist and Director of Hacked Off – the campaign for free and accountable press, and human rights lawyer and civil liberties campaigner, Gus Hosein, Director of Privacy International. I was also commissioned to write a blog piece in response to one of the debates and a spoken word poem in response to another.
Over the course of the year, I felt more and more at ease within the role and enjoyed setting up blogs, working on interview skills and networking with creative industry insiders. This all filtered in between discussions about what I wanted to do next and how our next project could be tailored to allow me the chance to develop a skill I wanted to explore such as writing poetry, blogging or interviewing. This was most important to me as it made me realise I was a lot more capable than I initially thought and that any action or course I wanted to take didn’t have to wait until I’d reached a certain, official age that sounded like the right time to pursue what I wanted. It taught me that even if you are a ‘young person’ you still have a unique and interesting perspective and that people want to know what you think. I developed so much more confidence, as someone who usually waited for things to drop into my lap, to be proactive and engage with people who were doing the jobs that I wanted to know more about and get involved in. In a sense, this helped me to rediscover my passion for English, which had felt bogged down by the essay writing, exam technique and structure of A Level study.
I wanted to get to grips with a range of different projects and so after a series of training days, I volunteered at Hackney New School for Kids Company. This was as challenging as it was rewarding as it taught me a lot about myself as well as allowing me to meet people from different walks of life. It also felt funny to work with year 7s who just wanted to be finished with school, to cast aside their uniforms and be in my position when I’d spent so long lamenting over growing up too fast. I also learnt to enjoy words again by writing a couple of articles for Canteen mag, a website and blog championing a healthy lifestyle for young people. This was quite fun and also led to some really amazing opportunities to interview the founder of Run Dem Crew, Charlie Dark and Olympic athlete, Yamile Aldama. This was also where I discovered my love for running, which was a happy accident, as I was determined to stay set in my ways about exercise and reject all forms of physical exertion. However, I did get my very own brand of health education, which I’m sure I’ll carry with me. I also worked for extra cash in a café in Brighton where I was half amused, half distressed to discover what a Babycino was! I also gained arms of steel and a sense of co-ordination I never knew I possessed by carrying around plates upon plates upon crockery one handed. I did get to go away during the summer in a fast and furious whirlwind tour around Europe. The trip touched Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Cannes and felt like a blur but highlights included, screaming the lyrics to Paris to Berlin by Infernal on a train from Paris to Berlin and dealing with the very real, very possible situation of what to do when your bunk bed buddy invites guests to stay at a Hostel.
As the year rounds off and I prepare to begin an English degree at University, I can’t help but feel like this is a graduation in and of itself, I finish this year with a sense of achievement and pride and feel like I’ve grown from the girl who started and wondered what a year away from school even looked like and whether it was the right decision. Having followed such a straight course of education, education, exams, exams exams, I knew I needed time out. I may not have swum with turtles in Australia or followed a new friend around Asia on a whim but I do feel as though I have discovered myself; my likes, dislikes, my strengths, and weaknesses and most valuably, the importance of a mentor who helped shape the adult I’ve become.