Chelsea Bell joined the XLP team in September 2011 as a gap year student. She is now placed with the XLP Islington team while studying a degree in Theology and Youth Ministry. This term, Chelsea came face to face with the realities of gang and youth violence on London’s streets. After this very personal experience, she wrote about what happened, her motivations for being a youth worker in inner London and her hopes for the young people she serves. Here is her story:
“I’ll never forget the sight of him lying on the path in a pool of his own blood. A feeling of horror came over me as I sat by his side praying that he was still alive. I will always remember the fear in his eyes as he lay gasping for breath. I knew I had to keep him awake; as I talked to him I could see he was loosing a lot of blood. Who could do this? Why would anybody do this? Then he lost consciousness and I will always remember the moment I thought a teenage boy had died in my arms. In my helplessness I started shouting at him to wake up.
Too many parents are having to bury their children. I cannot begin to imagine what it would feel like for them and my heart hurts for anyone who has had to bury a loved one as a result of knife crime.
I remember praying, just a simple prayer, “God, please help him”. People say I did a good job. His mum thanks me for saving her son’s life but I do not feel that I did much. It was God who saved the life of that 16 year old boy on November 5th 2012, and the experience changed my life in a way I will never forget.
Being a youth worker in London I come across young people involved in all sorts of tough situations. Drug abuse, dealers, broken families, hopelessness, fear, insecurities, crime, hurt and abuse. I’ve met young boys too scared to leave the house without a stab-proof vest on. I’ve met young people who smoke weed as their only means of escape. I’ve known boys to kill others for the sake of status.
People often ask why? Why bother working with these people? I’ll tell you why; because behind the pain and brokenness I see young people with potential to change not only their lives but the lives of many around them. Behind the disrespect and anger I see talent beyond any that I have ever seen. Behind the knife I see strong, independent individuals that have dealt with pain so crushing no person should ever experience.
But what can I do? I’ve realised the answer is so simple. The answer is yes. Yes to losing at Fifa week in week out. Yes to looking like an idiot playing Kinect. Yes to being rugby tackled to the floor! Saying yes to turning up each week serve young people with expectations that Change is possible
My prayer is that others will be able to see the potential in young people that I do and that the young people of London will come to know how truly valued and loved they are. My prayer is for peace on the streets; that young people caught up in the pain and hurt of this world will make a stand to stop these tragic events. That these young people will unite to show the unbelievable amount of potential this generation.”