One of the things I do outside Papworth Trust is to serve as a Trustee of The Children's Society. I am passionate about the work that they do, working with disadvantaged children and young people in England to help them in a great variety of ways.
Part of The Children's Society Annual General Meeting this month was to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey - something that I had never done before. I found it to be an occasion where I felt very uneasy - not because I was in one of the most beautiful churches in England, but because there were a whole load of protocols or 'rules' to which I was expected to adhere. I had to know when to stand up, when to sit down, when to join in, when to listen. I found it a really disempowering environment - something that I am not used to experiencing.
It made me think about what some of the young people and adults that we work with at Papworth Trust may experience on a regular basis. Society places a whole load of expectations on us all, and for all who are able to conform, they are not really an issue. But if you don't like fitting in, or find that being forced to fit into someone else's expectation makes things worse for the way you behave, it's really hard. Listening to the stories of one of our young people's workers recently made me realise again how important it is to listen to people to understand what they want to do and how they want to it. By understanding how people perceive the barriers that society puts in the way, we can help get those barriers out of the way, or at least find a way to overcome them.
If someone had helped me understand the what, why and when of the protocols for Evensong at Westminster Abbey before I went, maybe I would have felt less disempowered and gained more from the experience. I shall try and remember how I felt as we continue to work with our customers to help them have the greatest equality, choice and independence possible in their lives.
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