This week we are profiling ‘Social Starter up-er’ Kerry Astin. Orginally from up north, Kerry now lives in London where she started the charity FAST based on the Patmore Estate in Vauxhall. Kerry will be speaking at City Lights joint venture with Roehampton University at the Hive cafe on November 24th. If you’d like to hear more of Kerrys story, email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more info about this event.
Check out FAST online: www.fast-london.org
– Tell us how, when and why FAST started?
I have a background in youth work and after working in Event Management for 6 years I decided I wanted to go back to it. I originally came to the area to help some friends set up another charity but saw the lack of things going on for young people in the area and also the reality of some of the issues they were facing and felt I had to try to do something about it.
– Why the name FAST?
It’s based on a chapter in the bible, Isaiah 58 which talks about instead of fasting food we should be breaking the chains of injustice, getting rid of exploitation, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and generally making the community more liveable. The thing I love most about the chapter is that it puts the responsibility on all of us and that by living this way we will see our own lives changed in the process. That is the kind of attitude we are encouraging the young people to live by.
– Describe the Patmore Estate to us and what you love most about this community?
Coming from ‘up north’ I was used to living in quite a close knit community where everyone knows each other and really does life together…in my 11 years in London the Patmore Estate is the only place I have found that resembles that kind of great community feel. Everyone knows everyone and they really look out for one another. There are definitely challenges here too with crime and gang culture particularly rife. Also the latest census showed that one in three are unemployed and have never worked. This is particularly high amongst 18-25 year olds.
– How would you like to see FAST develop over the next few years?
To really establish the youth work and relationships that we already have and to develop work with the younger young people on the estate. To increase our employability work, potentially start a social enterprise to aid this. And to have more adventures…outdoors activities, travelling, helping other communities.
– Describe a typical day for you, as a FAST worker?
There isn’t a typical day!! I have learnt to be more spontaneous and flexible in this job as the young people are not so set by timetables and structures. It can drive you a bit insane but I have learnt a lot of patience! J My day could include a drop in or detached work or meeting one to one with a young person…I regularly go to the local café for lunch with one girl I am mentoring. I also manage session staff and volunteers so spend time coordinating with them and there is of course planning, writing up sessions and general admin that are all part of my job. I also liaise with funders regularly and spend time planning what’s next and how we move forward and develop what we are doing.
– What are the greatest challenges you face?
Because I pioneered FAST I have done a lot on my own and had to wear many hats along the way. Only now four years down the line are we starting to build a fuller team and be in a position to recruit permanent staff. Funding is always a challenge too! With regards to the young people, I think seeing that so much insecurity and lack of self-belief has already been so ingrained in them and that is going to take a lot of undoing. Some of their stories are completely heart-breaking and they are really hard to hear.
– And what do you find most rewarding about your involvement with FAST?
When a young person gets involved in doing something for their community or for others and seeing the sense of achievement that that brings them. Seeing young people start to make different and more positive choices for themselves. And most definitely just seeing young people be young people…laughing, joking, having fun, playing…many of them have had to grow up quick and so it’s great when they remember how to be childlike again.
This post is brought to you from City Lights, a Regenerate project that creates pathways for individuals and groups of people to engage in social action. Click here and follow City Lights on Facebook.