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  • Info OFS

The Doors Open So Much Wider

I started in March, last year. Originally I wanted to do a counselling course. Previous to that, I wasn't working, but I had been involved in Cowley Road Carnival. Dolcie, who helped with the Carnival, said she would help me find the funding and stuff to do it. She had spoken to Emma from Oxford Hub, because she thought she would have been able to help me in some sort of way. Me and Emma spoke. We went for a walk, like an interview. And then it kind of just turned into me working for Oxford Hub. And now I'm glad that I chose Oxford Hub instead of going to the course straightaway. It’s got so many avenues, so many people to meet. I really enjoy it.  

  

In the Autumn it was more about helping parents. Getting kids into activities, counselling for parents, appointments to fix houses, electricity, gas, getting grants and loans for them. Because a lot of parents don't know that there's funding out there for them. A lot of people struggle and some people have a lot of pride, so they don’t really like to ask for help.  

  

It's not always easy work. It’s not all, phone call, oh, pay this bill, do a payment plan, do do do, no. Some things are more extreme. For example, one of the parents had really, really, really bad leaks from her bathroom. Basically whatever goes into the toilet goes down the walls, and it was leaking through the rest of the house. Before we were in contact, she had taken up the route of getting a lawyer to sort out the problem because the Council wasn't helping. When me and her spoke, I had to get all the information from the lawyer, from her, and then speak to the Housing Association. Before that, the Housing Association said that they would start work after 90 days. Bearing in mind, this lady has four kids - she had no gas in the property, no electric, because obviously the water's going through the walls. So we met together and then we made some phone calls. And then I got the work started within the week. If I didn't do that, the work on the house would have started sometime this year, which wouldn’t have been nice for the kids to have no hot water, no heating, rotten damp and everything over Christmas. I wouldn't like no child to live like that. So, I just put a stern voice on, and made sure it got started before Christmas.   

  

I like to help people and I like to see results, and I can say I got a result from that. And I'm just really happy, mainly for the kids, that they've got a comfortable house. I don't say I'm proud of myself, because to me, it's just something normal to do. Everyone else is like, ‘Oh, my God, that's really good, dududududu.’ Whereas I don't see it as something extra. I just saw it as, ‘that’s my job to do, just do it.’   

  

There’s more of an emotional side to it than being overwhelmed with paperwork, or phone calls or anything like that. And it’s probably more within myself. Because if there's an issue, I'd like to get it sorted straightaway. It's more, ‘Oh, my God, I really want to get this done.’ I don't like things to drag on, because then it makes me start thinking about it and I start stressing about it. So I’d rather just get it done: ‘Right. That's that out of the way. Next!’   

 

Growing up, I taught dancing from a really young age with no experience. I started when I was thirteen up until twenty-five. And so that helped me with group talking, and being around younger kids and experiencing their lives, which then carried forward into now being a parent advocate. I know how to manage kids and that helped a lot with the summer school run by Oxford Hub. Most mornings, we would be out the front waiting for the parents to bring the kids. The parents would always want to have a little chat. They used to say to me, ‘I don't know how you're doing this.’ They saw a lot of, I don't want to call them naughty kids, because that's not really fair, but challenging kids, I would say. The challenging kids from the schools that their kids go to. So they were very surprised that we were running the summer school for them all. Whereas I preferred it like that. Like, it's better when things don't run too smoothly, and you don't get too comfortable. It was nice. It was really rewarding.   

 

It's quite weird, because before Oxford Hub I helped people anyway. I've always helped people - all my friends have always come to me about certain situations. Whereas now, the doors open so much wider. I can definitely see the difference between me being able to phone up and say ‘Hi, I'm from Oxford Hub, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ Instead of doing it just as a friend when I have no title - people don't really listen to you.  

  

But then on the other hand, it's really weird - I've noticed a lot of people feel threatened when I say I'm a parent advocate. They don't really understand the title, and they don't really know what angle I'm coming from. I've had people question me about it as well. So it comes with negatives, and it comes with the positives, but I see it all as a positive, because it shows me that they are threatened by the role because I am literally empowering parents to have a voice. Now I can phone anywhere and anyone and I can speak on people's behalf. Being a parent advocate, I can get a whole lot more done. It’s important to me, because it changes people's lives for the better. Sky's the limit.   

  

The things that have changed for me the most are my confidence and being taken out of my comfort zone. I mean, I don't think anyone likes being taken out of their comfort zone. But it's good. Like, Sarah from Oxford Hub will just be like, ‘Come and join me in this meeting.’ I’ll be sat there, like ‘oh, my God, I don’t think I should be in this meeting.’ But it's nice that she’s just ‘Come on. You can do it.’ I like that. At the time I might not like it, but you get pushed. You're not just at one level, I really like that.   

  

I'm learning a lot as well. I'm learning the steps of social services, housing, schools. I mean, I helped one of the parents’ kids change schools, whereas I've never done that before. Before I never had to do meetings and paperwork and stuff like that. I'm still learning the technology side of it, emails and stuff, which sometimes at home, I have to say to my ten-year-old daughter, ‘Can you help me?’ So yeah, I'm just really enjoying it.   

  

Before I started, I didn't even know about Parent Power. I didn't know Oxford Hub either. So now that I'm here, I'm trying to spread the word a whole lot more. Hopefully it stays around for a very long time. It is very much needed. 

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