Neil’s Journey: from City Year Mentor to Starting His Own Social Enterprise
Since serving with City Year UK between 2021-2022, former City Year mentor Neil has taken the fight against education inequality into his own hands. After volunteering with us, Neil was inspired by his time at City Year UK and decided to start a social enterprise called Talk Less Do More. His project aims to help young people by tackling youth violence and knife crime in the Croydon area.
We recently caught up with Neil to learn about his social enterprise. He also spoke on how his City Year experience inspired him to go and start this charitable project. Check out the interview below to learn more about Neil’s journey!
Can you speak a little bit about the timeline/ process of finishing City Year and starting your own social action project?
I finished my year of volunteering at City Year in July 2022. Just one month after a year-long journey full of inspiration and empowerment, I opened up my own Social Enterprise called “Talk Less Do More” (TLDM) Ltd in August. Starting this organisation, or social action project, has been a plan of mine since 2020, but the main mission was yet to be defined. City Year defined it for me. The experience of working with incredibly challenging young people, in an area with such negative forces that are only to the detriment of them, was fascinating to be in the midst of. The need for young people to focus on their mental health, physical health, lifestyle & dreams was never being fulfilled in the school I worked in. Many young people were just lost.
Even after City Year, I continued working with young people in SEN/SEMH Schools, PRUs, and even summer camps. This combination of experience, knowledge, and discipline, drives TLDM to what it is today. A Social Enterprise that tackles knife crime and youth violence within London (starting in the Borough of Croydon). We do this by working with young people aged 11-17 currently residing in Croydon’s most poverty-stricken neighbourhoods. We focus on working through issues such as current mental health struggles, poor family structure & support, involvement in gangs, crimes, or even illegal means of money, and those with a track record of poor behaviour in school.
How did your City Year experience help you go on to start your own social action project/charity? How did you develop, what skills did you learn?
Working in the school and being a Youth Mentor for the first time was a challenging dynamic, as I saw things in school from a staff’s perspective. The last time I stepped into a school, I was a student myself! But, give or take a month, I was comfortable in the role and thriving through the teachings of City Year’s mentorship training. Developing leadership skills, improving self-confidence, and strengthening discipline, were not only areas of growth that I helped my mentees with, but also areas of growth I wanted for myself. One skill I wanted to grasp was public speaking. I wanted to be able to effectively articulate myself and know how to code-switch when speaking to different audiences. With the support of City Year, I partook in many public speaking opportunities that helped me develop my ability to communicate in front of an audience.
What inspired you to start your own social action project? How do you want to make an impact/change on the communities you work with?
Growing up in Croydon myself was a big driving factor to get this project moving. I grew up similar to the kids I worked with, having little or no opportunities available to me. But what defined my childhood was that, despite the whole world ultimately waiting for our downfall, we still dreamed of being footballers, lawyers, pilots, you name it. Nowadays, I feel it’s a different story. Young people are lacking true role models and this has a significant impact on their life chances. This is a crucial factor that we need to change in today’s society.
What advice would you offer to someone wanting to start their own social action project?
Do not waste time in the planning stage, all it takes is heart. Go for it and if you prosper, good. If you fail, good. Because if you fail, then you know how to come back stronger than you were before, and your growth as both a person and an organisation is measurable.
What are your goals/aims for the future?
To be the face of my city. Croydon needs a hero but I can’t do it alone, I need the support in tackling knife crime for real, and when the issue of knife crime is finally addressed, I’ll begin to focus on the issues faced by my country, Mauritius.
We’re incredibly proud of all the inspirational work Neil has done. His dedication to tackling youth violence and championing marginalised young people embodies what it means to be a leader.
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