I don’t want to go to school today!
When I was around nine or ten years old I remember not wanting to go to school. I recall very vividly the way I played sick when my mum asked me why I wasn’t out of bed yet. I don’t recollect the reason, I just didn’t want to go, I know for some reason I didn’t and that was that. I find it funny that even now I still have those impulses and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Recently I really struggled to shake off that emotion. I was supposed to be teaching ‘What To Do If Someone Is Bleeding’ to a group of young people I hadn’t met before. I truly could not be bothered. As the time got steadily closer I toed and froed with the idea of calling in sick. Eventually, at the eleventh hour, I went and I taught the session with my fellow team members.
The reason I went to teach for StreetDoctors is simple. It is because we make a difference. It’s as clear as that. If we don’t want to go and we cancel our sessions, then those young people won’t learn about the dangers of carrying knives. They won’t learn that there is no safe place to stab someone. They won’t learn why you need to call an ambulance. They won’t learn how to save someone’s life. They won’t learn because we didn’t teach them. That’s the beauty of StreetDoctors. The opportunity and responsibility that it gives to its volunteers is unmatched.
At times it can be tough to motivate oneself to go out and teach, especially given the fact that we have so little free-time during the week. But the knowledge that young people will go untaught if we don’t show up, and the prospects that we can give to them to open up and discuss whether or not to help someone is invaluable. I feel it is worth so much more than an hour or two of my time.
When I saw the review of ‘Our Year in 2015’ I was filled with pride and renewed ambition to beat our record for numbers taught and potential lives saved. It is an incredibly humbling experience to be witness to some of the stories that the young people tell us during our sessions. Sometimes this is the first time they have ever spoken to anyone about their experiences and the violence they face in their day-to-day lives. At the end of every session I am usually speechless with admiration for the young people and amazed by what they go through on a daily basis.
The session I mentioned earlier, with my team members by my side, went very well. We taught some really high risk young people who at the end of the session came up to us and told us their stories. At the beginning of the session they had denied that any of them had been involved in knife attacks. By discussing the implications and showing them they were in a safe and understanding environment they willingly opened to us. This is not something that happens every day for them and I believe we shouldn’t take it for granted. StreetDoctors makes a difference. It’s as simple as that.
(StreetDoctors North London volunteer and medical student at UCL)