Aidan learned to trust himself and give back to his community.

“Life is an opportunity you’ve been handed – benefit from it as well as you can” is Aidan’s mantra.

Aidan lives in South East London with his family and attends a state school. Before signing up for The Challenge, Aidan had little confidence at school.  He saw himself as a bit of a loner and had difficulty connecting with others. Aidan was reluctant to try new things and wasn’t interested in meeting new people or making friends.

This changed when Aidan took part in The Challenge in London in 2010 and spent three weeks with eleven other 16 year olds from different backgrounds.  In the first week of the programme, Aidan and his team tackled many challenges together: they climbed mountains, slept under the stars, and kayaked in the sea. They motivated each other and worked together to solve problems. In the second week, the team learnt new media skills with the BBC and used those skills to make a film about the Elgin Resource Centre for older people. During the third week, Aidan and his team once again came together to develop a proposal for a campaign to increase the numbers of bike lanes in West London.

Throughout the programme, the team was supported and encouraged by a senior mentor who enabled each young person to develop their skills.  “My senior mentor, Debbie, really helped me feel comfortable and assess how I wanted to help myself and others after completing The Challenge,” Aidan says.

For Aidan, learning how to communicate his ideas with people who had contrasting opinions was a challenge, and he slowly learnt to see the bigger picture by considering other points of view. Learning to relate to people from different backgrounds also had a profound impact on Aidan, and the preconceptions he had of others were shaken. The Challenge “depleted any stereotypes about people and their backgrounds. I know it is a horrible cliche but it reinforced the fact you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” Because of his experiences on the programme Aidan realised that “there is a very marginal difference between all of us. I have learnt that everyone has struggles in life: it just varies from person to person. But, it’s how you respond to it which moulds you into the person you become.”

Aidan says now that he knows he has matured, his organisational skills have improved significantly and the programme has inspired him to get a lot more involved in school and outside of it. “I am now just a better person and I realise that the world doesn’t revolve around me.  I am willing to give up my own time for others and not just laze around the house.”

He now actively gives up his free time to volunteer with several organisations including peer mentoring in school; coaching rowing; volunteering with Talksafe as a Talksafe Hero; being part of the Executive Group at school, and running his school’s volunteer soup kitchen with The Passage. With a wiser head on his shoulders, Aidan says “The Challenge proves that it’s possible to put a large group of 16 year olds together and see them grow and accomplish something that will have a lasting effect.”

“Before doing The Challenge I wanted to just get good grades in school and only participated in a handful of extra-curricular activities. After doing The Challenge, I realised the effect I can have as, effectively, a young adult in the community. Now, I aim to help others as well as myself much more than I did before. It was an experience where I learnt to be fully comfortable in my own skin and just to take everything as it comes because the best relationship is the one you have with yourself”.  – Aidan.

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