The Challenge gave Shanice the confidence to continue her education.

“For the first time in my life, I saw sky and no ground.”

Shanice* is describing her first experience camping under the stars during the Personal Challenge. But it is also a fitting description of how The Challenge improved Shanice’s trust, self-esteem and aspirations.

Shanice lives on a South London estate with her mum and brother. Her mum was in an abusive relationship with her father for many years, which significantly impacted Shanice’s ability to keep up with her studies and maintain friendships. Her self-esteem and confidence were low and she had isolated herself from her peers. Shanice was reluctant to take up The Challenge as she was worried about leaving her mum and brother at home, but with her mum’s encouragement, Shanice eventually signed up.

Shanice joined a team that consisted of a very diverse group of young people. From day one, she took on the role of mediator. Using skills learnt from surviving in a violent home, Shanice resolved conflicts, supported her team throughout the challenges and helped the team bond into a group of close friends. Although Shanice listened to others and mediated disagreements incredibly well, she did not share anything about herself. According to her mentors, “she took on other people’s problems.”

Slowly, Shanice opened up and allowed herself to trust those around her, and after a week on the programme, Shanice disclosed her difficult home life. This admission would not have been possible without the support of her mentors. “My mentors were incredibly friendly and caring towards me. They treated me like an adult. I hadn’t been treated like that before. It made me open up and be more friendly, open and trusting towards others,” says Shanice.

The programme helped Shanice build trust and understanding across generations as well as amongst her peer group. During the Team Challenge, Shanice’s team visited an elderly centre to interact with the people there on the topic of healthy eating, and to talk to them about their communities while enjoying the food made by the team. The team enjoyed this experience so much that during the Real Challenge, they organised a tea party for the centre to engage with its visitors further.

Before The Challenge, Shanice considered the elderly “just boring”. Spending time with older people at the centre and talking to them about a variety of topics – “not just about the war” – showed Shanice that “they are just like us; they have young hearts”.

The Challenge had a lasting impact for Shanice. Because she opened up about her home life, The Challenge was able to access further services to support Shanice and her family upon her return home. She has continued to volunteer at her local centre for older people every week, further developing trust and understanding between herself and her community, and breaking down cross generational barriers. Shanice also changed her plan to leave school and is now in sixth form college.

Shanice is passionate about The Challenge – about how much she learnt, how her confidence has grown and how proud she is of her group of friends. Now an ambassador for the programme, she seeks to inspire other young people to take on The Challenge, knowing the difference it can make for them.

*Shanice’s name has been changed.

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