Kai’s story: how NCS helped a young person to find their voice
How the National Citizen Service is impacting lives of young people.
Below is the story of Kai, a young person (whose name was changed for privacy reasons) who found his voice when he took part in NCS. This is just one of the stories that details how much NCS can help young people in various ways.
Kick off day
Kai tentatively approached the team I was mentoring, their black holdall almost the size of them and without uttering a word they slouched down a chair away from the group.
Head in their hands.
‘Hey, how’re you feeling?’
Fun and hilarious icebreakers to motivate the team.
A pattern was quickly emerging and it didn’t appear to relent. We head off to our PC provider and for the first three days Kai remains silent. They barely look up, they make no eye contact and communication is hard – they are clearly listening, observing, but only offer silence in return.
The group goes abseiling. A walk through the forest leads us to a sheer rock face primed for scaling. We decided to have lunch before attempting such a task and so, in the shade of the trees we sit and eat.
I offer round my packet of crisps; I’d secretly been going through the flavours in the hope that I may eventually reach one Kai liked. All previous days had been met by a shake of the head but today was different. Today was prawn cocktail. Passing through the team I eventually reached Kai and instead of the usual shake they paused, nodded and took a crisp. I was in shock. 4 days of nothing and finally a connection over carbs. Win.
These small wins continue; slowly rolling stones between each other as we wait to abseil, making eye contact as we get onto the coach, saying ‘thank you’ at the end of the PC week. The wins were growing and each was oddly more poetic than the last.
Fast forward six days and we’re at the showcase event. Kai asks if they can say something as part of the team’s presentation, and the team unanimously agrees.
The moment comes and Kai tentatively takes to the stage:
They lock eyes with me at the back of the room.
They scan the crowd of over 100 people.
Finally, Kai speaks.
They speak for 15 minutes. They speak for 15 minutes in front of a room filled with 100 people. They speak for 15 minutes about their life with Asperger’s syndrome, their social anxiety and the ways NCS has taught them to challenge themselves ‘one conversation at a time’ to get better at life. ‘One conversation at a time’ to change the world. It was amazing. I may have cried.
Kai’s story is just one of thousands that happen each year because of the impact of the NCS programme; stories of people challenging themselves, to overcome the things holding them back so that they meet, support and trust people who are different to themselves.
I don’t know what Kai is up to now, where they are or what they’re doing but I do know one thing; they definitely aren’t silent. They are using their voice, changing the world ‘one conversation at a time’, and probably eating prawn cocktail crisps. And maybe, just maybe, we should all try to do the same.