Young men find a helping hand with charity dedicated to empowerment
A gap in support programmes led to the creation of a charity dedicated to the empowerment of young men. Ten months later, Transitional Community Services is seeing results. Fiona McWhirter reports.
At the age of 18, many young men are often expected to be ready for adulthood and all it entails. But they still need support and will not always find it among friends or family.
That is where Transitional Community Services can help.
Desmond Crockwell, a leadership coach at the charity, said: “I had a young member say that he’s never had a man stick by his side before in a positive, mentor relationship way.”
He added that the best thing that could be said by someone supported by TCS was that “it worked”.
Mr Crockwell said: “Even if it’s a half step forward for some of them – that’s a huge step.
“For him, just to have somebody there by his side, constantly engaging him, is success.
“Of course, the greatest success is when you feel valued.”
The charity launched with its Community Bridge Builders programme in February and works with men aged 18 to 34 who are considered “at risk”.
Tiffanne Thomas, the executive director, explained: “When we look at risk, we look at it across different domains.
“It would be housing, employment, income, substance abuse, their ability to meet their basic needs – so their food status – whether or not they have legal concerns, academic, healthcare, alcohol use, mental health and family support as well as community network support.”
She explained: “Based on each domain there is a ranking … in the beginning, we do what’s considered a baseline assessment so we can see what their risk level is when they first come in, without any intervention.
“What we’ve found is, over the three months of being involved with TCS and having the support of a leadership coach, their risk level has dropped across different domains.”
She added: “On average, every three months, the risk that members present with continues to decrease, which is a huge success.”
Aruna Dismont, the programme resource manager, said: “Sometimes, when people think about risk, they think ‘oh that person is a risk to the community’, when actually it’s about themselves, like how high is their risk for their happiness, their wellbeing?”
She highlighted that there were often preconceived notions about what men should be capable of.
Speaking from a personal perspective, Ms Dismont said: “In society at large, not just in Bermuda, there is an expectation when it comes to men and how men are expected to provide, to know things, to understand, to be prepared to be men as soon as they leave school or leave any system.”
She added that referrals to TCS, which can be made by the man or on his behalf, often related to people leaving school or a correctional facility.
Ms Dismont said: “Someone recognises they don’t have what they need to transition to be independent out of whatever system they just came from.”
She added: “We’re kind of feeling the symptoms of what it means to not prepare young people, but specifically men, before they’re expected to perform in society and contribute.”
Dr Thomas said that there was a "treatment continuum of services“ in the social services sector that tracked levels of support available at different life stages.
She explained: “When we get to this young adult age range for men there was a gap in the continuum and it’s been a gap there persistently for many years.”
Dr Thomas said: “That’s not to say there’s no service provider providing services for men, because there certainly are, but they weren’t getting the wraparound service like the case management, the counselling, employability – everything under one roof.
“That’s what TCS strives to do –to close that gap in the continuum so that the needs of everybody in our population can be met.”
She explained that expectations of adults were often at odds with the “lived experiences” of some TCS members.
Dr Thomas said: “Very basic things that many of us take for granted – such as how to open a bank account – these men don’t know how to do.”
Mr Crockwell explained: “We get young men to do some self-reflecting … by supporting them in preparing leadership development plans.
“That allows them to set goals and then we work towards the goals.”
TCS has helped me to build and maintain the skills I need to achieve as well as maintain employment, and as well has given me just an outlet to talk to someone when I need to, as well as a mentor.
And it’s also given me a place that I feel wanted and confident.
Gavin Smith, also a leadership coach, said: “A lot of our guys don’t really have people in their corner or they don’t have people that they trust in their corner.
“What we do, fundamentally, is make sure they know that they have someone.”
Ms Dismont said that the coaches advocate for TCS members, especially in environments where they might not typically have been successful in the past.
Mr Smith added: “Sometimes it’s advance work like making sure this job is a good fit for one of our members.
“We’re making sure that the opportunity’s really there because nothing deflates a member like walking into a closed door.”
Dr Thomas said that by creating a network of partners, the charity could draw on a pool of resources for members’ needs.
TCS might help a member with job applications or interview preparation.
Some members take training that costs them little or nothing, such as seminars with sexual abuse prevention charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets or the Tips course for the responsible sale and service of alcohol.
Others get support to access food programmes.
The charity also runs counselling services where appropriate and group sessions are open to all members.
Dr Thomas added: “We have created a space where they can drop in and make themselves comfortable if they need a safe space to sit.”
She said that it was important for the charity to “demonstrate impact” and that the leadership coaches were keen to chart the success of TCS members, not least to help boost the confidence of the young men themselves.
Dr Thomas added that since the launch of the programme, TCS has worked with 24 men and formed relationships with 20 businesses and organisations.
Between October and November, the leadership coaches had 196 “client contacts”.
* For more information, visittcscharity.bm.