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Encouraging youths to work through problems

Awakening young people's powers over their own lives is the “enlightening” side of the Mirrors Programme that Maceo Walls gets to witness first-hand.

As the youth enrolment manager for the personal transformation initiative, he hears the stories when people are fresh in the door.

“Last year, the lack of trust was huge — to see that freedom to open up, to talk about their lives and experiences, the barriers breaking down, was truly amazing,” Mr Walls said. “The programme allows people to build themselves back up.”

After years of working as a residential care officer for the Department of Child and Family Services, Mr Walls grew curious about Mirrors.

“It seemed to parallel a lot of work we were doing, as far as intervening into lives that needed it.”

The key difference, he said, is that candidates for residential treatment are referred, while “young people become a part of Mirrors by choice”.

Nobody wakes up and decides to lead a troubled life — or, as Mr Walls puts it, “sometimes you're a product of your situation or your parents' situation”.

“We teach young people to work through their situations. Their environment may not support them in the areas they need, but they have us to lean on.”

The programme is geared for vulnerable people of 15 to 19 years, often termed “at-risk” — but Mr Walls believes that “all young people are at risk”.

“They're targets. It's an age where you could go either way, just by what's out there.”

Whether through a lack of opportunity or dearth of family support, teenagers can be driven to create their own groups. That sense of fatalism and the lifestyle it can engender “is what gets them into trouble”, he said.

“Mirrors shows them there's more outside their box; it encourages them to think deeper. It empowers you. You get a real sense of self-determination. Everyone takes something from Mirrors — and not always can you categorise it.”

Volunteers are also transformed — and with just a handful of permanent staff, Mirrors needs them in time for September's programme.

To enrol and get trained, call Mirrors at 294-9291, or contact Mr Walls at 532-5020 or mowalls@gov.bm.

“We can do our best to describe what happens in Mirrors,” he said, “but to really understand it is something you have to see for yourself.”

On a volunteering drive: Maceo Walls (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 03, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 03, 2016 at 12:40 pm)

Encouraging youths to work through problems

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