I have a friend who likes to share a daily (terrible) dad jokes on Facebook. Three of my favourites include:
‘I had a frightening experience last night in my hotel. I was relaxing in the bath, when I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder.’
‘Fun fact – most bees are allergic to pollen. When exposed they develop hives.‘
I turned up late to a kleptomaniacs’ conference. All of the seats had already been taken.’
Some of these may have made you smile, others you may have stored away to share with family members. Some may have made you groan out loud! Often they will feature all three types of response. This month we’re thinking about our ethos word ‘fun’. Given our work, it may seem strange that fun is a key part of who we are and what we do. ‘Why would fun be part of a session when you’re talking about loss, self-harm or anxiety?’ seems like an entirely reasonable question, and yet it’s often this type of session where fun is so important.
For many of us, fun is an active part of our day-to-day existence. On average adults laugh 17 times a day, whilst children top out at 300!! And there is a reason why fun and laughter are said to be the best medicine. It increases blood flow, counts as cardio (therefore you burn calories!), it strengthens your immune system, reduces stress and there are long-term benefits (studies show a good laugh can still be beneficial 24hrs later!) – All information from the Heart Foundation.
Part of the reason why fun is such an important part of the work we do is that it plays an active role in supporting the young people we work with. It’s also a really important part of the time we spend together. Having fun, laughing and enjoying each others company makes us a better team and ensures we’re better placed (and equipped) to support the children, young people and families we work with.
(And one to leave on: ‘I’ve accidently swallowed some scrabble tiles… my next trip to the bathroom could spell disaster!’)
One of the joys of having kids is that occasionally you get to sit through a film that’s quite good. I’m no Barry Norman or Mark Kermode, but a couple of favourites include Moana, Sing 2 and Secret Life of Pets. Another that falls under this bracket of enjoyable kids films is Despicable Me. It features a master criminal called Gru and his merry band of follows (the Minions), who despite their clear ineptitude, are determined to steal the worlds greatest treasures.
As the film begins, Gru is visiting the bank manager (even master criminals need to get a loan to carry out their megalomaniacal plans), but is turned down as another, up and coming criminal has already secured a loan to steal the moon (which was the focus of Gru’s plan).
All of Gru’s plans to break into this new criminals lair to steal the plans and money are rebuffed (in various painful and comedic ways) and about to give up hope, he spots three children from an orphanage selling cookies door to door. These children are welcomed in and Gru’s devious minds begins to hatch a plan.
Posing as a prospective parent, Gru fosters the children and sets them to work helping him access the property so he can enact his plan. Once successful, he aims to dump the kids and steal the moon (like you do!). As they drive off from the house, they travel past a fun fair and Gru makes the decision to dump the kids there, however what happens is rather than dropping and running, Gru is forced to join them on a roller coaster (the youngest child is too short to ride alone!) As you watch their time, you increasingly seeing Gru having fun with this group and becoming increasingly paternal and caring towards them. The fun that they share is the catalyst to changing Gru’s head and heart.
So where does a master criminal, a plan to steal the moon and a softening heart fit into east to west? Before we go further, it may be worth confirming (for the sake of clarity), we don’t have any plans for world or lunar domination, David isn’t a master criminal of Gru or Moriarty-esque standing. Actually, the reality is more about the impact of fun on the lives of those we support. For many of those we work with, the seriousness of what they are facing or experiencing can mean that there is seemingly no space for fun. And yet, fun is a natural part of what it means to be human. Having fun is healthy and can bring healing and restoration. It allows people to let go of the big stuff to live in the enjoyable, even for a moment.
For Gru, he believed that taking over the world and stealing it’s jewels and prizes was what was fun for him. It wasn’t until he experienced something more that he realized that fun could be had in different and unexpected ways. Ultimately, fun brought hope, not just for Gru, but those young children he’d taken under his care. And the same is true for those we support at east to west. Even in the darkest and most difficult circumstances, having fun brings hope, and that’s why it’s so important to us.
January Prayer Update
We know that hearing answers to prayers can be really encouragement and is a testament to their power and the faithfulness of God. Below are what we asked you to pray for in January 2022 and an update as to how God has heard and answered.
Prayer for wisdom as the EICs continue to establish key relationships within their school projects. Our team are well established in schools now, with a wide range of cases and responsibilities. Give thanks that God has gone before and opened doors for our team.
Wisdom and understanding in which support groups to run within schools and the best ways to implement them. God has been gracious and given us plenty of opportunities to serve. We’ve been particularly busy in the area of exam stress, especially GCSEs which have been very different due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Prayer for establishing and maintaining relationships with staff at the schools, particularly those that are new to east to west. We’ve been blessed to grow since January, with new team and schools coming online all the time. Our team have settled well and we’ve been able to respond to need as it arises.
Wisdom in identifying which young people would benefit from support groups. We’ve been able to work closely with our school partners to ensure those who need additional help and support have received it.
For Hollie Mock as she joins the team and supports young people in three schools across Spelthorne. She’s a star! We give thanks to God for bringing her to east to west and all she adds to our organisation.
Give thanks that the EIC team have worked with 60 young people since September, pray that these young people will be able to move forward with the strategies they worked out with the team. We’ve now worked with 186 young people (until June 13th), delivering 1197 intervention sessions (1,031 hrs of support and interaction with the school) – quite a step up and testament to our brilliant team delivering this work.
Our counsellors, Tracy, Philippa & Helen are facing an increased need for their support on schools – please pray for wisdom on their part, and on the part of the team in schools, as they identify the young people that need ongoing support and those who have developed resilience and no longer need regular support. God continues to do wonders through our team and we’re so blessed by all Tracy, Philippa and Helen bring to each of their projects.
June Prayer Requests
As we head towards the end of term, we’ve asked Ian to share some of the prayer requests from our Early Intervention Co-Ordinators (EICs) and our Counsellors.
Give thanks for Tracy as she prepares to leave east to west to take up a new role with the NHS as a youth counsellor. We are so grateful for all she’s brought to east to west over the past (near) 4 years at Town Farm. Pray as she moves on, she’d settle into her new role quickly and effectively.
Please pray for the conversations we’re having with our existing schools – some are looking to expand their provision and how this will impact existing provision and recruiting for growth.
Give thanks for the recruitment of Clive as the new Head of EICs moving into the next year.
Pray for the teachers and staff at schools as we head towards the end of the academic year – give thanks for them and all they’ve achieved.
Pray for the young people as they prepare to move forwards into college and apprenticeships – pray that God would provide them with the people and resources they need to continue to grow and learn.
As we approach the end of our first year working as EICs, give thanks for all God has done through the team and that we’ve exceeded expectations in terms of young people being supported and hours delivered.
Give thanks for the successful 25th Anniversary Celebration we enjoyed at the beginning of June