When Akira met Heaven, an Employment Consultant at Drive Forward Foundation, at a career’s fare earlier this year, the 22-year old had recently lost her foster mum, quit university and was struggling to get back on track.
Akira is the oldest of four siblings and went into care at the age of nine. She came to really care and appreciate her foster placement and, being an advocate for children in care in her local council, she also realises that she is one of the lucky ones. A confident, inquisitive and curious girl, Akira was eager to do better and succeed in life, not only for herself, but also for her mother.
“I always wanted to study […] I wanted to work hard doing something that I love, get a good job, because I [knew] that my mum [was] reliant on me.”
When her mother passed away five years ago, Akira had to reshape her goals, find her determination and regain trust in herself. At the time, her foster mother was an invaluable resource of strength, encouragement and inspiration.
“She helped me and pushed me through that time to realise that I needed to do it for myself, but also that I had the potential.”
With a keen interest in the arts, fashion and design, Akira accomplished a level 3 in fashion and design and put all her efforts into gaining a spot at the prestigious London College of Fashion. It was hard work and took a lot of determination and resilience, but Akira persevered and was accepted to do a Master’s degree at her dream university. However, Akira’s luck was soon to be challenged as her foster mother passed away.
“[…] it was very much a huge setback for me and I ended up going back home and at home things were falling apart and it was just really a time of turmoil really.”
The loss of her foster mum triggered many more doubts which added to Akira’s internal struggle. Being one of the few black people on her course and having a very different background from her university peers, she had always questioned her belonging there at all. Now, everything just fell apart. There was no bereavement support, no counselling or even just a listening ear to ease Akira’s pain. She left university thinking that after a year or so, she would be ready to come back and finish her degree. And she tried, she tried really hard to the point that she would break down in tears.
“[Y]ou kind of expect your local authority to care. And what’s more obvious Then having a young person that has just lost a parent or is losing a parent and to reach out then?”
The struggles in her life affected the relationships around her and Akira started to worry that her placement would crumble. Adding to the emotional weight she was already carrying, Akira quit university and for a while fell into some kind of limbo. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, she was made aware that now that she was turning 21, it was time for her to move out of her foster home into her own accommodation. If she didn’t move fast, she would lose her claim to a flat.
“[…] it’s a very bitter-sweet experience and financially it has taken a toll on me; emotionally that has an effect on you and mentally kind of breaks you.”
But Akira never lost hope. She knew, that she couldn’t ever be happy by getting just any job to pay the bills, that she needed to find a way to get a foot into the door in order to start a career she would enjoy. She knew that sitting around waiting for the perfect opportunity wasn’t an option, so Akira indulged herself in her advocacy work, blogging and freelance work to broaden her portfolio. And for the extra push into the right direction, she got in touch with Drive Forward.
When Heaven first suggested an opportunity with one of our corporate partners, Akira was sceptical. She had gone for jobs before, but had unfortunately received lots of rejections, which made her wonder whether this time things would be different. Fortunately, Akira impressed our corporate partner in her interview and ended up completing a two-week internship before being offered a fulltime position.
“[…] from when I stepped into the building and I spoke to my employers I knew that this could possibly be the place for me.”
Now, Akira is a Junior Design Manager at Module Media Studios in the City.
“I oversee the clients and all the work that comes into the office, distribute it and make sure that everyone is on task. I also have a say in how stuff is designed, how stuff is developed, and really look at the progression of the company and building client and work relationships. I really enjoy it because it’s a really comfortable environment.”
In addition to having gained a job with prospects of progression, Akira has found an employer who understands the struggles she has gone through.
“[Module Media] have three young people, including myself, working here, […] to be here and to have two other young people that I can relate to… that we come from relatively the same path, it makes me feel less of an alien or keep it a secret that I’m a care-experienced young person.”
Learn more about Akira, her views on life and useful lifestyle tips on her blog!