“Don’t let the past stop you from succeeding in life. Even if it is a long and bumpy journey, you will get there eventually and trust me: it is worth it!”
These are the words of Fatima, who fled violence and political unrest in Guinea to seek an uncertain future in an unknown country. Five years later, at 20 years old she has left waitressing behind her and achieved a prestigious apprenticeship with Accenture.
Fatima is one of many young people who have spent part of their lives in care. In 2016, 7.970 young people left care on their 18th birthday in England. Many have experienced severe neglect, abuse, domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse at the hands of their primary care givers.
As statistics show, care leavers’ educational attainment, levels of health and wellbeing, and employment prospects are all significantly lower than for the general population. Only 6% of them go straight into higher education at the age of 18, whilst over 40% of 19-year-old care leavers are neither in employment, education or training (NEET). It takes a good deal of courage, dedication, and resilience for these young people to beat the odds and succeed, just as our Drive Ambassadors and many other young people working with us have shown us again and again.
Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.org Sheryl Sandberg, along with psychologist Adam Grant, has recently published a new book Option B, Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, which combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s ground-breaking research on finding strength in the face of adversity. It explores the stories of a broad range of people who have overcome challenges in their lives, identifies how we can best talk to and help others in crisis, and offers practical tips for creating resilient families, communities, and workplaces. The book shows that people do not just recover from hardship, but that many of them come out the other end stronger and more capable than ever before.
It is this message that resonates with young care leavers who are eager to find their place in society, despite the grief and pain they have experienced in the past and the many challenges they still have to overcome.
Sandberg met our Founder and CEO Martha Wansbrough at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year and was eager to learn more about the program. Whilst in London, Sandberg met with the Drive Ambassadors and talked with them about their incredible stories of resilience. “If young people have a long-term vision for themselves, they can endure almost everything,” said Zach, who at the age of 14 made the conscious decision to leave his home and go into care. By that time, he had already missed one year of school because of substance abuse related troubles at home. “My step father was in prison and I didn’t want to end there as well.” Whilst his peers were selling drugs, Zach was studying hard as well as working long shifts at a supermarket to get by.
Following his two big passions – music and empowering young people – he did a degree in music and is now supporting care leavers around London as part of our team. In his role as Outreach Coordinator, Zach goes to hostels, youth clubs, job centres, job fairs and everywhere he can meet and talk to young people about what they want their future to look like.
“I am so grateful to have had the chance to meet this incredible group of care leavers and staff at Drive Forward,” said Sandberg.
“The work Martha and her team are doing and the community they have created is deeply inspiring. These young adults are a remarkable example of strength and prove that we don’t just build resilience in ourselves but in each other and in our communities.”
Sharing her personal experience of coping with the loss of her husband in 2015, Sandberg believes people aren’t born with a finite amount of resilience, but that it’s like a muscle that we can train and build over time. Those young people who have experienced extreme hardships before, during and after being in the care system and are able to recover with the right kind of support represent one of the most resilient groups in our society. They are a leading example of how people can develop the strength and motivation to overcome difficult times to create meaningful lives for themselves.
“No matter age, race, gender, class or culture… we can learn from each other’s experiences and support each other.”