By Rich Grahame
It’s a tough time for young people to find employment at the moment, especially if you’re homeless. I ran a project at Centrepoint which aimed to empower homeless young people, to find a job and take control over their chaotic lives.
Two blocks down from the hostel I have been volunteering at, there is a market which runs twice a week in Queens Crescent. I thought that this market offered a brilliant opportunity for the young people, as they could learn how to run their own business, as a market trader, in their local community.
The boys completed a training workshop with Jake Norman, a food trader, on what it takes to run a market stall. This was followed by Up In My Grill, a latin inspired burger stall, kindly agreeing to take James and Ali on for a day of trading, showing them the ins and outs of running a market stall.
On Saturday 26th July we got underway. We unpacked the equipment and food out of the van, and with some instructions from the veterans, had the stall up and running within 30 mins.
Initially, the boys were a little nervous about speaking to customers and being able to cook a chorizo burger to Up In My Grill’s high standards. Ali took me to one side and said that he was worried because ‘I’m not a good cook’. I reassured him that he’d be ok, and explained he didn’t have to cook if he didn’t want to.
As the day wore on, I could see their confidence growing as they became familiar with their tasks. James was giving out free samples to passers-by and schmoozed at least two into buying a burger. By the end of the day Ali was singlehandedly cooking the burgers himself, saying ‘why didn’t anyone tell me that cooking was so easy!’
It was amazing to see their confidence grow over such a short space of time, and by the end of the day, James and Ali had successfully arranged to volunteer at the Queens Crescent Festival on August 4th, at two different market stalls.
Taking one opportunity often opens the door to another. Now that James and Ali have had a taste of market life they want to work towards running their own stall. Of course they will need support along the way, which myself and the local Queen’s Crescent Community Association will provide. But the most important factor is that they are motivated to succeed. Working with Up In My Grill, instilled an ambition within them, and this is what will hopefully carry them towards a brighter future.
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