ON HOW CHARITY STARTS AT HOME AND ENDS UP AT UNIVERSITY
Interviewed by Jo Reynolds
When did you first come to the area?
When I went to Hammersmith College 4 years ago.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in St Thomas' Hospital and grew up with my family in Wandsworth. I have a sister who's 10 years older and a brother 15 years younger.
I was lost before I found me again
You are a volunteer for The Upper Room charity. What is it and where is it?
It's a charity in the upper room of St Savior’s Church on Wendell Park. It supports adults with free food and helping them get employment. It helped me learn to drive.
How did you first learn about The Upper Room?
Online. I was looking up charities because I needed help. At that stage I felt like I hadn't achieved much in my life and I needed something to give me a bit of hope. I had lost my confidence through an abusive relationship. I wasn't myself. And once I left that, I kind of started to love me again. I was looking for something new and I thought that learning to drive would help me find some kind of driving job.
How does The Upper Room's driving programme work?
They help about 30 people a year get a driving test in return for volunteering (for 80 hours). I had done my theory test, but they will help you with that. The centre has resources, computers and books, and there are people there who support you by doing workshops. They're very caring and supportive at The Upper Room.
How long does it typically take to pass the test?
Generally, about 6 months. Some of the people who use The Upper Room have a lot of issues. The people who use driving are ex-offenders.
Was it scary learning to drive in London?
Terrifying. Everyone is so aggressive and they drive so quick. And I learnt on roads I didn't know. I'm very girly. I'm a gentle soul. I was scared of everything, though I feel powerful now. I was lost before I found me again.
Did you pass first time?
You've since gone to university. Where and what do you study?
I'm doing a 3-year degree in sociology with criminology at the University of East London in Docklands. I chose there because my nan lives in Walthamstow so I can see her too.
Your family must be proud.
They're very proud. Though I'm not the first person in my family to go to university. Some cousins did, and my mum has a degree in social work. She worked with drug addicts, and my dad is a plumber.
Why did you choose sociology and criminology?
I don't agree with some aspects of the criminal justice system. Many criminals aren't assessed properly. If they have difficult family backgrounds or are raised in care, often they find an alternative family in a gang, which often leads to crime, so they get dropped by the care system. We need to pick them up when they're arrested. They're dropped too young.
How do you find life as a student?
It's difficult juggling all the people and not losing your old friends along the way.
Do you still volunteer?
I volunteer a day a week at The Upper Room on a university work placement.
Has volunteering changed you?
I found something rewarding by helping others. I'm motivated to help others.
Where does your instinct to give to others come from?
Ever since I was young I've wanted to help people. I thought about being a doctor or nurse until I realised I did not like the hospital environment. I hate the sight of blood.
When you see people in the street who are down on their luck, do you direct them to The Upper Room?
Always. I tell everyone about The Upper Room. Everyone in the local area seems to know about it. They're so generous, donating clothes and food. At harvest festival, they give so much food it's enough (for the charity) to live off for most of the year.
When you graduate, what would be your dream job?
I'd love to be an actress, but that's not going to happen. I acted at school and was always the star of the show, proper theatre, at Battersea Arts Centre and the Round House, proper plays and musicals. I was so up I was surprised when I was deflated by that relationship. At one point, I thought life was over. You have to be careful with your life. Being realistic, I know I need to be financially stable, but I want to motivate and inspire people. I want to teach people about self-love. Not too much, but enough.
If you set up a charity, what would be its focus?
I'd focus on ex-criminals and the homeless.
Have you a tattoo?
No, but I've always wanted the drama face, sad on one side, happy on the other.
How and with whom do you relax?
With music, any genre as long as there's a beat you can dance to. And with my new partner, D. He's so lovely, so calm.
Thank you, Kylia. It's been a real pleasure to meet you.
Interviewed Nov 2018