This story is from Mike Hargreaves, Brathay Associate Trainer, who worked on the New Beginnings programme with Cumbrian care leavers.
The Copper Mines is a former mining area in the hills above Coniston in the Lake District.
It was a weekend residential with only three boys from the project. One boy, Billy, a great kid with bags of charm, had never been anywhere like the Copper Mines before. In fact, he’d never really been anywhere other than Barrow. You knew, just looking at him, that life was hard. He lived on his own, fending for himself and just about keeping threats to his safety at arms’ length. He wanted his life to be different…
This was our chance to give him the breathing space to think about how it could be.
We hired the mountain hut to stay over on Friday and Saturday night. It was winter and bitterly cold. We were surrounded by water turned into ice everywhere; there was snow on the ground, icicles hanging from trees, waterfalls hung motionless frozen in time, ice crystals sparkled and frost covered the hut like a blanket. The sky was blue and the air was fresh and crisp. It was a winter wonderland.
After a night getting to know each other, we had no plans for Saturday. We spent the day walking around the mines, playing snowballs, hide and seek, building snowmen, trying to find fools’ gold, interacting with nature. The sort of day any kid would find inspiring and a world away from Barrow.
That night, Billy sat down and made a list of goals and plans for the future. Whether he achieved them or not, seeing life through a different lens was an important starting point for the rest of his life. It was a very special day indeed, for everyone.
Following the programme Billy has moved to a new area; he has had his own new beginning.
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