What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
I’m Jasmine, mother to a fierce and loving 3-year-old girl, step mom to two boys one so smart he would put palaeontologists to shame with his knowledge of dinosaurs and another who could steal your heart with his cheeky smile, wife to the most caring man I have ever met and managing director at Making Changes North East, a small, community-led organization that aims to combat loneliness and isolation by building communities through education and experiences.
Sounds like the picture-perfect life right? Well, things haven’t always been so good.
Today, I want to speak with you about why I am passionate about the work we do, and want to see long lasting change within our communities.
I have suffered from negative mental health since being a child. I grew up in an area of deprivation and was also in and out of the social care system due to living in an abusive household. By 16 I had no family and was living independently, no longer in the care of social services. So there I was, a young suicidal teen, using drugs as a coping mechanism for trauma I didn’t even know I had, let alone how to face it.
By the time I was 20, I was already in my second abusive relationship and completely isolated with nowhere to turn and no one to talk to. I honestly thought I would die in that situation, and the thought brought me great relief.
The thing is, someone a long time ago chose to do something to make a difference to my life. In fact, this person did something over 10 years before I was even born. Oasis community housing is an organization whose origins go back to 1984 but somehow the choices a group of strangers made changed the whole trajectory of my life. I got a call one day, from the organization, as they were running a project called Talent Match. This was an incredible project which gave me the opportunity to make lifelong friends, build up a community, explore hobbies and interests and most importantly, have somewhere to turn to in order to help give me the courage and strength to get out of my situation. Of course, I didn’t make it easy for them though, I mean how could I? By this point my anxiety was so high I was blacking out regularly, I was jumpy, shaky and barely wanted to get out of bed out of fear of what was to come when I did.
This organisation never gave up. They came to me and met with me a bunch of times at coffee shops and places in and around my house in order to build a relationship with me. Your life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change. I didn’t know this at the time but this project was giving me the resources I needed in order to overcome my adversity and change my life.
When I and the other service users found out the project was coming to an end, everyone involved was understandably upset but we had been given the tools to continue their legacy and Making Changes NE was born.
Now, Making Changes NE has a wide network and reach. We have helped over 2000 people both directly and indirectly and we are happy to see and know what a difference we are making throughout the North East.
Our ethos allows us to communicate directly with people living in areas of deprivation around the North East first, setting up steering groups in order to find out what are the struggles of the people that live there, what opportunities will help them thrive and what is holding them back. We use this information to develop projects for that specific area and monitor the success through surveys.
I chose to put my energies into creating opportunities for people living in deprived areas as I saw first hand how poverty can affect your mindset, choices and opportunities. I grew up with a folded-up towel as my dolly. Most men I went to school with have been in and out of Jail. I never learned to ride a bike or swim till March 2022, at 26 years old. My determination and drive alone could not help me escape and better my life, but the community I surrounded myself with could. I already had a good idea of what would have helped me, and what has helped shape me into who I am today and I intend to give current and future generations the skills and opportunities they need in order to thrive and succeed.
I remember, as a child, I was involved in a community organization which allowed us to apply for funding in order to go to Blackpool pleasure beach for free – an opportunity I would not have otherwise had, and it is one of my best memories. When I was going down a dark path in my younger years, Monjer, who has been involved in many different community organizations, helped me gain experience in event organizing, got me involved in fashion shows to boost my confidence and gave me a safe space to grow. Getting involved in all of these activities allowed me to see what life is about and all the experiences and opportunities out there and we try our hardest to give people the opportunity to discover their passion and their people.
To view our list of of activities we have hosted since starting in 2018, read our blog about each activity where we will discuss in depth why we chose these activities and the way it has helped the community and how we hope to grow it.
You can support MCNE by shopping with us, donating money, voting for us in co-op local community fund (it only takes a minute and costs nothing), volunteering, and of course, liking and sharing our content.