LIA Project - Impact Researcher at the Childhood Trust

Hello! My name is Abdul. I study Law at the London School of Economics and I am from Hull.

I was raised alongside my brother by a single mother in a 2-bed flat in a council estate all my life. But now, I’m surrounded by the affluent, fancy houses and expensive cars while I attend events with butlers and millionaires roaming the corridors. If anyone asked, I’m just a student from the North that took a gap year. A double life lived on purpose, simply because I preferred not to say. 

Titled “Prefer Not to Say”, the project consisted of an essay covering my struggled journey to the LSE and everything in between. Notably, the traumatic events born from relative poverty that I never talk about. If I did talk about them at the time, perhaps they would no longer be traumatic. I chose The Childhood Trust because I wanted to explore and conquer the baggage of my childhood to continue in my life, proud to be who I am.

40% of children in London are regularly missing meals and go hungry. The fact of the matter is that poverty is commonplace and is ubiquitous – amongst children, no less. Part of my project included researching and understanding why some impoverished children seemingly beat the statistical odds in achieving academic success. The key word being statistical, as I began to realise its skewed perspective and misdirection to fallacious conclusions. By focusing more on the idea of a growth mindset and putting forth a study of correlative proof (across the entire population of Chile), I was able to find free, practical interventions that has helped level the socio-economic disparity in academic outcomes.

The regular check-ins with my supervisor included talks about theories. One of which, included the idea of a fear of poverty – whereby, having experienced poverty, one would never want to go back and would do anything to prevent such a backtrack. I think this theory resonated with me as I felt like I was never satisfied with what I currently have, with an entrenched hunger for more. Being able to understand my mindset and where it stems from enables me to feel more comfortable in the present as I worry about whether I will ever feel content with myself.

Little did I know how emotionally reminiscent this would be. I participated in a “Decorate A Child’s Life (DACL)” project ran by the Trust, whereby I helped transform a room at CHIPS (Christian International Peace Service) into a haven for children to play games, have movie nights, and simply enjoy a social community. The core meaning behind a DACL resonated with me, as it is fundamental for any child to have a room to call their own. A primary school boy came into CHIPS after school and was able to ask for some water. When I was in primary, the community centre was closed, and simply having the option to go in with friends, have some food or water, and play some games, is something I wish I could’ve had. Giving that to them is personally fulfilling and a reminder that the past doesn’t hold much weight, as what you can do in the present is more significant.

Being able to reflect for such a period and navigate a troubled past and present is a privilege many can’t afford. I am thankful and appreciative of The Childhood Trust and Laurence Guinness for allowing me to do so. Being grounded back to my intrinsic values and beliefs is something that will prevent me from going astray from who I am. The reminder of the past and the continuing ubiquity of poverty will enable me to continue my career with greater integrity.

My project enables The Childhood Trust to portray a story beyond childhood, focusing on barriers that linger into adulthood. This isn’t just to pull on the heartstrings of others but a call-out to the policymakers for change. This project demonstrates the progressively difficult barriers created not only by stigmatic ideologies but also by the systemic inequalities that are so multi-faceted a child cannot possibly fathom how to navigate them. The project only scratches the surface of what information I could procure to understand my own situation and motivations. It is in this respect I hope to raise awareness of why even adults in poverty cannot begin to understand why their lives are not on par with the aristocracy, who would rather focus on banning certain dogs than focus on visible poverty. Cherry-picking or truth? I hope the very policy influencers that read the brochure can appreciate the perspective of a young man wanting more for himself but unable to understand the world around him. In doing so, I hope for changes in thought processes through a contextual understanding. A child shouldn’t be held back from higher education because of an arbitrary grading system that inherently disadvantages them – just a thought.

The essay will be published in the London Child Poverty Summit 2023 brochure, held on the 17th of October, 2023. By sharing my story with the world, I hope to get past the idea of living a double life and inspire others to reflect and share their journeys. Through analysing the importance and practical impact of simply believing in expanding your mind (growth mindset), people can be empowered to believe in more than what they currently do, whether academic or vocational. Overall, my ultimate takeaway is that life is not linear and that many inherent disadvantages can be offset with a stronger mindset.

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