Hi all, my name is Alex S, and I am a year 10 student at Riverside School. This week, I had the opportunity to do my work experience here at Thames Life which has been really enjoyable. I chose to do my work experience at Thames Life as I have been part of YCAG ever since joining secondary school in year 7 and I find helping the community rewarding and fulfilling. I have also participated in many local events such as litter picking with Rodding Rubbish in the past few years. Through YCAG I have been involved in events such as the Barking and Dagenham Accountability Assembly back in October, where I got to meet and speak with the Lead of the Barking and Dagenham council, Darren Rodwell, and other powerful people in the area. These experiences and events gave me an insight into things such as Community Organising, campaigning and public speaking, which made me want to do my work experience at Thames Life, as it was a setting I was relatively familiar with and enjoy. However, this week has exceeded my expectations, and it was even more fun than I had expected!

I started my work experience on Monday with the Thames Life team by doing a Wellbeing Activity. I had never heard of any workplace do this before, so I was intrigued by what it was about. I was a bit intimidated at first by sitting at a table with people I had not spoken with properly before but that feeling did not last long as the team was very welcoming and friendly to me, always ensuring I was comfortable and understanding everything. I got to attend their team meeting, and hear about their current projects and successes, for example the GP Drop-in Clinic at the Warehouse which I found to be such a great idea. In this meeting I realised what a positive impact Thames Life has on the community as there were so many stories of happy residents which was so great to hear about. I also heard more about The Warehouse, and although I am really upset about the idea of it closing (as I have been there numerous times) I feel a lot more hopeful knowing that Thames Life and others are actively working to stop this. Then, I went door-knocking for the first time. At first, I felt it was too out of my comfort zone but after Alex A encouraged me to try it; I realised it was not as difficult as I expected it to be, and I was happy to have challenged myself to try it. 

On Tuesday, I spent the day with Nikhil in the Barking Food Forest. He gave me a tour of the forest and shared tips on how to care for different plants. Nikhil shared about different career paths in agriculture and potential work experience that could be done which was interesting to hear about. Nikhil has expertise in permaculture and hosts sessions with the Riverside Bridge, the primary, nursery and secondary schools on Tuesdays, and sessions with residents on Saturdays from 10am to 12pm in the Food Forest. My main project for the day was working on the signage for the Barking Food Forest. At the end of the day, we put it up and I look forward to seeing it every day when I walk to school.  

On Wednesday, I learnt all about the history of Thames Life and Community Organising with Alex A, which was valuable to learn about as it made understanding the Ripple Effect meeting later that evening, easier. I had the chance to take minutes for the meeting which I had not done before, and I was able to see the point of view of residents in the area. During the day, I got the chance to sit down with the Thames Life Governance Manager, Margarida, who shared information about her job role. She reviews methods and helps to find more effective ways to do things at Thames Life, such as finances and policies, helping to save a lot of time and resources. She has a background in Environmental Engineering, which she said taught her “a bit of everything”. I related with her when talking about enjoying organising and structuring things and I gained a lot of insight from our conversation. 

Today (Thursday) I worked in communications with Zahra, and I helped design a safeguarding card using Canva. We also spoke to some media outlets, and I spent time working on this blog post. I also had a catch up with Jamie to see how he supports Zahra in her role, but also does some of the behind the scenes management of the organisation alongside Margarida and Matt as Deputy CEO. 

On Friday I will be working with Lucy, and we will be having a stall at the Thames View Juniors Multicultural day to spread awareness on the campaign to save the EOED Warehouse. I very much look forward to getting stuck into a community event to see the positive impact Thames Life makes.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with the team and found I learnt a lot. Thank you to everyone especially Alex for making this possible! 

– Alex S 🙂

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