In January 2019, The Hummingbird Project began to support young people in Belfast who had factors in their life that made them at risk of suicide; to engage, recover and build their resilience for a more positive future.
We met Anthony in a temporary homeless shelter. He was removed as an infant from parental care then subsequently lived in several children’s homes and various temporary shelters. He had little or no qualifications, self harm and suicide attempts in his history, as well as no statutory, family or community support. But Anthony was desperate to change his future.
Throughout 2019, Anthony showed up to every group and 1:1 session with the Hummingbird Project. With our support, he set goals, attended youth forums, signed up for drug counselling, completed our peer mentorship programme and began an employability program to help him gain skills and support for work. In February 2020, he finally secured his first permanent home of his own. It was new and strange, but moreover, it was tremendously exciting... With his own place, and a routine and purpose, Anthony was moving towards achievement and independence.
Then, the UK entered a period of lockdown.
Anthony was suddenly on his own. No friends to see, no community groups to attend, no education and no employability. His hope, stability and future suddenly seemed very far away.
On day one of lockdown, we decided we could not shutdown the Hummingbird Project. Stepping away from our clients in this situation could be catastrophic. So with the support of our funding partner for this particular project, PWC, we adapted. Between phone calls, video calls and outdoor exercise visits, we stayed right beside all of our clients on the project.
Our contact with Anthony surged. To try and keep him safe, optimistic and on track, we often spoke to him on a daily basis. He needed our support to remember that this was only a pause; everyone and everything was still there, it was just going to be quiet for a while.
Thankfully, things are starting to look brighter. Anthony now can see a few friends outdoors, and with the support of the IEP’s Champion, National Grid, we are accessing hardware and data for him and others to complete online courses and receive support from other organisations, as things slowly open up or pivot to digital.
Anthony has told us frequently over the last few months, “If you guys hadn’t stayed in touch with me, I would have been done, gone.” And we believe him.
Anthony will keep going now - and so will we - but experiences like these show us the real impact of isolation and how important having even one person to connect with can be.
For more information on the work of the Hummingbird Project, please visit their website here.