WAYout is now in it’s ninth year and we’ve seen the life-changing benefits we can bring to street youth. Now, over 3000 WAYout members need a home. Prices have gone up in Sierra Leone following Ebola and the subsequent economic crisis and we need to raise the rent to stay in our home. The WAYout studio is a safe haven replacing hopelessness, judgement and stigma with purpose, creativity, acceptance, training, homes, opportunity, facilities and inspiration.”WAYout helped me change my life completely. I was idle on the streets, no help from parents. People looked down on me” – Alusine, who is now a full time filmmaker and teaches others.
The WAYout Story so far…
WAYout was founded in Sierra Leone in 2008 by Hazel and Michael Chandler. It came out of a documentary Hazel was making about street youth in Kenema and was set up to offer free training and facilities in media, music and arts to street and disadvantaged young people. Many were ex combatants and most were traumatised by the conflict and alienated from community and education.
We have worked with over 3,000 street and disadvantaged youth since then.
There was already a body of research about the power of the arts to engage and change lives but nothing quite prepares you for seeing that first hand. Long term, disengaged street youth could keep their cool and define what they wanted to do through music and movies; learning specific skills but also things like communication, literacy, co-operation, empathy and team work without even realising it. Again and again we have seen them reconnect with family or community after years apart, gain self esteem through creativity, develop the confidence to start or return to education or get jobs and find self respect and a sense of their own identity and ability. The magic happens the moment they go from hanging out and doing something because it is cool and they’ve nothing better to do, to the realisation that they could, perhaps, be somebody and achieve something. Then they get stuck in and start learning; proving to their communities, families and themselves, that they count, after years of being told they will never amount to anything.
WAYout has an open door policy and we encourage new members to find what they are good at rather than push them through a set pattern of training. We also offer grants to members who have been coming for at least six months and are serious about learning, to find them homes, for travel to reconnect with family or to return to education.
WAYout would not be WAYout without its home – a building in a compound that houses the two recording studios funded by the Joe Strummer Foundation, the photoshop room, two editing rooms and a dedicated women’s room with a large outdoor space for teaching, dancing or rehearsing.
“It means a lot to us. We’re going to make very good use of this home. WAYout has done a lot for the youth who are living on the streets. Youth with talent who are now making a mark out there” – David Conteh on the day we moved into the building.
It really is an amazing space, and provides a sense of home and community to all the street youth that use it.
But following the recent Ebola crisis prices have gone up, funding has gone down and we need to pay the rent.
We need your help to raise the rent.
We’ve achieved so much already:
- WAYout members have made award winning films from comedy to awareness raising documentaries on subjects like Ebola, Illegal Fishing, FGM and women’s rights- reaching audiences of hundreds of thousands.
- We have worked on films creating a positive image of disability with the Dorothy Springer Trust and sexual health with Marie Stopes.
- In the studio we have recorded over 1000 tracks and 11 albums. The Black Street Family, once notorious gangsters, have completely changed their image through having access to a free studio to record their music.
- 810 course certificates have been awarded to WAYout members
- 72 members have been found homes whilst others have received travel or education grants.
- We have a writers group who are shooting their first feature film and a trail blazing women’s group.
- Some WAYout members now have jobs as senior editors, camera operators and presenters at all three National TV stations and some successfully work freelance.
- We have had award winning volunteers come out and offer training in writing, filmmaking, editing, music, producing, photoshop, photography, radio production and animation and now WAYout members pass on that knowledge and do a lot of the training.
- We have new outreach projects in some of the poorest most neglected communities in the country.
Frank Turner recently visited WAYout and is now a patron. “It’s the only aid group that helps them self realise…and gives real, vital value to their lives.”
We could achieve so much more.
We are trying to raise £4000 to cover the rent for a year.
In return we have some great perks- signed books from patron Nick Hornby and signed albums from patron Frank Turner as well as theatre tickets and thank you photos and a song from WAYout members.
If we do not reach our goal your money still goes towards the rent and if we go over the goal it will pay the rent and towards core costs, including paying for members grants and salaries for staff (all of whom are ex-street youth). It is very hard to get core cost funding so every penny counts.
We are a 100% charity- meaning every pound goes to the work we do. And you can help even if you cant donate, by passing this on to friends and colleagues.
Our patrons are comedian/writer Mark Thomas, actor Ellen Thomas, musician Frank Turner and writer Nick Hornby.