This is a guest post by Carol Barwick from Raise; a North England startup focussed on raising self-esteem and confidence in fun and fantastic ways for all ages. You can follow Raise Blog by clicking here.

Raise believes that every one matters. But this is not a smug way of saying we're perfect and we've already made it! This strap line is a constant reminder of the bench mark that we want to have in the forefront of everything we do. It is a huge goal to work towards, bigger and more significant to us than making a certain amount of money or achieving a certain number of followers. Every One Matters means that every time we see anyone we want to raise their self-esteem and confidence, valuing them for who they are. It is a constant reminder and challenge to value every one we meet.


Whilst our logo and remit have changed our story and values remains the same. Many years ago my mum had a spiritual vision. It was a picture of me with a banner  that was God's love and children following behind me. At the time I was a carer for my mum- as I had been throughout my childhood- and so I already had an innate need and desire to seek out and support others like me. 


The reality of the initial Raise children's project started in 2004 as a church project where I was employed to work with children in the church, in schools and in the Bradford community- this work was soon extended to working with young carers too. I learned how to be an advocate for the child giving them a voice through creative expression and simply by listening. I championed everything they stood for and valued them in a way that some of them had never been valued before.

But....It has been said that "it takes a whole village to raise a child" and I have realised since focusing on children and young people that despite wanting to be an advocate for and giving a voice to each child it can be unhelpful to ignore that they do indeed have a wider circle of influence. Every One Matters. It reminds me of the scene in Avatar when the central character is welcomed into the tribe by the physical connection of every single member, we are all connected in some way or other and it's up to us to seek those connections out. 

I learned how to value and build relationships with the parents and agencies although I often found the balance of support challenging and at times very painful, reminiscent of my own relationship with my mum where the balance of power and responsibility could change on a daily basis.

This important work only finished when I became a parent myself! Suddenly I was the one needing support and to feel valued in everything from how I chose to feed my baby to how many books I had read about routines and being a great mum! I learnt and am still learning that every parent is an individual and must not be compared to anyone else. I learned that my son could tell me what he wanted despite not speaking words and I also learned that I needed to be a working mum to feel valued myself- all powerful and ongoing lessons!

Once taking the plunge as a self employed small business I realised that I truly wanted to support all ages, children and adults alike but I was very nervous about working with adults as until then I had only ever worked with children, as challenging as that had been. After a few hard lessons and steep learning curves I sat down with God who I consider to be my boss, and after a lot of painful soul searching I realised that I simply needed to work and live like every one matters trusting that He would always be there to help me.

So Raise is now an all-embracing all age project! Our new sessions mean that we can offer ways to raise self-esteem and confidence in a fun and fantastic way! Situated in West Yorkshire at present we can obviously only physically reach a limited number of people but our desire is to produce resources and offer training further afield. Sessions are mainly creative in nature and so far comprise of choirs and story sessions although we would like to offer other forms of creative therapy which will raise people's self-esteem in new and successful ways.

You only need to watch a Gareth Malone programme to see how singing can improve health and well-being and there are countless studies and talks on the physiological aspects of this. As a young child in a challenging family situation, I used singing as my creative outlet and survival. making up songs and writing stories took me away from the reality of what was happening to a place where I was happy and in control. This TED talk on singing to stay alive saw the speaker singing for 15 minutes a day with life changing results.

I used to think that our community choir Raise your Voice was just for fun but I have since realised how much the participants need it. We have formed a strong group, close but not cliquey, who share in pain and joy and love to sing! Many of the members have spoken about how it has changed the way they interact with people and helped them to face situations that they may otherwise not have been able to. It amazes me how new people become welcomed in and are soon able to access the same level of support. Often our favourite part of the evening is "song of the week" where a person will share a song that means something to them- we have a waiting list! 

In contrast our children's Raise your voice choir provide constant surprises and lessons for me. They question, giggle, dance around and even cry! Each week we focus on a word that links well being with music and they love to learn these. Each character provides a different nuance to the group- we talked about being different parts of the body and one member said they would be the diaphragm as they wanted to support and give others a voice! Insights like this never cease to amaze me...

Raise your voice adventures interactive story sessions

Our interactive story sessions mean that under 5s can engage in a way that is fun and accessible for them but we also provide time for parents and the children to discuss things whilst colouring in.

Using any book we find inspiring or interesting and using a variety of musical instruments, masks and puppets we weave songs and learning lessons through it to provide a fun and fantastic interactive story session. We also have a time to talk about what we might be able to learn from the story using a simple colouring/drawing sheet. I love to see these and am often amazed by what the children have gleaned from the session! It also gives the children the opportunity to share with others what they have learned- shared learning being a very important part of our values and vision.

Raise believes in keeping things new and original and are therefore always willing to talk to groups about new ways we could raise self esteem and confidence. Our website is constantly being updated so do look at what we do or get in touch to tell us what you want us to do! You will also find testimonies of the ways that Raise is making a difference to people's lives.

This will probably be the last time for a while that we write such a self indulgent blog but we are excited about the future and how you will be a part of it. Meanwhile, as you continue (or start) to live like Every One Matters let us know the difference that it's making- we promise it will change your life!

If you let it.

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