Sharliny, 17, is a Youth Colleague with Barnardo’s Harrow Horizons and was previously supported by the service when she was going through a tough time at school. Several years prior Sharliny had experienced the loss of her father and this was something that would continue to affect her as she got older.

Sharliny said: “I came to Harrow Horizons when I was at secondary school in the summer of 2018. I was going through quite a difficult period in my life. Unlike a lot of other counselling services that I had already used, Harrow Horizons was different because it gave me a new-found confidence in myself and a sense of hope that I could come out of the situation I was in.

“My entire family was grieving the loss of my father and although it happened several years ago, the impact of this was something that would continue to affect me and my family in different ways. I have always been a hard-working student, but the added pressure to perform well at school along with what my family was going through seemed to overwhelm me. It’s difficult for any young person when they start GCSEs to do well with all the expectations that are placed on them from teachers and your peers.

If you have also lost a parent then life can seem even harder which is why Harrow Horizons was so vital for me because it provided me with time and space to manage my own stress and to work out what really matters.

Sharliny

Youth Colleague

Through Harrow Horizons Sharliny began having regular one-to-one counselling sessions with Emma, a counsellor at the service. Each week, during the summer holidays, Sharliny would meet Emma at her school and go to the school’s field for the sessions.

Sharliny said: “I enjoy being in the open air so I started having the sessions outside in a nearby field. Before you open up about anything you need to be able to trust that person. Emma made me feel really comfortable and this meant I was able to share my feelings. Sometimes you have counsellors who just want to ask what the problem is to tick a box, but Emma was not like that. She wanted to get to know me as a person and gave me the freedom and space to talk. She was more like a friend trying to listen than a professional with a title”.

The one-to-one sessions with Emma helped increase Sharliny’s confidence and resilience and made a big difference to her self-esteem. Sharliny said: “A lot of other services would just write you off and say ‘Oh you’re not that bad, you don’t need support’, but Harrow Horizons showed incredible compassion and realised I needed help. Even when I completed my course of sessions they still went out of their way to make sure I had support in school and gave me a contact number that I could call if I felt that I ever needed to speak to someone.

My advice to other young people who are experiencing problems at school is that it’s important to know that there is always someone out there that can help you. Speak to someone who you trust who really wants to help you and is genuine. The biggest thing that made the difference to me was that my teachers were there for me when they realised I had a problem. They wanted to listen and showed me that they wanted to help. Bereavement is something that is hidden which is why doing a small thing like checking-up on someone, asking them if they are OK is so important. Give that person the time and space to open up otherwise you might never know they have a problem.

In February 2020 Sharliny became a Barnardo’s Youth Colleague volunteer which means she is actively helping to shape our work at Harrow Horizons and improve the way our services are delivered for children and young people. Sharliny said: “This year I helped Barnardo’s by taking part in a youth panel interview where I was able to ask questions to the new director of strategic partnerships. The panel training was really fun and it was very interesting to see what it’s like to actually be in an interview situation where a candidate is presenting themselves for a job.“ As Youth Colleagues one of the questions we added to the panel was about asking what a candidate would do if they came into conflict with a young person during a collaborative meeting. If young people like ourselves had not been on the panel then this very important question might have been overlooked. Children and young people often see the world very differently to adults and can see solutions that adults sometimes miss, and this is why I really love Barnardo’s approach to collaboration."

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