This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 12/06/2018.
The Croydon bus where kids can get help for problems they can’t share with their parents
You have probably spotted it parked around Croydon and wondered what goes on inside.
“What’s said on the bus, stays on the bus”, senior outreach worker Clinton Waller explains.
You may have seen Clinton and other members of the Talkbus team on North End, on the Shrublands estate, or on the Monks Hill estate, but not many people will know about the important work they do or what is going on inside the bus.
The team who work on the bus aim to break down barriers between adults and children and connect with the town’s young people just by talking to them.
Sonia Garnett, another senior outreach worker, said: “That’s our magic, we are just informal and it’s as simple as talking.”
Croydon’s Talkbus offers young people advice on mental health, relationships and sex, healthy eating, drugs and alcohol, careers or anything else which might be concerning them.
The bus parks up at locations all over the borough and just waits for youngsters to come in, and scores do without any encouragement.
The Talkbus team invited the Advertiser along to shadow one of their shifts while the bus pulled up outside Monks Hill Sports Centre, on Farnborough Avenue, in Selsdon.
Sonia said: “Sometimes they [young people] come on and say ‘can I have a chat?’ or ‘can I ask you this?’
“It’s just about whatever support they want. We have conditions where they can say whatever they want.”
Clinton added: “They come in on their own. The younger ones will come on maybe with their friends, but once that stigma is broken down they can come on and ask about whatever they want to.”
The pair say, that because the team on the Talkbus, which is also made up of Lorna Hunt, Una Adarkwa and Angela Ben-Arie, are “normal” people it can make the process of talking to an adult less intimidating for children.
Sonia said: “Young people just want to know people do care about them, and they can relate to who is speaking to them.
“We’re just normal people and once they realise we’re not the police or someone intimidating they can talk.”
The idea is to move away from “talking to people in white coats in white rooms”.
Growing up Sonia said she found speaking to fellow team member Angela really helped.
She said: “Angela was my youth worker when I was 12 and I had had quite a difficult childhood. I wasn’t going to school and Angela was the only person who would work with me and not lose it.
Sonia added that Angela did not give up and helped Sonia get into therapy and involved in youth work.
Clinton said he got into helping youngsters after he began chatting to some of the young men who lived near him.
He said: “I used to work for BT and where I lived local boys kept vandalising a van and I went out and approached them and told them to have some respect [for it].
“They came back with more people, and nothing happened, and they eventually left it.
“They came back and said sorry and I said ‘why are you doing this?’ and they said, ‘there’s nothing for us to do’ and then me and the other dads started doing projects and practical stuff like playing football and my eyes were opened up to what I can actually do.”
Some shifts can prove quiet and others busy.
This one proved to be a very busy one.
Parents looking for help for their children, big groups of boys from Year 9 and older girls were some of the people looking for help that day.
Issues such as sexual health, depression and exam stress were just some of the topics covered by Sonia and Clinton.
As well as parking in the town centre and around Croydon, the team attend events, like the recent New Addington Carnival, so youngsters get used to seeing them around.
The Talkbus’s schedule can be found here where there is also more information about what support is available.