Can you introduce yourself please?
My name is Jerome Harvey-Agyei, 28 originally from east London ( Leyton / Walthamstow).
I am the co- founder of the Tope project.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a care leaver, a person of love, a communicator and value creator.
I have been on a hell of a journey like all humans just learning about this thing called life and what is my calling or purpose is. Throughout my life i have had a wealth of tough experiences and amazing experiences which has given me a balanced view and powerful insights
I love creativity, nature, people, food , anything fun and just learning everything there is to learn.
At present I do a variety of things, speaking, radio hosting, empowerment workshops, participation & advocacy, support work and run a charity/project.
I believe there are no limits and you can go to where ever you want. I have learnt that regardless of the field there are a few rules to growth, which are;
Communicate lovingly; always be willing to learn from everyone and everything, come from a place of how can you add value and never give up!
Do you mind telling us the reasons you went into care?
I went into care as my mum was attacked and stabbed in her eyebrow, due to my mum being an alcoholic, and drug users always being around our house. we were down as physically abused & neglected and there were many incidents in my house which caused lots of alarm within the community and the authorities as well as my brother and I used to be on the streets a lot quite late.
What was it like when you first went into care?
Going into care was the most confusing thing I had gone through as a child as it wasn’t properly explained as to why and what was happening although I truly knew what was going on – it was as if the social workers were scared to tell me what I already knew.
We were moved to a family who were a completely different culture to us so the smells, environment, sounds and language were so different, everything felt so alien and we were truly traumatized simply wondering ‘’what’s happened to mum & why can’t we see her’.
My first instinct was to comfort my brother, we were both silent and I just held him to make sure we both were safe. As we were taken into the new house we just sat and watched tom and jerry not really watching it but just sitting and assessing where we were and what was going to happen, for a while we both became very withdrawn.
My first instinct was to comfort my brother, we were both silent and I just held him to make sure we both were safe.
Overall, what has your care experience been like?
My overall experience of care was truly balanced and I wouldn’t change it as it has made me the man I am today, being in the first placement was a nightmare we were ‘lost’ and eventually the carers started abusing us throwing us in cellars making us stay in our rooms all the time, giving us different food, not allowing us to sit on their sofa unless a social worker was their, they physically and emotionally tore up our identity. We often wanted to belong with them but we were constantly excluded from family activities and functions.
But then we were advertised in the papers – to see if anyone wanted to adopt us – like objects and we were un-adoptable as we started getting older. We were moved into a new foster house with our sister and that was the most amazing experience; this lady never hit us, allowed us to grieve, made sure we were safe and helped to rebuild me into the man I am today by not giving up and giving us not just a foster parent but a foster family to belong to a lifelong family who I still speak and consider family now.
I have had to move several times and the system itself was a shambles the way it seemed to re traumatize us was sad on reflection but certain people within the system helped me to make it out and to turn my pain to positivity.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory was when I first went on holiday, and I first saw blue clear water – I was amazed and just jumped straight in not realizing it was a bit deeper than I thought and there were fish!!
What is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is overcoming myself and learning to love myself, I mean on the surface I have achieved many things like going to Buckingham Palace, meeting Obama, getting many achievements, working with young people. But overall more than anything conquering the self-destructive me was such an achievement I am proud of as it has helped me to find the love in me and now I can give outwards on another level as it has helped me to experience life on a whole new level.
Conquering the self-destructive me was such an achievement
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
I have had some profound challenges such as being stabbed several times, losing friends to knife crime, seeing my mum after she jumped from a roof and having a friend who committed suicide as well as moving into my flat for the first time.
I overcame by asking for help, as well as doing a lot of self work and sometimes being given the time to grieve. At times having the right people around me to help me and remind me of each experience in some way serving me and me making choices about what they mean for me.
Has your past had a positive or negative effect on your future?
Overall I think my past has been a positive thing for me, not to say that some of the experiences didn’t feel good but I know overall I wouldn’t be who I am without them it has brought me to a place of strength, overwhelming love and drive to help the world around me.
What has driven you?
The pain has driven me as I do not want any child to experience the pain I have endured and I just work to find a way , no blame , no excuses, no barriers , I am truly obsessed on how I can help add value and make some changes so we have better environments and aid a better world.
Having a great family of people who care.
I had some amazing support from 2 carers particularly who are now my family
Who is your role model?
My role model was many different people I had a foster brother & sister Dave & Shalyce, my carers Pat and Lorna, some of my friends Natasha & Francis, one of my managers Kate . Elliot Kay one of my coaches/mentors and also some kids as they have less filters and live life in their own fun enjoyable care free way.
What keeps you going?
It’s simple. Love keeps me going and knowing that everyone can experience it . I just want to help as many people as possible experience this energy.
Have you ever felt like giving up?
Yes many times, to have felt like giving up it can come out of nowhere, this is a natural feeling when dealing with trauma but it’s important to acknowledge it but not let it over consume your mind but ask yourself different questions i.e what do I want my life to look like? feel like? etc
How much have you changed since you left care?
Since leaving care I have grown massively learning how resilient I truly am and how different being in care is to living with your birth parents/family. I have become more complete and reflective of life and the journey.
Do you think you were ever judged or labeled for being in care?
I was always judged and labeled like a product rather than a human being and I realized on reflection how much that this had an impact on my conditioning growing up but once I became aware I was able to rebuild my true identity.
When did you start to believe in yourself?
When I nearly lost my life I realized we don’t have much time we just have to do, and not worry about if you get it wrong, sometimes getting it wrong is right. I started to take action and realize my potential and how more empowering it is to learn through experiences.
Did you ever feel alone?
Of course there were times I was in school and used to listen to my friends and class mates talk about their families and within thought “I wish I had that” or “they don’t understand they are so lucky”, or “no one knows what it’s like”
Did your foster parents help you?
Yes I had some amazing support from 2 carers particularly who are now my family … I adopted them, and have been a major support in feeling a part of a family
What’s your message to children in care?
You are amazing !! resilient and powerful people I commend you and value you all for the ability to go through your different trauma’s and keep going , I love you all for who you are and wish you all the best in your journeys ahead.
Love yourself first!! Everything will follow.
If you could change anything about your life what would it be and why?
I would change nothing .. everything is how it is meant to be .
How did it feel proving people wrong?
I don’t think I needed to prove anyone wrong I just needed to prove to myself I can do it.
What do you think about care now?
The Care system is an amazing system but is working under difficult circumstances and just needs a bit more injection of love and so workers and young people feel more valued, being in care and getting a great service depends on what area or luck you get and that should not be the case so a bit more work needs to go into improving general standards to young people feel truly loved as humans.
How do you become successful ?
Use what you already possess which is your strength, resilience, growth and power.
You have to never give up , stay focused on what you want , not on what you don’t want, be a bit positive it just feels better and is a better energy to work on, slowly work on your mind body and spirit , once these align you begin to feel incredible and unstoppable.
What is your message to professionals and foster carers?
Think about the impact you can make long term, what will a young person say about you 10 to 20 years from now.
You are a hero!!, you just might not know it , your power is LOVE !!
WHAT WOULD LOVE DO? NEVER GIVE UP!!
Is there something you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of being and embracing me.