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We need to listen to abuse victims more

By carl.mungazi  |  Posted: October 28, 2012

MENTORING: Christian Okoli

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In the past few weeks the child abuse allegations that have been levelled at television presenter Sir Jimmy Savile have shocked the nation.

This week our reporter Carl Mungazi caught up with staff at Focus Residential Care in Leagrave to find out about some of the work that goes into looking after vulnerable children.

Child abuse is an uncomfortable subject to discuss.

Christian Okoli, 26, of Farley Hill, Luton, works as a mentor at Focus Residential care home.

Although Christian could not divulge too much detail about the children he works with, he explained how some of those at the care home have gone through ‘traumatic experiences’ and it’s the job of the staff at the home to help them integrate back into the community.

So how did Christian get involved in the care industry in the first place?

He said: “In 2009 I was working in mental care and with people with learning disabilities.

“That was my first experience of the care industry so I kind of stumbled into care work in that sense and it has blossomed from that.

“The people I worked with then couldn’t do certain things for themselves, but when I came to working with children I found they were more capable and coherent and I try to teach them about the workings of society.

“When I grew up my father was a strict disciplinarian and it made me want to rebel sometimes, but looking at it now, we had a decent upbringing.

“We know about right and wrong and I try to bring what I have learnt in my childhood to the job.”

He added: “We have psychologists who come in and give us advice in dealing with them. They say that we must be positive around these children because they are like sponges, they can pick things up and absorb a lot of information.

“I am currently mentoring one young person and have been doing it since last month. We do things such as playing tennis in the park and other daily activities where we might meet other people.

“It’s about meeting different people and it’s a case of me taking the young person to one side and teaching them how to interact with these people.”

Neil Harriott is the manager of Focus Residential care home and he thinks improvements can be made in the child care sector such as people ‘listening to children more’.

He said: “I do this work because it’s fulfilling to see young people go through things and come out at the end.

“At the home we deal with young people with issues like having parents who abuse alcohol or who have been sexually abused.

“Sometimes we try to get them back into their own home.

“Professionals need to begin listening to children more and sometimes in our sector it’s a case of our services being resource led and not needs met, so we can’t do as much as we would like.

“There are lots of challenges I face everyday but I have to remember that these young people have more challenges than me.

“These are kids who have to try and fit into homes where there is a mixture of different people. This sometimes causes personality clashes or you might get a situation where one person might remind them of somebody from their past.”

Christian is also an executive producer on a short film which looks at the life of a child abuser.

Entitled ‘Joshua’, it is unique in that it approaches this subject from the perspective of the abuser.

Its aim is to show that people who target children in this manner are not monsters, but people who, on the face of it, live normal lives and are a part of the community.

While Christian and the rest of his production team did not intend the release of their film to coincide with the recent child abuse allegations being levelled at Sir Jimmy Savile, it has certainly brought to the forefront what is a sensitive issue.

To watch the film, which will be shown at The Hat Factory on November 20, visit www.pushingbuttonsfilms.tumbler.com

Read more from Luton on Sunday

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