Janette Collins from The Crib awarded an MBE

Congratulations to The Crib’s Janette Collins, 'Mama Hackney', awarded an MBE in recognition of her dedicated work with local young people

Janette Collins set up The Crib, in 1999, a grassroots social inclusion youth charity that helps young people to be their best and fulfill their dreams.

How did it feel to receive the news that you have been awarded an MBE?
I was over the moon to think that the community thought I was worthy of such an honour; telling my grandchildren and my 89 year old mum and seeing her face and hearing the joy in her voice! She came here as part of the Windrush generation, wanting a better life and coming to this country with great hopes, and now her daughter is being honoured by the Queen. My mum is a big fan of the royals so you can imagine how that fills me with joy.

Also, the pride of all those young people, some now quite old, that I have worked with since the start of the 80s, receiving messages about their memories was very overwhelming. I give thanks always!

What are you especially proud of in your work for young people in Hackney?
I am proud that The Crib helped shape Young Hackney through the My Space funding when Dara Deburka was Head of Services at Hackney Council and asked me what I would do if I had enough funding. My dream was to set up a service for young people in Hackney that brought them together and further developed the way we were working together as a community.

I am proud of seeing our young people develop in youth work to support families and communities and of receiving visits years after working with a young person to be told all the hard work was worth it; that they now have their own families and are doing extremely well despite their start in life.

I wish that Gary Francis from Hackney CVS was here to see this moment, he always believed in The Crib and my dream, encouraging the work alongside schools.

Overall The Crib has been fundamental in shaping a number of initiatives in Hackney, but ultimately seeing those I have worked with over the years grow into amazing adults is a true blessing and one that is bigger than any MBE.

What have been the biggest challenges in your work?
The biggest challenge in my work is the funding; being able to have consistency in the work that you are delivering to families and young people – everyone needs a family that they can rely on.

Also, working in true partnership with the statutory sector and opening the doors to schools where you have a captive audience for delivering workshops that could change the mindsets of young people around issues they face every day.

What has The Crib been doing during the Covid-19 pandemic?
During lockdown we helped Children with Voices deliver a food hub on the De-Beauvoir estate. When we reopened and they could no longer use our space, the De-Beauvoir association secured them a permanent space where they help families with food resources twice a week.

We have been doing home visits to families, securing funding so they have amenities such as gas and electricity to be able to cook the food they receive. I have personally been helping young people that are in prison financially and emotionally where families are unable to continue support or visit.

We have also been doing a study buddy workshop to help young people catch up on the schoolwork that they have missed out on, we were lucky to have support from professional teachers after the first lockdown. Through the resident dance group Little Scorpions we were able to offer dance classes for young people that need to escape the confinement of living in a small environment – some of these children have underlying educational and emotional needs.

We have taken our Parents Voice intervention project online, providing zoom sessions and one to one support for parents and carers.

Finally, we thought that children needed a Christmas and we had the best Santa’s socially distanced event where over 300 young people received presents – thanks to ELBA for their continued support.

What are your plans for the nearest future?
My plans for the future are to focus on the criminal justice system, the revolving door for most of our young people that go into the juvenile system – then when they get to 18 they are given a long prison sentence, rather than support and rehabilitation. I feel this situation can be prevented, however again it needs consistent and substantial funding.

My dream is to own a big house in the country and take those young people aged 13 plus there and give them a family environment away from their present environment; change their lives by supporting emotional and educational needs and helping to restore positive mindsets to those who feel there isn’t much they can offer.

Each child and young person I have had the pleasure to work with has the potential to fulfill their dreams – they just lose their way – and a Crib house would allow that intense work – I feel this can be done. As you know, some young people will have social workers who change monthly, schools who socially exclude them and a proportion of society that they feel gives up on them. Not on my watch!

I also aim to train up young people to run our Trading Places workshops, building on and improving relationships between the police and young people. This has been my passion for 20 years and it worked really well between 2000-2011, but then a lack of funding put a halt to all that.

In the community’s best interest, we need to really create change and build bridges. Although we have been doing most of our workshops without funding or on very small pots, we need significant funding as we already have the backing of the police. This would help to bring more young people onboard.

We also want to move forward with Parents Voice – creating more parent champions – making them believe in themselves and believing that as a community we can create change.

Lastly – we want and need to develop a Crib in an area such as Clacton on Sea that has seen an influx of deprivation and youth concerns as the issues in London have been moved to surrounding areas; these areas struggle to cope with the ever-changing dynamics of inner-city youth.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you again to all those that have believed in me and in The Crib and remember that our work is always recognised by our community.

When I drop the baton, my hope is for those young people I have worked with to hold the baton and continue the work.