Meet Jade Egemonye, a young entrepreneur, who is making an impact in the lives of the homeless in London. Her social enterprise is making a significant difference in Central London. Jade talks with us about her motivation as well as her challenges when we caught up with her recently.
Which school/ college did you go to?
Townley Grammar School
What do you do now?
I’m about to start at Aston University, Birmingham in September to study Politics and Economics.
Why did you choose your current university?
Aston is very good for my course and I like the wide range of extra-curricular activities available. For example alongside my degree I’m going to be studying Chinese. I also liked the city of Birmingham as it is lively like London.
What do you want to become/ type of work do you hope to pursue later on in life?
I want to go into a career in corporate banking. This is because after work experience last summer in various banks in Canary Wharf such as Barclays and HSBC I realised that I was more suited to corporate than investment banking which I had previously thought. However that could honestly change if I discover something that is even more suited to me than corporate banking. For now the fast pace of the banking world has a definite pull on me.
Why did you start the Lawrence Effect?
The Lawrence Effect was founded in memory of my granddad, Lawrence Arinze. He lived his life focused on charity and generosity, therefore leading by example. After the death of my great-granddad he struggled to fund his and his sisters’ education. To help families on low incomes and orphans, throughout his adulthood he fully funded the education from primary school through to university including the tuition fees, school supplies and uniforms of multiple children leading to hundreds of lives being positively affected. I didn’t want the end of his life to mean the end of the positive effect he had on society thus the birth of The Lawrence Effect.
The reason why our main focus is on the homeless is that unlike other vulnerable members of society the amount of people living rough is increasing every year from 1,768 in 2010 to 3,569 in 2015. These statistics show that homelessness is a growing issue in the UK so we all need to help. In 2012 I started regularly volunteering at John Wilson’s Pantry a soup kitchen and food bank for the homeless at my church that serves full English breakfast every Saturday. This was the first time that I actually interacted with homeless people and I got the chance to hear their stories. This experience put faces to the statistics. Not only are the homeless physically vulnerable to abuse and the elements but also their mental health is at risk; 44% of the homeless have been diagnosed with a mental health condition compared to 25% of the general population.
What impact has your charity had so far?
As of this interview, we have given out 162 lunches to the homeless spread across 4 visits but we’ve impacted more lives than that. Many people often don’t want the lunches but instead just want to talk with us as they miss that basic human interaction that many of us take for granted.
We’ve also used our social media pages to provide information about the severity of the homelessness crisis in Britain as a whole but specifically in London where it is the worst in the UK. We hope that by educating others we change the perception that homelessness is something that will never change.
Why did you start your crowdfunding campaign?
To maintain our first initiative: Lawrence Lunches. Originally, Lawrence Lunches was completely funded from my part time job and my mum’s donations here and there. However after the first week that proved to be unsustainable as ultimately I didn’t want this to be a small project that was mine but something bigger. So with the help of crowdfunding and volunteers we moved from 7 lunches to 30 and the number has been growing weekly. The money raised goes towards the cost of the food and other necessities, for example the trolleys we use to transport the lunches. However, one thing the money is not used for is wages as all of our staff are 100% volunteers. This is something that is crucial to me as all the money must go directly to helping the homeless and not towards administration.
Why are you raising money for your charity?
Lawrence Lunches involves us going into Central London to give out lunch to the homeless. We chose Westminster because in 2015 Westminster was the local authority with the highest level of rough sleeping in the UK so we could reach the most people there.
Each lunch is made up of a sandwich, water, a piece of fruit and a packet of crisps. Depending on donations each week, cereal bars, biscuits and other treats may also be included in the lunches.
For many homeless people providing them with a home would only solve the effect and not the cause of their homelessness. This is because many suffer from untreated mental illness, a history of abuse and other issues which led to their homelessness. So their physical, mental and emotional health would need to be addressed first to ensure that once housed they integrate properly and permanently into society and don’t end up sleeping rough again. Therefore I know it would be purely naive to expect a lunch to solve all their problems but until I have the means to provide a more permanent solution, a lunch and a friendly smile at least temporarily solves their hunger and loneliness.
More information and updates can be found on our Facebook page @TheLawrenceEffect and the Lawrence Lunches Twitter and Instagram page @LawrenceLunches.
How can other young people volunteer with your organisation?
Contact us on any of our social media accounts
@LawrenceLunches on Instagram & Twitter and The Lawrence Effect on Facebook to volunteer with our lunches.
What steps can young people take to start their own charities and organisations?
Alongside directly helping the homeless we believe that this is not the work of one person or organisation but that of our whole generation. Therefore another part of The Lawrence Effect involves encouraging other young people to create their own initiatives to help the homeless in their communities and helping them bring these ideas to life.
If the issue of homelessness is not their passion then there are three key steps that I took that I would advise them to take also in order to find where their passion lies.
1. Choose something simple to do to help
-When I decided to do something to help the homelessness crisis initially I thought big. I wanted to create a rehabilitation centre in every major city in the UK where the homeless could get their lives back with various facilities to improve their mental health and employability chances. However this would take years to design, fund etc so I decided to think small, what is the one thing humans can’t live without: food and water. So I created Lawrence Lunches. Whilst the rehabilitation centre is still in the pipeline and is something I plan to achieve by the age of 40, Lawrence Lunches helps the homeless now instead of in over 20 years. Ultimately I can’t solve the issue of homelessness by myself so Lawrence Lunches is also a movement, something that anyone can do: just pick up a meal deal from the local supermarket and make a difference.
2. Make a difference now
-I decided to establish The Lawrence Effect in 2013 when my grandad first told the story of his childhood and how he paid for many children’s school fees sometimes even before his own children to make sure that someone showed belief in them. The indirect impact that he made on hundreds of people’s lives by doing that astonished me and I wanted to do the same, but instead I made excuses as I feared failure. It remained just an idea until earlier this year when I looked back on all the ‘failures’ that I survived and realised how melodramatic and selfish I was being. By focusing on my fear of failure I had wasted 3 years that I could have used to help people. So I decided to start and after two train journeys using my phone The Lawrence Effect was born.
3. Get help
-Even though Lawrence Lunches is my vision, after the first Lawrence Lunches I knew I needed help to truly make a difference. I now have a team of four wonderful people who help me make my decisions and give me ideas, not forgetting the various questions I ask my Twitter followers. For example the name Lawrence Lunches resulted from a plea to Twitter after accepting that “Weekly Free Lunches To The Homeless In London” wasn’t catchy at all. My team also makes me accountable and that means I’m not doing everything myself, not to mention that by using their social media accounts as well as my own I can reach more people than I ever imagined.
What was it like for you at school when you were younger?
Throughout my school life I loved learning but never really enjoyed school itself. Ultimately this is down to me feeling helpless as a lot of things I disliked about my school environment I was unable to change. This led to me missing a lot of school to avoid teachers that made me doubt my ability and I fell behind with exam techniques which affected my grades. Even though this was unpleasant it has taught me that regardless what others think of you focusing on the big picture is key. Missing school was definitely not the answer as it was avoiding the problem not addressing it. Instead I should just have focused on getting the best grades possible. This is a lesson that I’ve learnt with The Lawrence Effect. Ultimately whatever issues I experience are irrelevant as I have to remember that the meals and care I give to the homeless are of upmost importance.
If you had to go back and say anything to your 16 year old self what would you say?
Relax. As a self-confessed perfectionist I would get really stressed if anything didn’t go exactly how I planned it. Now that I have accepted that life doesn’t always go to plan , I can appreciate every change as an opportunity to learn and experience something new and exciting. However, I still have plans and goals for the future and right now I’m more flexible if things go wrong. I would also tell my 16 year old self to be less self centred. As a young person it is easy to focus on trivial “first world problems”, as they’re called, instead of the best way to positively change our world. We live in a time where the world is more connected than ever before and information is easily accessible. This means that it is easier than ever to find out about problems that our global community is facing and help in any way possible.
How would you encourage students who do not feel that there is any prospects for them in life?
While I agree that as a black person one can sometimes feel disadvantaged in life because of their skin colour, I don’t believe that’s an excuse to not throw yourself wholeheartedly at life with all you have. I genuinely believe that everyone has something to contribute to this world through their various talents. As cliché as it sounds life is what you make it and an attitude of entitlement will get you nowhere regardless of your skin colour. All opportunities in life have to be grasped passionately with both hands as there are no real prospects in life for someone who is lazy and limp. Everyone is born with things that can be a natural disadvantage but you have a choice to work to overcome them or focus on your strengths. In my opinion, dwelling on your limitations should never an option.
Who inspires you?
Rasheeda Page-Muir. Rasheeda is a friend of mine who has an organisation called RevolYOUtion which aims to show young people and others the power they possess. They organise current affairs debates and encourage our peers to think about what goes on the world and not just in our individual lives. She encouraged me not to wait to set up The Lawrence Effect but to start it now. I thought if she could do it why couldn’t I? She took the passion she has for politics and changing the world and shared it, effectively changing the world by changing people inside out. As a black youth it is easy to fall for the ideas that society has of you: born to be a drug dealer stuck in the revolving door of crime and prison. Rasheeda challenges this by challenging you to change how you think about the world and therefore yourself. She does this in a way that no one else can by showing the large extent of her political knowledge evidently instilled in her at a young age by her equally intelligent parents but without patronising those of us around her who do not have the same level of knowledge but leading us to wanting to find something that we too can talk about with the same emotion as she does about social injustice and politics.
Who inspired you at Rio 2016 and why?
Simone Biles. She is a true example of age being irrelevant when you partner hard work and natural talent together. She fought against the stereotype of being a child of parents with addictions and didn’t follow in their footsteps. As a black female and a child of a single mum, I aspire to do the same and not be another negative statistic.
If you could go back in time and have a one to one with anyone, who would you choose and why?
Maya Angelou. Funnily enough I only really started looking into her after she died. To be honest I had no idea who she was until I saw her death on the news and millions of tributes on social media. But once I started looking into her I couldn’t stop. Her words truly have the ability to jump off the page and into your mind like no one else can, so I can only imagine the impact they would have had in person.
If you were queen of the world what would you change about the world and why?
In the age of social media stars and celebrities springing up daily I would like to give the world a reality check. As much as I’m sure the colour of Kylie Jenner’s new lip kit is important, the injustice of the refugee crisis and the second wave of racial civil rights movement is more important. However, it seems that amongst my peers everyone can name all of the Kardashians but many don’t know the name of our Prime Minister (it’s Theresa May for anyone wondering). This is a real concern as it is people from this social media- crazed generation that are the future leaders of the world and I fear that we may be ill-equipped. Now don’t get me wrong I’m proud to say that social issues directly facing youths especially those from the LGBTQ community are well read and researched. However surely only focusing on that which directly affects you is the kind of selfishness that has gotten our world into a lot of the mess we are facing today.
I would therefore make World Politics and History a compulsory subject to be taught in schools and throughout the lifetime of every person on this earth. Learning from the past prevents the same mistakes being made in the future and learning about world events from more that one view (the current schooling system dictates a Eurocentric perspective) helps weed out censorship enabling a true picture to be formed.
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