Helping young people is at the heart of the Hebe Foundation

3 mins read
Amie Buhari in the office of the Hebe Foundation
Amie Buhari in the office of the Hebe Foundation - Photo CJI

Amie Buhari is a charming and sweet young woman who makes you wonder where she hides all this energy to dedicate her life to helping young people. Founder & Chief Executive of the Hebe Foundation, which this month is celebrating its 16th anniversary, she has already been awarded Prime Minister’s ‘Points of Light’ award and ‘Wise Woman in Leadership’ award.

It all started 3 decades ago at Clapham Baptist Church, in Wandsworth Road, where she was taking care of children once a week at the age of 16. She went onto regularly helping teenagers and working with youth organisations in the Clapham Baptist Church, Southwark council and for several school projects…

During that time, she was still at school, then college and later university where she studied communication and sociology, also attended an acting school, her other passion. Nowadays, when not at Hebe, she is on tour, at the Rose Theatre in Kingston last February and now in Bath.

While she was already fully involved  helping young people, she realised she was just ticking boxes and wanted to make more impact. Gang crime was on the rise in London and a lot of young people felt disillusioned. In her personal life, her cousin became involved with gangs and she spent a lot of time at police stations and in court trying to help.

Frustrated by the whole situation, she decided to stop work and set up the South London Youth Project in 2007, which became the Hebe Foundation two years later.

The people making the Hebe Foundation

They have now 7 employees and additional youth workers employed on different projects. Paid staff are often former volunteers or previous participants that are trained to work with young people.

People coming to our projects tell others, their family, their friends… it’s a lot of word of mouth“, Amie said.

They also advertise in schools and work with other youth organisations, churches and local authorities’ youth departments.

Although they are open to all young people from 13 to 21, they sometime run projects for under 13, mostly based on prevention and life opportunities, while young adults might also come back for advice.

Their projects

They usually have about 8-9 projects a year, running from a few days, during half term, or ongoing throughout the year.

Their flagship project is the Junior Apprentice where over 200 young people aged 13 to 19 years take part in numerous challenges during a 3 week period. It is organised in several boroughs (including Lambeth, Tottenham, Hounslow, Lewisham…) with 20 to 30 individuals spread in different teams. It includes tasks designed to learn and develop their talents through different activities such as creating and sell items, provide services, organise a marketing campaign… etc.

Like with the hit television show ‘The Apprentice’ on which it is based upon, each round sees a member of the team get “fired”. However, unlike its TV counterpart where ambition, competition and absence of empathy are encouraged, the Hebe’s version promotes cooperation and healthy competition where even after getting “dismissed” (i.e. you can no longer get crown overall winner) you can still contribute to the  team’s success.

Urban debater is another recurrent project which lasts for 6 weeks. Participants learn how to express their opinions and communicate with efficiency. The winner will have the opportunity to get work experience with Eversheds, the law firm which sponsors the programme.

With their project called “London next top role model” the idea is to explore the concepts of Role Models, Identity & Culture, Image, and Self Awareness: “who do you look to”. Professionals give masterclasses and tutoring during half terms for young people to explore who they are through a wide range of activities such as photography, modelling, design… etc and the project ends with an exhibition.

Digital Disrupter is another programme sponsored by the Found digital marketing agency, where participants create online material and social media content.

There are many other projects providing mentoring for individual on further education and employment, and organised with Lambeth and Southwark councils.

The Transition program is specifically targeting children who are moving from Year 6 to Year 7 by helping them to make that transition, dealing with puberty issues, work, maturity, bullying and managing relationships.

Money as a vector to expand Hebe’s hubs

Fundraising is a big part of any charity activity as they need money to operate: The Hebe Foundation get funds from other Trusts and gifts and prizes from companies (e.g. Vanderlande and Cambridge Associates), grants from National Lottery, Children in Need, … and individual donors.

Marilyn Ross, a former head teacher worked in education for 35 years , is currently working on finding more sponsors in order to expand their activity.

Unlike their Junior Apprentice flagship project, most of the other programmes are currently centered around Lambeth and their headquarters in Wandsworth Road.

Her aim is to set Hebe hubs in other boroughs after they run their Apprentice project. Peckham has already agreed to employ a part time youth worker to deliver some of Hebe’s projects but more money and sponsors are needed to expand much further.

If you want to help the Hebe Foundation, volunteer or sponsor, here are the contacts:

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.