Children are the Future

Karen Allen, a mother of five, talks about her aim to empower, motivate and inspire young people to fulfil their potential and take their rightful place in society

When I was in year nine, aged 14, my best friend and I entered a singing contest which was held at our school. We were up against some creative competition – some would say it was tough. We came third, which was a win for me! I was so excited because singing has never been a primary gift of mine, but I can hold a note. My best friend, on the other hand, she can saaaang!

The song we sang remains to this day my favourite song of all time and, in my humble opinion, it was sung by one of the greatest singers of all time. It’s called ‘The Greatest Love of All’ by the legendary Whitney Houston, and begins with this line… ‘I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…’

As a young girl in year nine I had no idea of the profundity of those words. Today, as a grown woman, a mother, an author, a speaker and activist, I have lived to realise the power of those lyrics. Children are indeed the future and, if they are taught well, they will hopefully undoubtedly and inevitably do a phenomenal job in leading the way. 

For over three decades I have worked “in the trenches” with young people. By this I mean it has been my painful privilege to work on a grass-roots level with young people from all different walks of life and backgrounds. I often describe working with young people as “HEART-work” – you have to have a certain kind of heart to effectively do this work.

Many of the young people that have crossed my path or completed one of our bespoke programmes have been “dissed” in one way or another. The term “diss” is used among young people as being disrespected – often by an “opp” (enemy) or by an adult who they deem to have no clue about their struggle. However, whenever I use the term “diss” in this context I’m referring to the labels that have been placed upon them, often due to past experiences and/or distorted expectations – labels such as DISengaged, DISenfranchised, DISadvantaged or DISruptive.

Sadly, these labels have often resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy for many young people. They have become what they have learnt to believe, because this is what they are so often told.

As a single mother of five children, I have consistently taught my children about the creative and destructive power of words. A phrase I heard many years ago has become my mantra: “Words are seeds”. I believe wholeheartedly that whenever negative ‘word seeds’ are planted in the hearts and minds of young people, the result will always have an adverse effect on individuals, families, communities and ultimately the world. My commitment to be part of the solution to this global epidemic resulted in the birth of my mission and mandate under my business banner, ‘The Place of Dreams’. 

At the Place of Dreams our goal is to inspire, empower and transform young lives by sowing ‘dream seeds’. We are passionate about offering unique, bespoke alternatives to traditional education because we know that for many young people traditional education no longer adequately serves the evolving world. As a result, far too many are being expelled or excluded, simply because they don’t fit the box of traditional expectations. As part of the solution to this ever-increasing problem, often using creative arts as bait, we design, develop and deliver alternative educational programmes and products that holistically serve young people and adults – mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. 

At the heart of our mission is a deep, deep love for young people and a core belief in the words I ignorantly and innocently sang at the school concert in year nine. The Place of Dreams is a global movement where we believe, as Whitney Houston sang so beautifully and eloquently, that the children are our future and if we teach them well – which may involve some ‘out of the box’ teaching – they will evolve and emerge as young adults who will lead the way innovatively with intention and integrity.  

In the year ahead, the dream is to secure a venture for the Place of Dreams headquarters and to run programmes and projects after school and at weekends. Our vision is to engage five million young people over the next five years, enabling them to have experiences that will empower them to create a life beyond their wildest dreams. 

Karen Allen is an author, speaker, preacher, and founder of the Place of Dreams, which delivers personal development and spiritual empowerment programmes. Visit www.karenallen.info

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