In April 2008 I came into the Warehouse to do a two-week placement with Birmingham Friends of the Earth as part of my degree. 10 years later I am still here, and I could never have imagined then what a profound impact this building, and this organisation, would have on me.
When I arrived I had a lot of academic knowledge but had never worked in an office environment and had little experience of life outside of educational establishments. I used to longingly read articles about protests and activism and wonder how I could be part of something like that. It was BFOE that opened those doors to me. I had no idea what on earth I was doing, but I was given opportunities to try things out, develop and challenge myself in a supportive environment.
Over the years my confidence grew and I ended up spending seven years as campaigns coordinator. I was convinced I would make a mess of it and only agreed after being plied with a large quantity of homemade lemon and ginger wine! I am so grateful now for that wine otherwise I might have missed out on the best and most important thing I have ever done.
The people I have met through BFOE have got to be some of my favourite human beings ever. Campaigners come and go over the years but I consider myself incredibly lucky to know so many amazing people, some of whom continue to astonish and inspire me even ten years on. I learned far more about effecting social change through late nights drinking cider in the Anchor than I ever learned through four years of university education.
This organisation shaped my life far more than I would have thought possible, to the extent that I cannot imagine where I would be without it. Through BFOE I have had three relationships, bought a house, protested in the Arctic Circle and on the streets of Paris. I have also made some of my best friends; people that are wise, brilliant, committed, make me laugh until I cry and that I would trust with my life.
This year is a pivotal one for us, as we reopen the doors to our bigger, better, more beautiful building. I hope and believe that many more people will come through our doors and be given the opportunity that I was, to find out who they are and what they can achieve. When I find myself horrified about the state of the world, the only thing that makes me feel better is being part of an organisation that is making things better. That’s why I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.