How it all started

Picture winter and a Saturday morning. In this case the 10th of November 2007...

...It’s nearly mid day and I’m at loose ends but its too cold to go out. So on goes the laptop and one thing leads to another until I end up scrolling through some photographs posted on Flickr by a friend of mine (Meriem). In the background the TV flickers away too; except instead of pictures it’s Ray Mears surviving some new adventure in a desert somewhere warm. Back to the photos and I’m stunned by how amazing they are. These aren’t just photographs... these are ‘M&S' photographs! Rich art and serious talent. The pictures make me wonder why she does a desk job instead of living a life less ordinary. I can't think of a good answer but it makes me stop and think about what I’m doing with my life instead. About what I'm good at. And what I'm passionate about.

After a brief and misguided afternoon's attempt to go back and revive drawing skills that helped me survive dreary days at school, I give up and think again. I realise that the only thing that still means anything is the social stuff I’ve done. It’s depressing to note that I can’t really answer why I’ve done nothing useful since setting up the CamSight Accessible Web Project, except that maybe I’ve just been busy... or lazy if I dispense with the excuses. My thought process spirals over to the work I recently started with Connexions and I start thinking about the challenges that young people in urban areas face just to survive their journey through life and break the cycles of limitation they're in.

In the background Ray is back on and busy outlining some ancient survival technique of tribesfolk in a hugely inhospitable terrain somewhere unrecognisable. I randomly wonder if surviving urban life is really that much easier for anyone who doesn’t know what they're doing, or hasn't started out with access to the right knowledge or support. Experience of the gaps in services and information available for vulnerable young people makes it a pretty straightforward answer. It probably is just as hard.

But with Facebook and Bebo and MySpace, there exists a whole social network of young professionals with the inclination and knowledge and skills that could help inner city youth not just survive but successfully exploit life in the urban jungle, if only there was an easy way to link the two together... and there you have it – the base rationale for The Urban Survival Project!

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