Haylee Venus founder of creative empowerment organisation Mek Ah Step has made many towards her vision of empowering young people from London, Caribbean to the continent of Africa. Fully embracing her role as a grassroots empowerment leader she has her hands in many pots, from event organiser, mentor and founder of this impactful organisation. Quietly confident this focused young woman is not only a woman in Tottenham but also a woman from Tottenham. Sista London caught up with her at the community hub that is the Selby Centre to find out about the steps she’s made.
Hi Haylee, what exactly is Mek Ah Step?
Mek Ah Step is a two-week creative programme which aids in personal and social development.
Although the activities are all creative, it allows for young people to build life skills, from leadership, team work, communication and interpersonal skills.
This leads onto business skills which we develop creatively with them in order for them to help build their communities.
Photo supplied: Haylee Venus.
What is the inspiration behind Mek Ah Step?
I’ve been travelling to Jamaica by myself since I was 16, first time I went for three weeks over Christmas and been back seven times since, just loved it! Each time it’s been a different experience, meeting creatives and discovering that I had enough in common with the youth there despite coming from another continent and I really wanted to explore a way in which I could develop that link. Being of Jamaican and Montserrat parentage, second generation British born I discovered a reconnection with my parents’ home and really felt inspired to work creatively with the young people there, who were really up for working collaboratively.
How many organisations have you helped to inspire through your programme?
We’ve been to two orphanages and one youth club in Jamaica, two schools in St Lucia, one school and an orphanage in Kenya and a school in Gambia.
Photo supplied: Haylee at a school in Gambia.
Since starting Mek Ah Step in 2015, I didn’t have a clear vision of what we wanted the organisation to be I just knew that I wanted to get out there and empower young people through creative workshops. But now that we’ve received feedback and seen the impact that we’ve made we now want to development it further. I also mentor young girls in Tottenham.
You say ‘we’, who else is part of Mek Ah Step?
Initially it’s my idea however, through word-of-mouth and social media people have approached me saying that they love what I’m doing and asked how to get involved, so I take volunteers to help deliver the programme.
Since your journey with Mek Ah Step began, do you have any pearls of wisdom to offer, what have you learned?
Happiness is in no way tangible and is definitely something that comes from within. We’ve worked in places where the sanitation conditions, school building have been poor, also working with children who come to these organisations with no shoes. I was humbled. Their attitude to life their manners so in check. Also, I realised the impact of seeing Africans outside of Africa returning to volunteer, gave the children another perspective, seeing themselves in me and what we do as an organisation.
Photo supplied: Haylee with the team at a youth club in Jamaica
What’s your background and connection as a women from Tottenham?
Growing up in Tottenham I went to formerly The Green School and D&K, I still live in ends with my family. I’ve been in several groups dancing to music from hip-hop, dancehall to soca, travelling around the country performing and appearing on tv shows and then onto drama at secondary school.
What’s been your hardest step?
After I finished uni wth a degree in business finance that was my lowest point; I had two young children and found it difficult to get a job as employers were looking for people with experience and I didn’t have any. That’s when I realised that I had to find a way to create experiences for myself, through that idea I discovered people like myself who were creative but didn’t necessarily have the experience and so we began to work together to create the fashion show concept to develop our skills – from pitching ideas, ticket design and fund raising.
We love great recommendations, where are your favourite spots in Tottenham?
The Garden House cafe on the High Road do a great veggie breakfast plus you get to see everyone in there from police to man dem! Closely followed by Chick King and Uptown Cuisine on West Green Rd and I absolutely love beautiful ambience of The Cove on Markfield Road.
Thanks for the tip, I’ll check it out…and finally what is your next step?
Continuing to raise funding to create more empowered young people. I’ve recently returned from Gambia where we input our second phase of learning with the school working with more children. I also work alongside a collective where we create a regular event called Spoken; a platform for established and budding spoken word artists can share thoughts issues surrounding identity and society. We recently collaborated with Born Lippy on the second leg of our poetry exchange where we performed in Newcastle.
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Feeling generous? Donate towards the programme to help them reach their £6k target.
Photo supplied: Haylee with the team in Gambia
Article by Sista London