In 1986, I went to an Anti-Apartheid Rally on Clapham Column.
Our aims were to demand the release of Nelson Mandela, smash the racist, oppressive regime in South Africa and raise global issues of injustice and inequality.
At the time, these goals seemed utterly unattainable.
I was also interested in seeing The Style Council, Sade, Gil Scott-Heron, Billy Bragg and Big Audio Dynamite.
Sting was there too.
It was a sunny day and a chance to hang around with my mates.
I quite enjoyed travelling up on the train from our slightly more salubrious suburb. I don’t think I’d ever been to Clapham before.
It was an adventure.
I remember carrying a placard which professed my support for the ANC, an organisation with which I was not fully familiar.
I was given a phone number of a pro bono lawyer should I be arrested.
I found the whole day exciting, inspiring and just a little bit dangerous.
I’m not sure my Mum knew where I was.
Although I didn’t have a full understanding of international politics, it was abundantly clear to me that Apartheid was an abhorrent regime.
I came back high as high as a kite, with a feeling that I’d been part of something important, possibly world changing.
I enjoyed the feeling of making a difference, even if it was minuscule.
A few family members questioned my politics deciding I was at best naïve, and at worst some sort of Communist.
The London Borough of Sutton has never been known for its radical politics.
I just thought I was, more or less, in the right.
I was 15.
35 years later, my wife and I applied to become Foster Carers.
Although she’d never been on an Anti-Apartheid March, we both shared a similar streak of justice, and a desire to make some sort of difference to society.
She’d seen The Style Council live.
Her favourite album was ‘Our Favourite Shop’.
On the surface, Foster Carers are a mixed bunch.
We come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and creeds.
We represent all sorts of sexual orientations and domestic set ups.
Some of us are quite tall.
My wife is quite short.
However, I think all Foster Carers share a few character traits.
Invariably, we have an acute sense of justice and a desire to make a difference.
We may not be able to change the whole world but we can change the whole world for one kid, or maybe a few kids, if we foster for long enough.
Whether driven by faith, altruism or both, every Foster Carer I’ve ever met has been driven by a deep desire to help the most vulnerable in our society, namely the child in the care of the State.
It’s almost an obsession for some of us.
We’re not as cuddly as you may think, more like a lioness protecting a cub.
I think Foster Carers also tend to be highly relational.
We like being with people, and become energised from being around others, especially those with whom we share a common experience, and a common goal.
There are few more things more fun than sharing ‘stories’ with other Carers, who just get it.
The stories can be hilarious or brutally sad.
Sharing them is therapeutic in itself.
We also enjoy the adventure, and are generally quite happy to not quite know what’s going to happen next.
If a kid has just arrived, or has been with us years, we’re able to make quick assessments of what battles need to be fought and what can be left to another day.
We delight at any progress.
A kid may need to sleep with the light and TV on, but at least we’ve got them sleeping!
Some people enjoy the adrenaline of rollercoaster rides, white water rafting or climbing Everest, but a foster carer can get a buzz from convincing a child that 3.00am is a bad time to play tennis and that not all grown ups are dangerous.
Nelson Mandela got released from prison in 1990, and Apartheid eventually ended.
Mandela never sent me a thank you for helping secure his release.
Sometimes doing the right thing is its own reward.