I’ve always thought schools should do classes in “Adulting”. The education system has determined that we need to be taught algebra to make it as a grown up, and yet things like mortgages remain a mystery to figure out as we go along. As much as I loved doing Art and Drama, when I stepped out into the big, wide world and was presented with the tasks of paying bills, doing laundry and going on job interviews, somehow knowing how to use a paintbrush and deliver a sweet Hamlet monologue didn’t really cut it.

But I was lucky; my Mum taught me how to use a washing machine and make a decent lasagne. My parents made sure we knew how to look after our health. I had the chance to live away at university, and learnt how to budget my student loan and take care of my own space. Little by little, I learnt the basic life skills that we all take for granted, but that everyone needs to thrive as an independent adult. I didn’t get taught it in school, but I learnt because I grew up taking on more responsibility in a safe, secure and supportive space.

How do you know how to handle money when you’ve never had any of your own before?

Now imagine you were born into a slum community, or a poor family where your parents had to work long hours, and everyone is so busy just trying to live that no one has the time or resources to teach you about living well. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to go and live in a children’s residential care home, run by an amazing organisation that makes sure you are fed, clothed and able to go to school, but there are so many children to take care of that it’s hard for them to teach you anything beyond the essentials. And then, you turn 18 and you’re on your own.

How do you get a job to support yourself when you haven’t been taught how to write a CV? How do you know how to handle money when you’ve never had any of your own before? How do you make a doctor’s appointment, clean the house, or make sure you’re eating healthily when, by necessity, all those things have been done for you up until now?

A lot of young people in residential care homes in Kolkata grow up surrounded by other children and volunteers, and then suddenly they’re on their own and have no idea where to start. And these circumstances put them 10 steps behind their peers who have been raised in a traditional family setting – who have been taught how to interview well or the skills that make them an ideal tenant – and so missing out on these seemingly small experiences leads to missing out on bigger opportunities.

Our Project Mentors teach all kinds of life skills, so that young people have the tools they need to support themselves.

That’s where our RAMP project comes in. Our Project Mentors teach all kinds of life skills, so that young people have the tools they need to support themselves. Young people in RAMP are given their own money and taught how to budget and pay bills, so they can learn how to be financially responsible in a safe environment. They also share accommodation with a few housemates – often other RAMP members – so that they can learn the dynamics of daily adult life outside of a large residential situation, but without having to do it alone.

Some of our favourite stories in RAMP have come from young people learning new life skills. Ajay had a toothache, and booked an appointment and paid for it himself before he told anyone on Team Pursuit – just so he could prove he could do it on his own. When Raju talks about what being part of RAMP has given him, he says. “It has helped me understand some of the realities of life…I am learning to manage the little finances I am given, so that one day I can manage the big amounts.”

Life skills training helps young people find employment
Suraj is working in a coffee house while studying to become an Electronics Engineer.

These seem like little things, but they are things that our young people didn’t know how to do before and, when they do learn a new skill or manage something on their own, their sense of pride is amazing. It’s a sign that they can do it, that they’ve got this, that they can go on to bigger and better things and smash it out of the park. On one level it’s just paying the bills, but on another level it’s a glimpse of hope for the future – and that’s actually quite a big thing.

If you want to help give young people the tools they need to become independent, self-sufficient adults, you can donate to RAMP. £30 enables a Project Mentor to give a whole month of life skills training, as well as mentoring and emotional support, so that whatever life throws their way, our young people know they will be able to handle it.