David Curtis

breaking down barriers


 

David Curtis is back working and living in Liverpool.

He’s 27 years old, and he’s helping young people on the same streets he knew well as a kid. Streets where he too skipped school, using timeless tactics to avoid bullying from classmates and escape tensions at home.

He knows these streets and understands the youth who seek out their own ways to cope and get by.

But there’s something more about David. He’s committed to the work of breaking down barriers in the lives of others because he’s faced death up close.

 


David works as a Development Tutor with the Fairbridge Centre in Liverpool. His contract was recently extended thanks to funding through Help for Heroes and the Department for Education, and he’s now committed to work with young people in Liverpool through October 2014 at least.

It seems like everyone has a tattoo these days. They can say whatever you want and have any design you can chose to be part of you. Part of the story of you that’s fixed to your skin. One of David’s tattoos fills most of his back. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... you must do the thing which you think you cannot.”

When David fulfilled a childhood dream of joining the army, it would seem that many of the demons from his challenging childhood had already been faced down.

Despite struggling to get any qualiifications out of school, David’s natural leadership abilities stood out early on in basic training. A background in the cadets and the TA stood David in good stead for the rigours of army life that began at Bassingbourne in 2007.

Yet events unfolded in a very different way than the script David imagined. David was only in Afghanistan for 8 days before his life was turned upside-down by a suicide bomb attack on the vehicle he was driving.

David works as a Development Tutor with the Fairbridge Centre in Liverpool. His contract was recently extended thanks to funding through Help for Heroes and the Department for Education, and he’s now committed to work with young people in Liverpool through October 2014 at least.

It seems like everyone has a tattoo these days. They can say whatever you want and have any design you can chose to be part of you. Part of the story of you that’s fixed to your skin. One of David’s tattoos fills most of his back. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... you must do the thing which you think you cannot.”

When David fulfilled a childhood dream of joining the army, it would seem that many of the demons from his challenging childhood had already been faced down.

Despite struggling to get any qualiifications out of school, David’s natural leadership abilities stood out early on in basic training. A background in the cadets and the TA stood David in good stead for the rigours of army life that began at Bassingbourne in 2007.

Yet events unfolded in a very different way than the script David imagined. David was only in Afghanistan for 8 days before his life was turned upside-down by a suicide bomb attack on the vehicle he was driving.

David works as a Development Tutor with the Fairbridge Centre in Liverpool. His contract was recently extended thanks to funding through Help for Heroes and the Department for Education, and he’s now committed to work with young people in Liverpool through October 2014 at least.

It seems like everyone has a tattoo these days. They can say whatever you want and have any design you can chose to be part of you. Part of the story of you that’s fixed to your skin. One of David’s tattoos fills most of his back. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... you must do the thing which you think you cannot.”

When David fulfilled a childhood dream of joining the army, it would seem that many of the demons from his challenging childhood had already been faced down.

Despite struggling to get any qualiifications out of school, David’s natural leadership abilities stood out early on in basic training. A background in the cadets and the TA stood David in good stead for the rigours of army life that began at Bassingbourne in 2007.

Yet events unfolded in a very different way than the script David imagined. David was only in Afghanistan for 8 days before his life was turned upside-down by a suicide bomb attack on the vehicle he was driving.


You gain strength, courage & confidence
by every experience in which you really stop
to look fear in the face...you must do
the thing which you think you cannot.

David Curtis, 2013


Just eight days to experience the comraderie of the 42 nations represented at their camp. Eight days to get used to the dry heat and dusty roads. Eight days to begin to fulfill his work of ferrying supplies and protecting vehcles in convoy that moved around Kabul.

It was on the final journey of the day that the suicide bomber struck. A white Toyota Corolla rammed the back of their armoured vehicle as they were turning into a warehouse where they needed to deliver some civilian trucks.

There is so much the intensity and fragility of life packed into those moments and subse- quent days, that this could easily be the focus of this story... A shattered shoulder that still twinges with pain. The spray of water from firehoses on his face as he’s pulled from the vehicle. The news of the US marine who lost his life just behind where David was sitting.

But the real struggle for many servicemen are not the injuries treated at the hospital. The ones the doctor notes on his pad, and the physiotherapist tackles though months of rehab. These, of course, are long and painful battles that may never be fully resolved. But even greater scars are often left by the elusive and lingering imprint of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the lives of military veterans and their families.

For David this has involved repeated nightmares which relive the day of the suicide attack. Yet the replayed version often have a more sinister variations - the unwelcome insertion of David’s wife or mother in the scene. The people who have been a rock in David’s life, have their resilience whittled away in the replayed versions inside David’s head.

But there’s a new road now that David walks. Though he’ll never forget what happened on his 8th day in Afghanistan, there are many more days that have been lived since where David’s had to chose what he wants this next chapter if his life to be. And, he hopes there will be many more days to come where he can take his life experience and invest it in the lives of young people in Liverpool.

David is in the business of breaking down barriers. The barriers to trust and health and freedom that are scattered throughout the lives of the young people with whom he works, like the debris left after a storm.

That day in Afghanistan showed David up close that you can’t take anything for granted. You can’t control what might be waiting around the corner, but you can chose your response and strive to live each day to the full.

The team leader for David and the rest of the staff at the Fairbridge Centre in Liverpool are thrilled to have David with them in this vital work. His character through adversity is something the young people are drawn to when their lives lack the the security of structure and the habit of discipline.

David has been given a green light to implement a military-style residential course for the young people who have joined this programme. To challenge them to tackle new things, and to help build the trust and confidence they lack. The young people who come to the Fairbridge Centres are at the very frayed edge of society. Excluded from school, and often battling emotional, social and mental health issues, this may well be their last point of call.

And more than freedom to do anything they want without outside interference, they actually crave someone to care enough to break in and break down their barriers. The barriers of self-doubt, isolation and fear that paralyse. When the black and white of death has been there so close, David now invests his energy into helping others make choices for life.


David Curtis, 2013

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