Name: TJ Routledge
Age: 18
Group: Assistant Commissioner Ambassador, London Fire Brigade (LBF) Fire Cadets

Cadets is more than just cadets – it’s a family.
We’re challenging negative perceptions of youth. All young people need is a bit of love and a purpose. Joining Fire Cadets and sticking to it creates self-respect. It encourages people to love others and show respect, too. That attitude extends outside our unit, out onto the streets and at the events we go to.

To have London Fire Brigade on my upper left chest and sleeve is a true privilege.

It also gives young people options they didn’t even know were there.
I didn’t want to choose the university route. There’s no tightrope you have to walk along to be successful. You can explore all sorts of different ways, and volunteering with a uniformed group is one of those.

My father passed away in 2012.
I wasn’t a troubled young person, but my confidence was knocked by that.

I got involved with LIFE – an intervention scheme London Fire Brigade runs to help youths develop. A few of my school teachers put me on the course, and it helped me get my confidence back. I won a Jack Petchey Achievement Award through that, and a fire fighter who was running the course suggested I should join Fire Cadets. He said I’d be a credit to them.

I want to help other young people see that they can be who they want to be – they just need the right mentality.
I watched a documentary about gangs, and a young boy about 13 or 14 said that living in London today was about survival. I thought ‘there’s no way that’s true’. London today should be about thriving – I want to show young people that’s possible.

Fire Cadets has given me the opportunities to become someone with self-respect and respect for others. I know other young people can achieve the same.

In cadets, we don’t care about where you’re from.
When you’re a cadet you’re a cadet – that’s it. We all come together and learn from each other.

I worked with one young person who was struggling. She wasn’t really doing her GCSEs. Fire Cadets was the only educational input she was getting, and with us she got her BTEC. That qualification showed her she could achieve more.

There’s also no pressure to be a fire fighter.
If you decide you want to do that, great – but you don’t have to if it’s not for you.

Joining cadets has inspired me to travel the world a bit too.
In 2015 I went to Lebanon to volunteer, at a time when it was quite a dangerous place. We helped refugees and went to schools there to deliver lessons. That was the most amazing life experience I’ve ever had, and gave me a taste for more trips to help people. In 2016 I went back to Lebanon, and I also went to Sri Lanka, to work in an orphanage. This was all separate from Fire Cadets, but being part of it gave me the confidence to do it.

Fire Cadets has been a massive part of my journey towards who I am now.
I want to progress in the fire brigade – maybe someday I’ll be a Commissioner, who knows. But there’s no way I’ll ever forget how cadets helped me.”

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