At just 21 years old, Bode Adeloye has been crowned the NMA and is about to become a trustee at . We spoke to those who introduced him to the world of mediation as a 16 year old and with Bode himself to get to know him and to understand how someone so young can achieve such recognition.
Where Bode’s mediation story began
What had attracted a 16 year old Bode Adeloye to try mediation in the first place? The answer, at least in part, lies in Bode’s upbringing.
Bode is of Nigerian descent, his father arrived in England as a refugee and his mother an international student. He moved around as a youngster and lived on different estates in London before settling in Canada Water and attending Bacon’s College secondary school and 6th form college.
It was during these formative years that Bode developed a deep appreciation for the community and how it helped him through health issues that meant he was regularly forced to take time off school.
‘By community I mean the hospital, my primary school and secondary school. I felt like all these public services did something for me. They went out of their way to make sure that I was doing okay. They made sure I was catching up with my peers and giving me the extra time I needed.’
Bode’s health issues improved and he found himself attending school regularly again. He was keen to get involved with things other than just academics and it was mediation that caught his eye as a 6th former.
‘I heard about mediation and it sounded like a really good thing to do. After everything I’d been through and the way the community supported me, I felt mediation would allow me to give back to my community and allow me to do something separate from what I was doing on a daily basis academically.’
From youth mediation to taking on community cases
It was there that Bode met Mel Bruce, who runs the award–winning peer mediation service in schools for Southwark Mediation Centre (now Calm Mediation). Mel gave Bode his first taste of mediation and spotted something in him straight away.
‘I interviewed him and there was something about him that made me think, “you are going to make this service your own” and I knew that the service would benefit from having him on the team.’
By this stage Southwark Mediation Centre had begun the practice of using youth mediators in community mediation cases and both Mel and Dave Walker, Director of Mediation and Community mediator, were keen to get Bode involved. Young people with mediation skills had proven very effective in Community disputes, as Dave explained:
‘It is unique. You don’t get 16 year old housing officers or 16 year old police officers. The parents (involved in community cases) often say, “That’s amazing! I wish that my kids would do that.” It’s so powerful when you have a 16 or 17 year old talking peace.’
Bode, armed with his training with Mel at Bacon’s College and his experience of peer mediation, was thrown in at the deep end, taking on cases involving family disputes and public parks among others. Bode was unfazed and took to community mediation extremely well. Dave feels that it is his calmness that sets Bode apart.
‘He’s just amazing. The way that he just steps up. He’s calm, he’s cool, he’s collected. He’s fearless – he’s not worried about any situation that comes up, he’ll still be “Mr. Calm and Collected.”’
A lot of emotions in the room
Of the community mediation cases Bode has taken on, there is one involving a family that stands out to him. A father had been in confrontation with his son who had a disability. Communication had completely broken down and, as the friction grew, insults were being thrown back and forth, as Bode recalled,
‘The son was unable to work. He was stuck at home and you can imagine how that would make someone feel. The son felt horrible. Dad didn’t understand this.’
Bode’s engaging nature and skill as a mediator helped to persuade the parent and child to come into a room together, express themselves and begin listening to each other. The results were hugely powerful.
‘Suddenly there were a lot of emotions in the room. The son could finally tell the father about how he felt. He felt he wasn’t useful to society, he felt he couldn’t do anything without help. It was really emotional – there were a lot of tears. But the father started understanding.’
The mediation became a success story and had a profound impact on Bode himself.
‘I’m from a similar background to them, sometimes it can be hard to voice how you really feel. It really impacted on me and it allowed me to appreciate my parents more, seeing their bond, connecting them both together.’
Mel Bruce, who was involved in the mediation herself, was full of praise for the way he handled the case.
‘Having Bode on board was great. He was very strict about the mediation process. He pulled it back in. He said,“we have to touch on the past because that is what has brought us here, but now we need to think about moving forward”. He had a huge impact on them. He was a joy to work beside.’
It is for his work on cases like these that Bode has been awarded the Community Mediator of the Year 2020 and Bode couldn’t be more proud. He now wants to use the award to inspire young people to give mediation a try themselves.
‘I don’t really get awards so this just feels amazing. Hopefully people from my previous school can see that I won and I can encourage people from my background or any other background to do something that’s different, try it out and have an impact on the community.’
You’d have thought that winning the Community Mediator of the Year award would be enough but Bode has achieved further recognition by becoming a trustee for Calm Mediation and is relishing the responsibility.
‘I’m excited to be having more conversations and give my input as a younger mediator. I’m looking forward to bringing my ideas – I’m trying to work on getting more young people involved in mediation.’
With the world facing unprecedented challenges and division and conflict seemingly increasing, Bode, unsurprisingly as an award–winning mediator, had a parting message of unity.
‘With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s nice to still be helping people even though there is a lot of division right now. It’s nice to bring people back together.’
This year it is 25 years since Calm Mediation was established. We are excited that Bode will be joining our board of Trustees, we feel lucky to have him and look forward to the contribution he will have on our organisation as we move forward.