We at CLDF were incredibly proud when Charlina, one of our amazing young people, was selected to be part of The One Show’s Surprise Squad for BBC Children in Need. It proved to be a truly memorable experience for Charlina as she explains.
It was in March this year when Michelle from CLDF messaged me to ask if the BBC could contact me as they liked the film I had I made for Talk Tell Transform a few years ago. I said that was fine and didn’t really give it any further thought.
About a month later, I was studying in the library at college and I had a call from a lady from BBC Children in Need. The lady I spoke to said that they were considering me as a possible candidate for either the Rickshaw Challenge or The One Show’s Surprise Squad. I’ve seen the Rickshaw Challenge and, as I tire very easily, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that but the Surprise Squad – where people who have benefitted from Children in Need complete projects to help other children – sounded really interesting.
As before, I put it out of my mind as soon as the call was over. I knew that they were talking to loads of possible candidates and couldn’t see why they would choose me, so I was very surprised a few weeks later to receive a call from Matt, one of the producers, who said they were considering me for Surprise Squad. We had a couple of chats over Zoom and he said he’d like to come to my house to meet me and my mum as, if it went ahead, she would be included in the filming too.
I’ll be honest, by this stage I started to get a bit nervous. I’m by nature a shy person, more an observer than a talker. And when I realised what was involved, I started to think maybe this wasn’t for me. When I voiced these concerns, the Children in Need team were really good. They didn’t push me into anything – they were just really encouraging. I’ve discovered since that they told CLDF that I was a great ambassador for the charity. I feel so glad now that they saw something in me that I couldn’t see myself. Anyhow, I decided that I would carry on and the next thing I knew, me and mum were going along to the selection weekend at BBC’s Elstree Studios.
I was nervous of course, but this was actually great fun. There were loads of young people from around the country who were being considered for Surprise Squad. We got to do team building activities, games, told our stories, had a photo-shoot, got a goody bag, met the team from BBC and Children in Need. I really felt that everything possible was being done to ensure we had a great time. One of the best bits was hearing other people’s stories. I’ve had a tough time myself with my health problems, having a transplant and being bullied at school, but actually hearing what other people had been through was truly inspiring. Much though I had enjoyed the weekend, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be selected as there were so many other people with great stories to tell.
So when I got a Zoom call from Matt a few days later to say I had been chosen, I was truly shocked. And although I was a bit apprehensive, the selection weekend had been such a good experience that I knew it was going to be OK.
I’d met the other four members of the Surprise Squad, Zuhair, Max, Jodie and Lauren during that weekend and when we were brought together to start our projects, we instantly got along. It can sometimes take me a while to make friends and I get nervous meeting new people, but these four were really nice and great fun. The projects were properly physical – involving refurbishing or even building new facilities – and at times I got quite tired. But we had experts showing us what to do and The One Show presenters, Alex Jones, Jermaine Jenas and Ronan Keating joined in too!
It was really interesting to see how TV shows work and what goes on behind the camera – the way make-up artists keep bobbing up when the cameras are switched off – and seeing what the presenters are like on and off-screen. I’m pleased to say they were really nice. Alex Jones was particularly sweet – always asking how I was and giving me a hug when I looked cold. And Jermaine (who they call JJ) was so genuinely interested in all of us, he was really easy to talk to. I must admit though, because I don’t follow football, I didn’t know who he was – I originally thought he was a member of the crew – I was very embarrassed when I realised he’s actually very well known!
Although hard work, The Surprise Squad was incredibly rewarding. Seeing the joy on the faces of the people we had helped made it all worthwhile. And to discover on Children in Need day that we had raised £1,275,580 was just amazing. I would never have believed I could be part of something like this.
I’ve never been the most confident person but this whole experience has definitely helped me. I’ve done something which I know has made a real difference to many people. And in doing so I have made friends I know I will keep in touch with. I’m so glad I did this.