WAR Cry reporter Renée Davis is an exceptional young Christian woman – and she has the award to prove it. Last month, she received the accolade at the Wise Women Awards, held in London, for creating Out The Box, an online hub that showcases the talents of young creatives and entrepreneurs.
The project also aims to inspire other young people to realise their own passions and reach their potential.
‘During the 2011 London riots, a lot of the young people who were looting were referred to as “hoodlums” and “thugs”, but I didn’t see them as that,’ says Renée. ‘I saw young people in need of an outlet but failing to find it. I was fed up with the negative image attached to young people, and felt that God wanted me to start showcasing the good things that they do.’
Over the following years, Renée developed her idea and her personal blog grew to become the online hub that is today known as Out The Box.
‘Through interviewing and writing about young people who are business owners, fashion designers, musicians, actors, film-makers and so on, I’m trying to say to other young people:
“Look, this person has come from a similar situation to you. They are your age. They are
doing something amazing. You can be the same.”
‘When I interview people, I ask them how they got to where they are today. I want the truth about the challenges they faced, so that young people can understand the processes they have gone through.’
Last September, Renée held Out The Box Live, an event in London in which she invited special guests to speak to a gathering of young people about their professional experiences and encourage them to create their own opportunities.
One of her guests was Kascion Franklin, an award-winning actor who played a young Lenny Henry in the BBC drama Danny and the Human Zoo.
‘Out The Box was never meant to be just a website where users can read about subjects to gain knowledge; I want it to give young people the chance to exercise what they have learnt,’ Renée says. ‘I want them to connect with each other.
‘At Out The Box Live, after the speakers had presented their talks and a rapper had
performed, the young people were free to network and share ideas. One of the young women I spoke to said: “Tonight has inspired me to go home, pick up my pen and start writing again.”
‘It makes me happy to see potential in people. I believe that we are all created to do something. God has given everybody talents and gifts, and we should draw those out of each
other and celebrate them. Sometimes, people are just too afraid to go for it. I want to tell
them that they can.’
As Out The Box continues to grow and inspire young people, Renée has big dreams for its future.
‘I want Out The Box to be the go-to hub that youth workers and teachers will use in order to
help their young people. When they are going through transitions in life and not sure what to do next, I want young people to think: “I can turn to Out The Box for some ideas.”
‘It’s a difficult time to be young. Finding work is hard. People don’t tend to stick at one
job for life any more. Young people need to create their own opportunities because no one
will do that for them. They need to learn how to use their gifts and capitalise on them. That’s what Out The Box is for.’
Renée’s unfaltering commitment to Out The Box, the fact that she runs it singlehandedly (while working a full-time job) and the inspiration she provides to young people
prompted a mentor to nominate her in the Exceptional Young Christian Woman category
at the Wise Women Awards. When Renée found out that she had won, she couldn’t believe it.
‘It was emotional for me, because there have been times when I’ve been crying on my
bedroom floor because life has felt so hard.
But during those times, I felt God say to me: “I am going to reward you openly for everything you are doing.” It felt as though that time would never come, but I kept taking steps of faith and working hard. Now, I am so grateful to be in this reaping season.’
Renée, who is planning a second Out The Box Live event, scheduled to take place in August, offers some words of encouragement for young people who are wondering about their future.
‘My advice to them is: Don’t let what is happening right now dictate your tomorrow. Keep working hard. Remain in good company. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. And always trust in God. He means you well.’
Renée was interviewed by Claire Brine for The Salvation Army's newspaper The War Cry.