In our most recent showcase of young people’s achievements, we interrupted the Gateshead Youth Assembly’s (GYA) monthly meeting at Gateshead Civic Centre to hear about the wide range of volunteering young people have been involved with.
First, we met Lucy Adams, a young volunteer and Board Member of Gateshead Youth Assembly. Lucy joined Gateshead Youth Assembly when she was 11, when she admits to being painfully shy and nervous. Valerie Ender tells of Lucy’s first experience at the Youth Council, “When she was 11 she gave a speech to her entire school, she cried with nerves before, during and after, but refused to give up.” This carried on for years; her determination and refusal to ever give up have made her truly inspirational. Now, she offers support to other young people at GYA and wider. She goes over and above to support young people, every single day because she knows just how hard it is but also how much she developed as a result of having support herself. Over the years, Lucy has flourished. She has used her confidence and character to lead on a number of initiatives including a child poverty project which saw Gateshead Council go onto embed lunch schemes in their holiday provision, set up our refugee and asylum drop in, English lessons and youth sessions, deliver a presentation on child poverty to a Parliamentary Select Committee and instigated the use of technological solutions to enable young Board Members to join meetings that would otherwise not have felt able.
We then spoke to young people from two groups; Pakora Party and World Artists. Both groups formed as a result of young people utilising the Key Process to think, plan and develop an activity for other young people. World Artists is a group established to enable asylum seekers and refugees to engage in arts and culture, while Pakora Party is a foodie fundraising initiative raising money to support local asylum seekers. In both occasions, young people have connected emotionally with the cause, and used this energy to make a difference to the lives of young people who are financially and socially isolated. Over the course of two months, Pakora Party produced and sold over 2400 pakora! The work ethic of the young people in both projects was important, but what made the project a success was their ability to work as a team, and to support each other throughout. Finally, we met Sophie Adams and Freya Ender who, along with an unwell Sarah Keegan, were being recognised for their inspirational attitudes, personal development, and dedication to helping others. When they joined four years ago, they were all timid, shy young women, with all three of them suffering chronic social anxiety and two of them undergoing mental health treatment. After a year of sitting in the shadows they decided they didn’t want to be the ‘babies’ of GYA anymore and started a stage 1 Key bid to raise funds for some board game and pizza nights. It took six months of tears and stress for them to get it together but eventually they did, and the nights were great. This project kickstarted their journey and the group have now designed and delivered two more projects creating opportunities for disadvantaged young people in Gateshead. The confidence of these three young women is significantly different to when they started, and they are using this new found leadership to inspire, influence and support others on their own journeys.