On 23rd May 2008 Round 9 of Youth Act started with a residential weekend in Caer Llan Wales. Young people from Escape Youth Group and Merton Young carers joined up with students from Tom Hood School in Waltham Forest to develop their campaigns and begin their Youth Act Training.
Working alongside supportive adults from their respective groups, the Youth Act team led sessions on team building, campaign films, project management and identifying issues and needs in their communities. The groups chose really different issues which were all incredibly important for the young people. What makes Youth Act a truly effective project is the young people lead their campaigns, choosing their issues and deciding how they will campaign, with the Youth Act team just supporting them throughout. Not only does this create a participative way of working, it ensures the young people have a greater sense of ownership and pride in their work. This in turn allows the groups to remain focused on their campaign, create sustainable projects and increases their sense of social and political action.
For Tom Hood School the new building of their school will be a fresh start for them as they campaign on improving the reputation of their school in the local area, with one student saying ‘ We want to rebuild our school and our reputation… we want to change peoples ideas and views about us’ .
For Escape Youth Group, the sense of boredom and levels of crime highlighted to them the need for more positive activities to be available for young people and they felt that more dance, art and drama opportunities in their area would help that.
Finally, for Merton Young Carers they chose to challenge something very close to them; to raise the profile and understanding of young carers which in turn will reduce bullying in schools. Micheala, 14 said ‘ We already have a lot of stresses in the home as a young carer and going to school and being bullied just adds more pressure’. Lauren, 12 added ‘bullying any group is hard, and as a group we have come up with lots of ways to put an end to bullying young carers’. They plan to do this by raising their profile as Joanna, 13 puts it ‘people just don’t understand what young carers are, we need to change this’ .
What is truly unique about Youth Act is that these issues were ones which the young people chose themselves. They identified the issues in their local areas and worked on a strategy to resolve it, ensuring they truly believed in the work they were doing.
What is different about the Youth Act residential compared to the normal sessions is the level of work achieved. The combination of intense training sessions with group games and activities ensured all 30 young people there were focused on their issue and on the Youth Act process. A strong focus is particularly placed on working as a team and many of the young people identified the best part of the weekend was ‘working with new people as team, learning together’. So much so, one supportive adult commented that ‘it was amazing to see our group at their very best. I am very proud of them’.
The sessions led up to a 20 minute performance by each group on the Saturday night detailing their campaigns. This provided an ideal opportunity for the young people involved, as not only did they gain performance skills, but they had to really consider the ways in which they could convey their messages through different mediums. Choosing dance, visual arts and audience participation the presentation provided the groups with a perfect start to relaying their issues to their local communities when they return.
The groups will now undertake 6 weekly sessions where they will develop their campaign plans even further and begin to deliver their campaigns in their local communities with support from Steve Green , the Youth Act Trainer. We are now starting to recruit for Round 10 which will be with groups in Hounslow and Hillingdon. If you are interested, or would just like further information on youth Act please.contact Ade Sofola on 0207 544 5033 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org .
To see more photos from the residential click http://www.flickr.com/photos/22695695@N03/sets/72157605467361537/ here to view them on Flickr