I don’t remember a time when social action wasn’t part of my family, school or work life. The daughter of an ex Police Officer and Mountain Leader who worked with the police cadets, I remember hearing stories of young people who had joined the cadets having never been out of the city and into the countryside. My dad loved his role, sharing his passion for the outdoors, instilling a sense of purpose in each young person while helping them to believe they could reach their goals with the right attitude and support – a belief instilled in me too; the word ‘can’t’ was banned in our house!
At primary school I volunteered for community clean up initiatives and built bird boxes at a local nature reserve. Every Comic Relief or Children in Need day was an opportunity to do something fun, something creative. At 15, I trained to be a peer counsellor and growing into a young adult, I developed an understanding that helping others benefited me as well. At University, I jumped at the chance to take part in the newly launched Millennium Awards. I volunteered in a local school, supporting young children with additional needs in the classroom. I know that support was welcomed but I also felt a sense of pride and achievement and I knew that the skills I was gaining would help me in making key decisions about who I wanted to be and what career I wanted to have. I ended up here, working for a charitable Foundation, supported by Virgin Money, a company with a core ambition to make ‘everyone better off’. When asked ‘how did you get into this area of work?’ I always say I ‘fell into it’ but actually, I ended up here because of the choices I made along the way.
The benefits to young people from taking part in social action are well known with young people reporting better social networks and higher life satisfaction and employers reporting that entry-level candidates who have voluntary experience demonstrate more employability skills. So, how do we encourage all young people to get involved? To help them to make positive choices that benefit them as well as their wider community.
The #iwill campaign, set up to promote, celebrate and extend the reach of youth social action aims to address just that. I was lucky to be surrounded by family and great teachers who encouraged me to be socially aware but we know that young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to get that encouragement and take part. That’s why the Virgin Money Foundation took the #iwill pledge.
Let’s work together to make sure ALL young people get the opportunities they deserve.
To find out more about the #iwill Take Action Fund click here.
Programme Officer, Virgin Money Foundation