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A NEW initiative aimed at developing young people's entrepreneurship and influence social change has announced its first cohort of change makers.

A Young Change Makers Fellowship Programme has been launched by Virgin Money Foundation with The National Lottery Community Fund and Northern Soul to support change makers. They are young people aged between 18-25 from across the North East and the North West of England, and Yorkshire and the Humber, who are passionate about changing the society they live in for the better.

A first of its kind in the North of England, young people shared their ideas for how they want to improve their local community and nine change makers will now start a six-month programme at the end of September and will receive exert support, funding and learning opportunities to bring their idea to life. This includes a grand of up to £10,000, as well as a travel grant to cover the cost of researching similar community projects, a learning programme and a mentor to help them to develop as a leader.

They'll also have the opportunity to learn from other social entrepreneurs who've created successful initiatives, work alongside a peer group of young people committed to creating real change and will be linked to other organisations to help them to put their plan into action.

One of the new recruits is 22-year-old Mohamed Maxamed (Max) who has been running a gardening community initiative in Moss Side, Longsight and Gorton in South Manchester and s passionate about promoting gardening in urban inner-city communities. He wants young people to take and feel pride in their area, hoping it will reduce crime levels.

Max said: "I applied to the Virgin Money Foundation to be the change and to work in with young people in my area to be a force for good. I hope to grow my gardening project and bring opportunities to young people living in the "hood" or undeveloped areas, with a bold strategic approach. I'm driven by not allowing young people to be the followers of yesterday but to rise, take what's theirs and be the leaders of tomorrow."

British Army veteran Savannah Thompson, 24, from Durham, is passionate about human rights, equality and support for those with mental health or physical health issues. She wants to help change Army welfare and legal services that are available to those in the services, starting with the services available to veterans in her own community.

Savannah said: "Most people will suffer their mental health at some time during their lives, but many issues are compounded in military service through combat experiences, additional stressors to family life and potential isolation. Mental health issues may not be raised, or fully addressed, during service and can often be exacerbated by transitioning into civilian life. It can be difficult to recognise, or accept, a need for help. My aim is to utilise the invaluable support and advice available to me, from the Virgin Money Foundation and Northern Soul, in order to remove those barriers."

Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director of Virgin Money Foundation, said: "We are pleased to announce the eight young people who will be taking part in our very first Young Change Makers Fellowship Programme. This has been so long in the planning, so to finally get to this stage and be days away from starting is very exciting."

"We have always funded organisations with young people at their heart, but we really wanted to invest in young people themselves and support their ideas and passions for transforming the place in which they live. We had so many wonderful applications, but these eight young people really stood out and I can't wait to see how they progress through this programme and how their hard work will positively impact their communities."

As the charitable foundation of Virgin Money, the bank is also getting involves in the initiative with 50 colleagues volunteering to offer their skills and knowledge to help the young people get the most from the fellowship.

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Mohamed Maxamed (Max)

Max wants to promote gardening as a viable vocation for young people from the inner city. Through the Fellowship, Max wants to grow his social business, work with local schools and community groups and establish gardening workshops in person and online to earn money and support his other work.

The Fellowship will help Max to develop his business, practical and entrepreneurial skills and hone his energy and talents.

Savannah Thompson

Savannah wants to ensure that personnel suffering with poor mental health and feeling overwhelmed are better supported and plans to set up her own foundation. Savannah hopes this will be run by paid and volunteer veterans and their families and will work with and within the whole community to support veterans to reintegrate into civilian life and in turn, work to improve the local area.

The Fellowship will provide Savannah with the skills necessary to establish and grow her organisation, further develop her networks and understand how to connect into wider services available in the County.

About Virgin Money Foundation

About The Northern Soul Consultancy

About The National Lottery Community Fund