Young people make a massive contribution to society

This isn’t really something new that I learned today, but tonight did reinforce it for me so I thought it was worth mentioning.

Tonight was the Solent Youth Action Annual Awards Evening – our chance to reward the efforts of the volunteers that we support. In it, we try to recognise as many individuals as possible, while reflecting on the wide variety of activity that takes place over the year. And it was inspiring to see.

The evening was a mixture of entertainment, awards presentations and guest speeches. The entertainments were all demonstrations of some of the volunteering that young people have been doing, and I hope that we challenged a few preconceptions about ‘what is volunteering’ with these. For example, with the rock band of students from Mountbatten School. On the face of it, some might not see being in a band as volunteering, but musicians who play fundraising gigs to raise money for charity, provide free entertainment at charity and community events, and teach some of their skills to younger kids, are making a positive contribution to their community. This is volunteering.

Likewise with the entertainment by the dance group from Eastleigh College – who run regular dance classes for local kids with physical disabilities. And the circus skills demonstration – of juggling and diabolo. Without wanting to sound too cliched, these were all great examples of how young people can have fun while making a difference.

There was also a video put together by young people from the SYA Communications Group, which showed just some of the other activities that volunteers have got involved with which are harder to bring into the Southampton Holiday Inn in an evening! With all the day-to-day work, it’s too easy to forget just how much SYA does – and a chance to look back over the last year was brilliant. The video was an effective reminder of just how much young volunteers have done to support their local schools, hospitals, community halls, homes for the elderly, as well as the local environment with a variety of conservation projects.

It was a point well made by guest speaker Rosemary Tong (Director of Learning Services, Southampton City Council) who talked about the difference made by the work that young people do to support their community, and the number of lives that are affected by it. She talked about how it is impossible to quantify the value that they bring, but how our community would be far poorer without it. (She actually made the point much better than this, but I just cant remember exactly how she put it :-)).

Miriam Minty, an assistant director from the Home Office, echoed this with another perspective – that for all the negative press about how young people terrorise communities, it is worth remembering that the majority of ASBOs are not issued to young people, and that statistically, young people are more likely to be the victim of “anti-social” crime than the perpetrators of it. (Again, apologies for butchering what was actually an effective and well-made argument!)

Overall, the evening was inspiring – such a refreshing change from the typical depiction of young people that we see in the media that I only wish more people could have seen it.

One Response to “Young people make a massive contribution to society”

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