by James Cathcart, 20th November 2019
Anna is an #iwill Ambassador – one of a group of young activists successfully nominated in recognition of their outstanding volunteering work. She is now a role model and ambassador for the national ‘Step Up To Serve’ campaign – which aims to increase youth ‘social action’ and celebrate the role of young people as active citizens.
Anna has campaigned on safeguarding for children/on-line safety and better mental health, with NSPCC and Childline, and has been recognised with awards included the Prime Ministers Point of Light Award for her work.
As part of national #iwillweek2019 I met Anna, in her role as Chair when she was hosting the Medway Youth Council’s annual conference on climate change. It was held at Mid Kent College in Chatham Kent, (near to where I live!) and supported by the staff of the Medway Youth Service, local schools and Medway Council. Medway Youth Service has an NYA good practice “Hear By Right” Flagship Award for its youthvoice and participation work.
Q This is #iwillweek 2019 – Tell me about your role as an #iwill Ambassador?
Anna My role as #iwill ambassador is to represent and celebrate youth social action in my community and nationally, as well as to carry on my own youth social action work, which includes the safeguarding of children, on-line safety and mental health support. As an iwill ambassador and I think that youth social action is so important because it gives young people the opportunity to make a difference to their local communities and even nationally, by having a voice in decision-making processes. I think it’s a really important thing to do because youth social action gives young people the platform to make a difference, to have their voices heard.
Q Can you tell me more about Medway Youth Council, which you chair?
Anna “It’s a forum for local young people aged 11-18 whose purpose is to give young people a voice in their community. Young people don’t necessarily get to vote but we give them a voice in local matters, and sometimes on national matters. They have the chance to get involved and have their say so that we can represent them to the council or to national decision-makers”
Q Do you think you make a difference?
Anna “Yes – we definitely make a difference. For example, today we are at the annual conference where we are educating and informing young people on the local and national issues of climate change. We hope to inspire them to maybe think about their daily routines and what they could do in their own lives that would make a difference. On the basis of the annual conference we’re going to bring back further actions which we will make into campaigns focusing on climate change because of over 40% of young people from Medway voted it their top priority campaign when 6,400 voted during the summer of 2019 (that’s nearly 1 in 4 of all 11-18 yr-olds in Medway). Other topics included – Tacking Hate Crime, Tackling Knife and Young Mental Health.
We don’t have the vote – but we DO have a voice!”
Q There were over 150 children and young people at your Climate Change conference today, with their teachers. Are you pleased with the outcome?
Anna “ I think its gone really well. We ve had really good feedback from the young people who said that they found the day really informative and really enjoyable. So not only were they learning about climate change but also learning about what they can do individually and locally on how they can make a difference. I want to thank the rest of the MYC team, the Youth Service, Mid-Kent College, the schools and teachers who supported the children to attend, and facilitated the small groups. I want to thank all the professionals who came in for our Q&A panel from Medway Council Environment Team and Extinction Rebellion as well as the youth-led Medway Climate Change Movement
Q One of the themes of #iwillweek is partnership. How does this work in Medway?
Anna “I think partnership is so important because if we work together we can really make a difference. I believe if one person is doing everything its not going to be as effective, and if you take different opinions into account, like even young people influencing the adult decision-making processes – you get better outcomes. Also the fact that we, as a youth-led organisation, are partnered with Medway Youth Service and they give us support to help facilitate our meetings, they are ensuring that we are an independent body so we can be youth-led to work as an independent platform.
Q Is there a final message that you would like to ‘heard’ by those reading this?
Youthvoice is alive and well in Medway! And although you may not have the vote, you do have a voice – use it!
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James Cathcart is Founder and Advocate of Young Voices Heard, offering training, advocacy and fundraising services that advance greater @YVH_YouthVoice and participation in public life.