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9 December, 2004

Young people bring change to their community

This article about Youth Act! was first published in Exposure magazine in July 2004. Exposure is 'an award-winning youth media organisation' giving young people in and around Haringey (London) the chance to have their say.

Youth Act! is about campaigning for and achieving change in your community. Two groups of young people from Seven Sisters [in London] are doing just that.

“When we came to Youth Act we discussed what was important to us,” says 15-year-old Francion, part of a group from Gladesmore Community School. “We found that each of us was affected in some way by gun crime whether it was ourselves, our family members or just being scared of living in an area affected by gun crime.”

15-year-old Jordan is part of a group from Stonebridge Estate: “We’re trying to improve safety and facilities on the estate. It’s just awful. We’ve got drug dealers and prostitutes. People walking between the overground station and the underground get mugged. There are kids on the estate being threatened by boys that come round making trouble.

"The parks are filthy. The climbing frames have been ripped up and there are condoms and syringes around. I have younger sisters and mum just had a baby. I don’t want them to grow up on this type of estate.”

“The NDC had already formed a youth residents group for Stonebridge estate,” says youth worker Hayley Jukes. “They’d already been discussing a lot of the issues affecting them when we found out about Youth Act. Youth Act gave the group skills they could use to actually change some of these things they were talking about.”

“We want more lighting, more dog bins, and regular cleaners,” says Jordan, “We’re planning a Fun Day in the football cage, the darkest area on the estate. We’ll invite councillors and people in top places to come along and show them what the estate is really like.”

“Youth Act teaches us how to work as a group,” says 15-year-old Sasha, part of the Value Life team. “We have weekly meetings for six weeks and there was a residential weekend to learn basic skills about getting on with each other and communicating better.”

“If it wasn’t for Youth Act we wouldn’t have come up with the idea,” says Sharon Williams, a citizenship administrator at Gladesmore School working with the group. “They’ve shown us how to run a campaign, how to get what we want and let us know that we have the right to.

“We’re hoping to raise awareness of the effects of gun crime and re-educate the younger people, to change their mentality towards gun crime. We’re going to kick start our campaign with a Walk For Peace from Gladesmore to Bruce Grove. We’re just trying to make changes. Even if they’re small they’ll still be significant.”

“We’re going to find out how many people have died from gun crime in England and then have that amount of people march through Tottenham, and more if anyone wants to join in,” says Francion.

“We’ve set up a meeting with the Peace Alliance to discuss planning it and we’ve started looking into where we can get funding. We’re going to do a leaflet and posters and we might even have an advert on Choice FM.”

“Youth Act tries to get the message to everyone that you can make a difference,” says Hayley. “It’s just about knowing the right people to ask, the right places to go and getting the confidence to do it.”

Carrie Supple, Youth Act Project Manager at the Citizenship Foundation, says: “When the training finishes we stay in touch. I send them funding ideas, contacts, newspaper articles, all sorts of things that crop up, but then it really is up to them.

"The two successful groups last year - an anti-bullying group from Islington and an anti-mobile-phone-theft group from Northumberland Park Community School - keep on being invited to make presentations at youth forums and get involved in seminars and various projects. ITV even came to film them. They keep getting confirmation that what they’re doing is being taken seriously. Success leads to success.”

Youth Act is for young people aged 11-18 who want to make a difference to their community. It will be running again in Haringey this time next year.

As Francion says: “Everybody can get involved in Youth Act. Anybody can join".

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