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31 July, 2006

Young Campaigners Training weekend

Two new East London campaign groups from George Mitchell and Willowfield Schools in Waltham Forest recently joined Young Movers (YOMO) trainers and Youth Act graduates Yvonne and Daniela for the 7th Youth Act Residential. A national programme focussing on active political literacy, Youth Act helps develop democratic participation of young people likely to experience exclusion.

Three weeks into their training on how to campaign for change in their local communities, both groups participated in YoMo training sessions. 32 young people and their 4 adult supporters took part in campaign planning, team work, decision-making dilemmas and drama workshops to develop their ideas, communication, negotiation and campaigning skills. Together the two groups developed ideas and skills to create campaigns aimed at reducing knife crime in Waltham Forest.

Ezra, a Youth Trainer at the residential said, “This is my seventh residential with Youth Act. I think the groups this weekend have been really good, you can tell that they have all benefited and are coming out with the right things about the training to take back home. YOMO deliver training for groups of young people and adults throughout the U.K. Our focus is always to use team building, creativity and decision-making to help groups to bring about community change.”

Both schools have chosen knife crime as the issue they want to address in their communities and the projects are proving particularly empowering for the groups.

Levon, from George Mitchell School spoke about how the weekend had helped the groups develop creative ideas, “This weekend we came up with a play about knife crime. Our play shows a young boy who is stressed about his GCSEs, he’s a good guy but he gets involved with the wrong people because he is worried about his exam results. They persuade him to buy a knife and the play shows how easy it is to fall into these situations and how tragic knife crime can be.”

One of the main learning tools used in the residential gives young people the opportunity to learn how to use drama to develop their own communication and team work skills and to create a performance to explore and communicate the issues around their campaign message.

Chelsea, speaking about Willowfield’s project “We’re also working on knife crime. We are going to be doing a role play and a short presentation and we’re going to invite people to see it tonight. Performing the play is going to give us a chance to see how good our ideas are and to think about what we need to improve.” She continued, “The residential has been great. Because there’s a small group of young people here it feels like we can just get on with things and not feel like we have to compete. We are in this together, all here for the same reason, doing the same thing.”

The groups worked outside on a team-building and listening skills activity leading each other blindfolded through a maze of ropes and then spent Sunday morning creating short films publicising and containing the message of their campaigns.

Felicy Tyson, at the Citizenship Foundation attended the residential. She said “The weekend seems to have been as intensive and productive as always both in terms of the work done by the groups and the bonds formed between them. You can feel a real sense of potential, creativity and commitment here. This residential has shown how when you get a group of different people together they can really share and make use of each individual’s talents. I'm sure that both groups will go on to do great things”

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