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8 December, 2006

Youth Act What happens next?

Beyond aiming to empower young people, Youth Act works to support sustainable projects aimed at including other young people and members of the community to work together on long-term campaigns for change. An emphasis is placed on recruiting allies in friends, teachers and members of the wider community to support groups’ campaigns. The involvement of other adults and young people brings further creativity, impact and force to campaigns and, in many cases helps to both keep the campaign running in the long-term and expand its aims and remit.

Since joining the Youth Act programme, many groups have proved successful in both involving members of the wider community and leaving a lasting imprint on their schools and community, ensuring that their campaigns endure and carry on growing from strength to strength. Two such groups are the Stonebridge Road Estate Youth Forum and The Anti-Bullying Massif.

The Stonebridge Road Estate Youth Forum, Tottenham, London:

Following on their astoundingly successful campaign 2004 –2005, the Stonebridge Road Estate youth forum have continued to flourish. They were featured as an example of effective active citizenship on the Community Channel in June, as part of a series commissioned by the Home Office’s Together We Can initiative.

The film showed members of the group meeting a Haringey Council committee to negotiate and sign a Compact agreement by which the Council promised to maintain services and facilities on the estate.

Young people from the forum are now invited to advise new Youth Act groups and speak on national platforms to youth leaders and policy makers, thanks to their reputation for good practice.

They have recently produced a comic aimed at young people called Make a Change which tells the story of their campaign in an accessible, funny and inspiring way.

Yemi Akinfenwa, the Youth Development Worker for Seven Sisters New Deal for Communities who helped co-ordinate the campaign is now taking this winning approach used by the Stonebridge Road estate Youth Act group to other estates in Haringey. Yemi has also assisted with the training and support of further Youth Act groups including working with adults and young people on National roll-out projects in Croydon.

Councillor George Meehan, Leader of Haringey Council said "I think we should be very proud of these young people. It’s an example of what young people working together can achieve, not just for themselves but also for their communities."

For more information, contact Yemi Akinfenwa on 07870157779

The Anti-Bullying Massif, Islington:

Based at the Central Foundation School for Boys in Islington, the Anti-Bullying Massif were formed in 2003. “As a group we decided to do something about one of the biggest problems faced by young people: bullying.” Abiodun, an original ABM member told us.

The group attended Youth Act training sessions and a residential, trained as peer mentors and began running weekly lunchtime counseling sessions for other young people at the school. The Tuesday sessions provide a safe, fun and supportive environment for young people to talk to the ABM peer mentors and discuss ways to deal with bullying.

Miles, a newly-trained ABM peer mentor described how the sessions work, “Students can come and see us whenever they want our help. The student doesn’t have to come each week just whenever he wants to get some thing off his chest about bullying. It really helps to have some one of your own age to talk to because most kids find it difficult to teachers.”

Young people are referred to the sessions through an anonymous referral box, the group run regular poster campaigns, intra-school presentations and bring their expertise to drama lessons and assemblies.

Three years on, the group are a well-known and well-established part of the school community. They have been involved in anti-bullying projects at local schools, present at government conferences and assisted in the making of a film about bullying for schools around the U.K.

In 2004, Zak Chowdhury, an original ABM member, was appointed the Youth Director of I-Power-I , a non-profit organisation that finds ways to empower young people by helping them to promote peace, resolve conflict and bullying.

Through his anti-bullying activities in November 2006 he acted as co-organizer of a two day anti-bullying conference in Somerset for young people and on Monday 27th November he presented a petition signed by hundreds of people calling for more teacher training about bullying.

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