New #iwill Ambassadors reflect on joining the campaign

On 4th October 2019 the #iwill campaign held a ‘Future of #iwill’ event to welcome 2019’s new cohort of Ambassadors, and to bring together #iwill partners to celebrate the successes and discuss the future of the campaign. The event was kindly hosted and supported by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at Birmingham University.  Here, Ambassadors Guy and Patrick share their experiences.

Guy Wilcock, 16, Bath

“It was heartening to see adults in positions of power listening carefully to young peoples’ views. Each of them seemed to get that we had important things to say, that we had opinions that will affect our futures and that we can really make a difference, that our voice matters precisely because we are young.

I set off for the University of Birmingham, excited to begin my #iwill journey – fueling  myself with a pancake and a drink for what was a multi-stop journey on a wet, dark morning.

Of course, my journey really started back in July when I got the email saying I’d been selected to be an #iwill Ambassador, having worked for years in amphibian conservation and more recently with #iwill partner Groundwork Youth. Reading about previous ambassadors had given me the push to apply to be one myself. 

And now back to my physical journey to Birmingham. Arriving at the University I was in awe of the sheer size of the Great Hall and the crowds of people arriving, but I quickly managed to strike up a conversation with other ambassadors, who were all eager to share stories. 

I was struck by the wide-ranging remit of #iwill, with such a diverse and inclusive group of people, and there was a real buzz of anticipation as we got to know each other. We had travelled from all corners of the UK, all with the same sense of purpose and can-do attitude. I felt really privileged and honoured to be selected amongst others who had such amazing stories to tell.

It was such a warm welcome to the #iwill community.  We began with an icebreaker session – arranging ourselves in order of height. I was surprised to be fifth from the beginning! 

An introductory speech from Sir Nick Parker, chair of Step Up To Serve, injected a sense of possibility to what we could achieve throughout the day and beyond. Then we got down to business, splitting into discussion groups. Given my background, I was really interested in the ‘Climate and Conservation’ Workshop, where participants contributed eagerly on everything from how to coordinate environmental action groups to committing to reducing single use plastics.

I was equally taken by the next workshop I joined, on ‘Digital Activism’. We discussed how to effectively harness social media to communicate our message – I picked up lots of useful tips. 

The day opened my eyes to the many areas the #iwill campaign is involved in, as I listened to ambassadors working in areas like mental health and discrimination.

After lunch, I met #iwill campaign partners, including the Eden Project, Young Manchester and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. These conversations were insightful, and it was heartening to see adults in positions of power listening carefully to young peoples’ views. And not just paying lip service but really listening to us. Each of them seemed to get that we had important things to say, that we had opinions that will affect our futures and that we can really make a difference, that our voice matters precisely because we are young. 

The day ended on a high with speeches from partners, Ambassadors and #iwill co-founder Dame Julia Cleverdon, who left us energised with a sense of purpose as we set off to homes across the country.

As I sat on the train, I was determined to keep the momentum alive and eager to put into action everything we had talked about during the day. My head was – and still is – buzzing with ideas that hopefully I can translate into positive action in the next few months, starting with #iwill Week on 18 -24th November. 

You can read Guy’s #iwill Ambassador profile here, or follow him on twitter @GuyWillcock

Patrick Ntiamoah, 17, London

“Without young people being involved in the decision making around the key issues that impact us, there is no possible way that a positive change will be made. We would be following a common pattern of the same people doing the same things therefore getting the same results. “

Arriving in Birmingham from London turned out not to be the easiest journey – but when I got there it was great to be welcomed into the #iwill ambassador family, meeting so many like-minded people!

One of the main reasons I applied to be an #iwill ambassador was for this very reason- to meet people who want to make a positive impact within their communities. Being an ambassador provides me with the platform and opportunities to interact with people who make key decisions around the social action I undertake. 

In a time where young people are beginning to take social action seriously, I feel it is extremely important that those in places of authority actually listen to the contributions we have. As it is commonly said ‘Nothing about us without us’. Without young people being involved in the decision making around the key issues that impact us, there is no possible way that a positive change will be made. We would be following a common pattern of the same people doing the same things therefore getting the same results. 

One main point I took away from the event was that young people do care and at all ages are already making impacts across the globe. During the group workshops, I was privileged to hear from another #iwill ambassador who was significantly younger than I was. This young lady, Lucie, had travelled the world speaking to people about her passion for marine life and aquariums. I was extremely impressed, at that moment realised that I was sitting amongst some great young people, and made me realise that you are never too young to engage in social action. 

The day was truly amazing. There were several highlights, but one in particular for me was the diverse panel who spoke. It was great to hear from both decision makers and the young generation who wish to influence decision-making, coming together and sharing their ideas. Another highlight for me was hearing guest speaker Maya Ghazal’s personal story of being a refugee and now being a supporter of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Her speech was more than inspirational. I’d also like to give an honourable mention to my fellow 2019 #iwill ambassador Lanai for sharing her beautiful poem with us.

From this event, my challenge to organisations is to speak to the young and actually take on board our advice, because we have so much to offer the world.

A massive thank you to the #iwill team and to the University of Birmingham’s Jubilee Centre for hosting this inspirational event.

You can learn more about Patrick’s social action story by reading his #iwill Ambassador profile