We are living through a time of unprecedented challenge. Now more than ever we need to value the role that young people can play and support them to become active citizens. Because they have the energy, skills and ideas to change society and the environment for the better.
On Friday, fifty inspirational young people took their place as part of a 300-strong movement of Ambassadors leading the #iwill campaign. These remarkable 10-20 year olds hail from all walks of life and all four nations of the country. But they have one thing in common – a passion that drives them to help others. We celebrate the outstanding contribution – individually and in partnership with others – they are making to their communities.
They are changemakers like Lanai Collis-Phillips from Ipswich and Waleed Khan from Birmingham. Lanai has volunteered for Women Against Sexual Exploitation and Violence Speak Up (WASSUP) for three years. She works with other young women to raise awareness of domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual violence. She said: “Why wouldn’t you want to use your voice for change? You’d be surprised how much speaking out can do.”
When he was just 12, Waleed was shot six times by the Taliban at his school in Pakistan. He came to the UK for specialist medical care and eventually started giving talks to schoolchildren about his experiences. Aged 16, he was elected as Birmingham’s representative for the UK Youth Parliament. He is now a member of Birmingham Aspiring Youth Foundation and also campaigns on the right to education. Waleed said: “We have a responsibility to use our privileges and opportunities to help make the world a better place.”
“Stories like these demonstrate the difference any individual can make early on in life,” said Rania Marandos, CEO of Step Up To Serve, which coordinates the #iwill campaign. “Young people all across the UK are reaching out to members of their communities – peers, parents, teachers, youth workers – to create positive change together through campaigning, mentoring, fundraising or volunteering. Since 2013, #iwill has become a powerful cross-sector movement of over 1,000 organisations committed to transforming the role of young people in society.”
As we recognise this new cohort of Ambassadors who have joined our movement we’re asking the question, what more needs to be done to grow the power of young people to take action, have their voices heard and make a positive difference?