You Can’t Change The World, But You Can Change Your World

This morning I woke up to the news that Trump is president of the US.

Now, I don’t really understand politics, especially American politics, and I must admit I haven’t followed the election very closely, but from my limited understanding, I believe that this is quite a Bad Thing (unless you’re a white, straight, able-bodied, middle-class, non-muslim, non-immigrant man).

It saddens me that there is so much hatred in the world. Such an unwillingness to accept others who are a little different to us. Trump is a strange man by all accounts. He comes out with some, quite frankly, bizarre statements, and seems to close his eyes, spin in a circle, point at a random group of people, and decide that they’re the group he’s going to hate on that particular day.

But what saddens me more than anything Trump says (because let’s be honest, whatever he’s saying we can still laugh a little because he looks kind of like an angry carrot with a fluffy gerbil plonked on top), is the fact that there are a substantial number of people who agree with him. I’m not actually convinced that Trump believes in everything he says, I think he just comes out with ludicrous statements to try and shock people (sort of like Katie Hopkins). I think that towards the end of the election, his team were playing a game of ‘what’s the most stupid thing we can come out with that people will still go for’. So it’s not Trump that scares, confuses and saddens me, as much as the huge number of people who believe, what are in my opinion, racist, sexist, homophobic policies.

I can’t change the election, and neither can you. I can’t change much in this world, to be honest, I don’t hold that power. I can’t fix countries, stop wars, or cure diseases. I’m just one little person attempting to work, study, eat, sleep, and not crash my bike.

I can’t change the world, we can’t change the world, but we can change our worlds.

We can treat people with dignity and respect. We can hold our judgements on people and try and understand where they’re coming from (yes, including Trump and his supporters). We can love deeply, use social media responsibly, and try to show compassion in all that we do. We can do our best to remain kind, caring, and humble in our day to day lives. We can open our arms to those in danger of persecution, take five minutes to talk to someone who’s hurting, ask those around us if they are okay, and genuinely want to hear an honest answer.

We can’t control the world, but we can control our response to it. If you’re angry about the politics of this world – that’s okay! But use that anger to do something. Channel it into something productive and positive. Don’t just sit on social media complaining about it because that won’t achieve anything.

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So Many Charities, So Little Money.

Every time I watch TV at the moment, I see an advert asking me to give money to save some animals. Listening to Spotify, I often hear someone asking me to give money to bring music to war-torn countries. Cycling down the road, I see billboards asking me to give money to feed starving children.

It’s the time of year where charities everywhere are ploughing their marketing budgets into as many adverts as they can muster, over as many different media platforms as possible. There’s an advert at every turn and you simply can’t escape them. They’re counting on your Christmas cheer, hoping that once you’ve had a little too much brandy and one too many mince pies, you might be feeling jovial enough to throw some pennies their way.

Donating is really important. Charities need money to run, and I don’t know how much of their annual income they generate at Christmas but I would guess it’s a fair sum. I really do think it’s great that people are giving to charities, and it is vital that they receive money to carry out their work.

However, what happens when you just don’t have the money to give? Life can be expensive at the best of times but Christmas is notoriously expensive. Whether you’re hosting a big family Christmas, travelling to see friends and relatives, or just having a quiet one at home – there’s no denying that it’s probably the most expensive time of year.

Like many people, I can relate to this. Our family are by no means deprived, but my bank account is definitely crying a little as a result of Christmas shopping. I hate seeing these adverts knowing that I can’t give them money. It can make me feel incredibly guilty and I know I’m not the only one in this position because others have mentioned it to me, too.

One thing you could give, if you don’t have spare cash floating about, is time. Time is so valuable and so precious. With Mum dying this year, I have learned to appreciate time in a way that I never have done before. I remember having a conversation with Mum around the start of uni when I was racking up the volunteering hours like nobody’s business. It started with a chat about how much I should donate to charity each month and we ended up chatting about other ways to help charities. We concluded that I might not give much money right now, and donate my time instead (I had spare time but not really any spare money at the time). Then when I’m older and employed in a more stable job, I’d be likely to have spare money but not so much spare time, so at that point I might give more money but not give as much time.

BBC Radio 1 are currently running a campaign called #1MillionHours. They’re trying to encourage young people to pledge their time to Cancer Research UK, Barnardos, Age UK and/or Oxfam. You can also pledge your time to another charity, then tweet them using the hashtag #1millionhours to make sure your hours are added to the campaign. They want to get 1 million hours of volunteering pledged which will then be carried out over the course of 2016.

Personally, I’ve pledged to Cancer Research UK. If volunteering for them means I can help them to raise money which supports their research, then I’m up for it. Their research could make sure that another 21 year old in 5 years time isn’t facing a Christmas without their Mum. (Side note: I’ve also started putting together a Race for Life team in Mum’s memory and you should absolutely do that if you’re able to – it’s so much fun, especially the Pretty Muddy ones!).

My challenge to you this Christmas is that if you’re like me and have the time but not much money, rather than seeing these adverts and feeling guilty that you can’t help, or just brushing them off: pledge some hours to them. Join #1millionhours, and give the gift of time to those that need it most.

Faith

Over the last couple of months, I have been losing my faith. I don’t have a religious faith, but I believe in good people; in the ability of good people to change things. Due to various things that have been going on in my life, I have been struggling to keep believing this. I’ve had a lot to work through and it’s taken my head away from always being where it needs to be.

The moment I realised how bad this had got was when I was stood in a room with a bunch of amazing young people doing awesome things in their communities and I just couldn’t feel ‘it’. Don’t ask me what ‘it’ is, because I don’t know. But I didn’t have it.

Volunteering is something I have built my life and my identity up around. It has been such a major part of my teenage years, the time I’ve been developing who I am, what I’m doing, what’s made me, ‘me’. Cue, a bit of an identity crisis!

Long story short, after a lot of fumbling around in the dark, trying to work out what on earth is going on, I’m still not entirely sure. However, I have realised that it is down to me to make my way in life. It is up to me to work these things out and there is as much time as I need. Nothing and nobody is going to ‘save me’ or ‘fix’ anything. It is not their responsibility, it is mine. Yes, I can use all my resources but at the end of the day, I have to work this thing out, whatever it is. I will keep volunteering, I will keep studying and working and I will get out of this.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been child minding again; one four year old, one five year old. They are gorgeous children, very well behaved. They have cheeky smiles and giggle at silly things. They hold my hand when we cross the road and bury their heads in me when they’re scared.

Today, the four year old handed me a daisy which was ‘for me’. For now, that’s all I need

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A Stick.

This weekend we took 20 six to eight year old boys on a Beaver Scout sleepover. The setting was fabulous. There was a log cabin in the middle of a wood, a place for the Scouts to camp, a wooden play area and a rustic, open church. We had gorgeous weather, the air was crisp, there wasn’t a raindrop in site and the orange leaves crunched underfoot.

After lunch, we let the boys go. They ran outside, jumped in the leaves, rolled around on the floor, and did tarzan jumps with a piece of rope. A number of them found sticks and spend ages hitting trees. Some of the sticks were drum sticks, others were lightsabers, some were fencing poles, others were a particularly special object. Their imagination knew no bounds.

Later that evening, they were all gathered around the campfire, singing songs, joining in with the older children and generally having a good time. There wasn’t a face without a smile. Once we’d got back that evening and settled them down, nearly every child slept through the entire night, not waking until 7am the next morning (virtually unheard of for a six year old!)

Over the entire weekend, no child had access to a phone, a computer, a TV or any other form of screen. Not once, over the entire weekend did a single child ask me for any of these items. Nor did I ever hear the phrase ‘I’m bored’. No child complained that we ‘made them go outside’, in fact, most of them complained when they had to come in.

On Saturday, I asked one boy what he’d been doing the morning before he came. The response I got was ‘playing on my DS’. Once we let that child out of the building, he was off like a shot, running around and enjoying the fresh air. The next day, he listed all the many electronic items he owned. Once again, as soon as we opened the door, he was running around and jumping in the leaves. But I bet when he got home, he was straight back in front of a screen.

Kids were born to be outside. They were made to run and jump. They bounce. They need fresh air and the ability to be free and run off their limitless energy. They don’t want to be cooped up indoors.

Parents seem fearful of taking children outside. ‘What if they get cold?’ ‘What if someone steals them?’ ‘What if they get run over?’. I’m not saying these aren’t valid questions, but there are solutions to these problems. Many parents may claim they don’t have time, they’re busy, or they’re just too stressed. But I can assure you; an hour jumping in leaves with your child will lower your stress levels no end.

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Involving Young People

Involving young people is something that I get asked about a lot. People often want to know how they can involve young people in things and get them to have their say. However, sadly, although I have found that some of these people do genuinely want feedback, opinions and ideas from young people, many do not. They say that they want inclusion and that young people are ‘the future’ and ‘the decisions are going to effect them’and all of the other cliche lines that get thrown around all the time. However, how much they actually believe in these statements I’m not sure.

As young people, we are a hassle and we are annoying. This is because, we want things done, we want them done properly and we want them done quickly. We want to see a change. We have energy, and drive, but we need you to help us channel them into something productive. You can’t leave us with false promises because we will remember and we will tell you when you haven’t delivered. All of these things are annoying because it means that you actually have to do something about the issues rather then gathering data, promising changes and leaving the paperwork on a desk to gather dust.

We are also up to date with the latest technologies, generally speaking, and will expect you to be to. Facebook and Twitter are everyday communication tools. You will have to learn to use these sites, if you want to get young people involved. However much you may hate these sites or disagree with them, sometimes you just have to do something you don’t like.

We want to be listened to. Do not invite us to come and sit at one of your meetings to ‘give a young person’s perspective’ and then ignore everything we have to say. Or make us feel unwelcome. What good does that do?! In fact, it probably does more harm then good, as it’s likely to put barriers up between the two age groups rather than achieving anything. If you want a young person present at your meetings, you need to involve them, and you need to seriously listen and take on board what they have to say. Do not discount their ideas or see them as useless without giving them as much thought as you’d give to any ideas submitted by other people around the table. Furthermore, don’t have a discussion group focussing on how to get young people involved, without a young person featuring as part of the group! We are experts in knowing how young people communicate and what issues they’re facing, because we are young people. So it’s daft trying to guess from an adult perspective when you can just come and ask one of us.

Please don’t treat us like aliens. We are not strange creatures from outer space with unidentified flying hormones floating around (I know, I know, this may be a shock). We are humans too(!) and we want to feel like we’re part of your group. We want to feel like one of you, not like a zoo animal put out for observation. Treat us as one of your own, but also, remember that we are only young and sometimes this may affect our judgements on things, and in some instances we may need a bit of care and understanding as certain issues may affect us more then they affect you.

Finally, help with travel costs can go a long way (unintentional pun!). If you can cover our travel costs or offer us a lift home, it will make the world of difference and help to keep us involved. We are skint, as a rule, and travel is normally very expensive. So something that might not seem like much to you will be a massive help to us!

So, to summarise,to involve young people, you need to listen to what we have to say. When I say listen, I don’t mean in one ear and out the other listening, I mean properly listening. You have to treat us with respect (this of course does go two ways), and take us as seriously as anyone else. Once we feel that we’re being listened to, and that something is actually being done about issues that effect us, you will start to see change! One thing young people do have more of then adults, is time. So, if we want a change to occur, and you want change to occur, with the right guidance and support, young people will help you move mountains.

A Brief Part Of Life.

Last week, the young boy who inspired me to start Escape The Frame (https://www.facebook.com/EscapeTheFrame) left my Beaver group to move to Cubs. It’s a necessary, but difficult transition. I think I found it more difficult then he did!

Looking back, it’s touching to see how much he’s grown and developed in the last year. A boy who used to hide under tables and refuse to join in, looked up at me with excited eyes and told me how much he was looking forward to going to Cubs. He then assured me that he had enjoyed Beavers and said thank you he’d had a good time. He looked me in the eyes as he said this.

I’ve loved working with him for the last year. It’s been challenging at times, there have been good evenings and bad evenings, but it’s great, now, to see him being so confident. I’ll miss him asking me for my camera every week and coming to sit on my knee but he’s growing up and moving on to bigger things now. (I have been informed that his uncle bought him a camera for Christmas, so I’m expecting to be invited to one of his showcases one day!)

He’s been a major part of my life for the past year or so. If I’ve been feeling rubbish, sometimes he’ll come out with something that’ll brighten me up. I’ve felt needed and wanted and have known that I’ve been making a difference. I hope he’s felt comfortable in my presence and I hope he will continue to grow and thrive. I don’t think that I will ever forget him or his smile. I doubt he’ll remember me in a few years, but you never know.

It’s amazing how people’s paths can cross for the briefest amount of time, yet they can make such an impact on each others lives… I think that’s a really big part of what volunteering’s all about.

8 Letters.

Thank you.

It’s the time of year when people look back on the past year, look forward to the next year and contemplate their lives. It’s also the time of year where people say thank you for things that you have done for them throughout the year. I have been lucky enough to receive some wonderful thank yous this year, in the form of gifts, cards, smiles, words and emails.

As much as I love what I do (and I really, really do), I often struggle with my confidence, frequently believing that I’m not doing ‘enough’ and what I do isn’t ‘good enough’. This can lead to me feeling fairly rubbish about myself! Already, volunteering has increased my confidence massively, but it is still something I’m working through. I find it incredibly touching when people thank me for my work. So much so that it can sometimes bring me to tears (in a good way!). It helps to validate what I’ve done and reassure me that I am making a positive difference, that is my main aim, so knowing that I have achieved this aim is incredibly important to me.

It is also incredibly nice to be recognised for the hard work that you put in. It makes you feel like people have noticed what you’re doing and appreciate it. When you’re sat at home, you should be in bed and you’re filling in yet more admin work, it can sometimes make you wonder why exactly you’re doing this. But, when you see the difference you make to those around you, and when people acknowledge the work you’ve put in, it makes it all worthwhile!

You will find that most volunteers enjoy what they do and you will also find that they tend to do it because it’s something they want to do and they want to give something back to the community. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need thanking. They do. Something as simple as a card or a text can really bring a smile to your face! It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture! Two words can make the world of difference.

It’s lovely when people bring gifts at Christmas but it’s aso equally lovely when people thank you year-round. It is incredibly imprtant to thank your volunteers, their work is invaluble and believe me, you would notice if they weren’t there! It’s 8 letters. They don’t take long to say, but I can’t stress how much of a difference they can make.

8 Letters
2 Words
1 Thank you.