This week is Volunteers Week, and today marks the beginning of the #PowerOfYouth campaign, led by the iWill campaign, celebrating young people's contributions to volunteering and social action across the UK.
In these uncertain times it was refreshing to attend a UK Youth Webinar - Stand With Youth “Reimagine health and wellbeing” last week. While the expectations may have been a focus on the negative impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on young peoples health and wellbeing, the reality was anything but.
The panel of speakers, while acknowledging the challenge’s that we are all facing as a society at the moment, provided a well-rounded, thought provoking and interesting information session around the topic. What I found inspiring and productive was how answers and discussions looked to positives that can be found, and how these positives can be carried forward into a post-lockdown world.
There were a few conversations in particular that have stayed with me since the event and I’m going to highlight some of them below;
- Young People stepping up to volunteer - the positive contributions that young people are making to their local communities, friends family and neighbours.
There was a lot of positive conversation highlighting good news stories with young people at the heart of them. Examples of young people playing a key part in community cohesion and volunteering to help in any way they can for those in need around them.
In terms of moving forward a big push around young people being co-creators in what should be done and how the future should look within organisations and wider communities. There was strong emphasis on their voices being heard in a meaningful way and that young people should also be supported to take on leadership roles to drive this.
- Use of technology as a support mechanism.
The Lockdown situation has provided opportunities to discover different ways of getting help, accessing online counselling. This can be seen seen as quite exciting and the hope is that moving forward this can be built on to make services more accessible for those young people who need it. A lot of the discussions around this topic were focused around the larger numbers of people who could access support in regards to time that professionals have available consulting online rather than face to face.
There was however a key point raised that although the ability to access services online may make things more accessible for young people, it should not replace face to face services. There will be young people who don’t have access to technology to participate online and there will also be those who are more comfortable with more traditional means.
- Physical Activity for Wellbeing
The other point which has really stayed with me was the point around the importance that has been placed on exercise and physical activity for overall wellbeing and the positive impact it can have on anxiety and the way that people feel. This presents a real opportunity for looking at the future role of physical activity and young peoples wellbeing.
People are seeing and feeling the difference that being physically active has on overall wellbeing, encompassing mentally and physically. It’s Important that as we move into whatever the ‘new normal’ is, that the messaging around physical activity and wellbeing’s importance doesn’t get lost.
While there is no denying that the current pandemic holds challenges for young people’s health and wellbeing, the opportunities for improvement moving forward are vast. Learnings can be taken from important issues and opportunities that have been highlighted throughout this time.
There is a huge opportunity to reform and reshape the way young people have accessed support, services of projects previously, and a chance for meaningful change to happen. Young people must be at the centre of that change, both metaphorically but also literally as the drivers for what happens next and leaders for making it happen.