Young people take action on homelessness

November 2015

Since Monday we have been celebrating #iwill week, marking the 2nd anniversary of the #iwill campaign for youth social action. This year our Hearing All Voices project has successfully contributed to the campaign as two groups of disadvantaged young people took action in their communities to raise awareness of bullying and to support a charity that helps homeless people.

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Compelling research from the Cabinet Office, published this year (2015), proves that young people who take part in social action develop key character and employability skills. Social action also enhances the life skills of young participants and strengthens local communities. The #iwill campaign, an independent initiative launched in November 2013 by HRH The Prince of Wales (and the then leaders of the three main political parties), is coordinated by the charity Step Up To Serve. It aims to make involvement in social action part of life for 50% more 10-20 year-olds in the UK by 2020.

Child to Child pledged at the start of the year to support the campaign. It perfectly reflects the ethos of our London-based Hearing All Voices programme, which aims to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children and young people by enhancing their life skills and employability. It achieves this by promoting youth social action.

The students involved this year were drawn from migrant communities and were non-native English speakers. Taking part in Hearing All Voices helped them to significantly improve their communication skills. They became noticeably more confident. Communication with others in the college, particularly native speakers, and the wider community improved.

Reflecting on the tangible improvement in the confidence of the students taking part, Project Manager Carolyn Conway commented: “The young people interviewed people using the questionnaires they had designed. Two girls we thought would be shy, just grew in confidence. We couldn’t stop them! After getting over their initial nerves, they marched up to strangers most of whom agreed to answer their survey. You could really see the girls grow in confidence, in the space of an hour. You can’t imagine the difference!”.

Participating in this project also helped the young people develop their understanding of social issues and enhanced their sense of belonging in the community. They decided to focus on the issue of homelessness. They contacted a local charity – Glass Door (formerly West London Churches Homeless Concern) – and eventually raised over £100 by showing a movie and selling homemade refreshments in the college. They also conducted a clothes collection for rough sleepers and delivered around 20 bags of clothes to Glass Door.

I am proud of our homeless project. We were speaking to homeless people. Now I understand better why they don’t have jobs. We collected money and clothes. We now think about homeless people differently,” one young participant said.

We can’t do anything else – we can’t give them a house, a job, etc. so at least we can give them clothes,” another one noted.

A school leader told us, “The highlight was seeing children contribute to the community; seeing the difference they made and their personal growth.” The students learned that they can make a difference, that changing their community is in their hands.