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Giving young people the tools for change

28 August 2013

London Youth’s Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) programme – funded by the Big Lottery Fund and delivered in partnership with Cospa, Wickes, RMT Training and City & Guilds – gives young people the chance to renovate youth clubs and community buildings whilst learning skills from older mentors. In this guest blog, National Youth Partnerships Coordinator, Rachael Bemrose, explains the difference VIY has made to date.

London Youth's Rachael Bemrose

London Youth’s Rachael Bemrose

One year into delivering VIY, we’re beginning to see the impact it makes on the young people who volunteer for the programme. And the outcomes aren’t always what you might expect.

Recently I met one VIY graduate, Lucy, who had volunteered at a project refurbishing a community café at the Islington Arts Factory. Lucy got involved because she wanted to develop her DIY skills in order to be self-sufficient as well as wanting something to occupy her time.

After completing VIY, Lucy gained the confidence to bring some of her own drawings to show the arts project manager. They could see Lucy had a talent, and as a result Lucy has attended art classes and hopes to take part in the centre’s Young People’s Exhibition this year.

For many young volunteers VIY has been a springboard to go onto further training, work experience and apprenticeships that they may not have otherwise thought of doing. For example, Kayode has progressed onto a Level 2 apprenticeship, after completing a six-week traineeship that he heard about whilst volunteering as a VIY peer mentor.

VIY sparked his interest in DIY and construction and he volunteered for two projects; in the first he gained accreditations in carpentry and painting which led to him volunteering as a peer mentor on the second project.

So far we have run 15 projects, across London, Birmingham, Nottingham, the Welsh Valleys and rural Gloucestershire. Over 300 young people have taken part, and no two projects are alike, each one is tailored to the young volunteers and the building they refurbish.

Young people and tradesman discuss a DIY project

Young people are given the opportunity to learn skills from qualified tradespeople

Following a busy and exciting summer programme we will continue to expand VIY. We’ll be holding an intensive renovation weekend for 30 young people at an outdoor education centre and working with a mums and babies group in Newport to refresh ‘The Bunker’.

Meanwhile, we’ll support young men in Liverpool as they construct an innovative gazebo-type structure for their centre; and in Swansea, help hearing impaired young people to work with other youth groups in the city.

It’s been a great year so far, and we’re excited to see what the future holds. But there’s one thing we know for sure: if young people are given the right tools to make change in their local communities and their own lives – whether these are physical tools for repair or the support and relationships they’ll build with peers and trusted adults – positive change can be achieved.

Rachael Bemrose is National Youth Partnerships Coordinator at London Youth.

What do you think of Rachael’s guest blog? Have you delivered a project giving young people practical, hands-on skills?

Leave your comments below or join the discussion on Twitter using #biglf.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 5 September 2013 3:39 pm

    Great Blog Rachael! We, at Dr. M’z in Carmarthen, had a brilliant but challenging time on VIY. It has really made a big impact on some of our young people’s self-esteem and aspirations for their futures. We have built great relationships along the way too!
    Thanks BIG and VIY and everyone involved.

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