"Why do you want to work with young people?" "What made you start Young People Insight?" When I am asked these questions, it puts me through a thought process, because I'm simultaneously asking myself: Why do I want to work with young people?
Working with young people was never part of my plan. Originally, I wanted to be a fashion designer and own a successful company, selling clothes worldwide and creating exquisite wedding that were food for the eyes. Once my company had made millions, I'd embrace my love of writing and hopefully sell a few books. Not once did start a youth platform come to mind.
My dreams never included empowering the voices of young people or wanting to lend a helping hand to youth that are harder to reach. However, I knew that I wanted to make career opportunities available to young people, providing them with the chances I missed out on at school when a career in fashion was my goal. I wanted to help young people who found themselves in trouble or give those from a troubled background a chance. I wanted to become a mentor and most of all, give back to the school that had given so much to me.
In a sense, maybe working with young people was always part of my plan - it just didn't strike me at the time. Yet my desire to work with young people stems deep, starting with my background in church.
Since I was the age of 12, I've helped out at the holiday Bible scheme that is held at the church I attend each year. For one week, I am the team leader of a group of children, guiding them, looking out for them and growing to love them. As a teenager, I wrote a number of plays for the youth in my church, going on to direct them, work with them and try to reach them through the stories I'd written.
Working with young people at this early stage in my life planted a seed in me, which would continue to flourish and eventually come into full fruition in my 20s. Dropping out of university and finding myself unemployed led me to the charity Lives Not Knives, as part of a work-ready programme for young people. It was here that I discovered working with young people was what I wanted to do.
Being around young people for a long period of time - working with them on projects, telling their stories in articles, taking part in programmes with them - was an eye opening experience. Interacting with young individuals from different walks of life enabled me to get to know them for who they were. I listened to their inspiring stories, watched some of their journeys and got a glimpse of their potential. Immediately, my passion was ignited. I knew that I wanted to do more for them, and more importantly, do more with them.
To answer the initial question, why do I want to work with young people? Because young people are just as special as everyone else in the world and it is essential for them to realise that. Because young people are brimming with untapped potential and sometimes it takes just one person to bring that out. Because I want the world to see young people through my eyes, preferring to look at the person rather than the label put on them.
Most of all, I want to work with young people to give them a voice. I want them to feel that their voice matters and that having their say can make a difference. I want their stories to be told, their way, without distortion by the media. Last month I held my first youth forum, which I intend to hold on the third Tuesday of every month, giving young people the chance to use their voices. I want us to be heard.
Image supplied by the writer.