Young People are Among Us. Let’s start acting like it by making volunteering their new normal - Sue Davies.
Lockdown guilt is getting to me.
My eldest son, I think, boiled something for lunch (I’ll ask him later) and my youngest son is in his bedroom, playing an online game called, ‘Among Us’ when I know he should be doing homework or at the very least, maybe playing outside in the fresh air?
While I am a parent feeling guilty about lockdown life, my real concern for young people (and I include my kids in this) lies in a time after lockdowns, when young people will have to navigate a world and working life of huge change and uncertainty.
What tools will they have to do this? What skills will they need? How will we equip them? Will they know happiness?
Volunteering, helping out, social action, being a part of civic, community life – whatever you want to call it, holds some of the answers. Volunteering can be a big part in equipping the toolbox young people will need. Because at its core, time spent volunteering gives space for young people to build the deeper, meta-skills – communication, resilience, finding a sense of purpose, trusting yourself, working in a team, learning to manage your anxiety…
And yet, when young people look to seek these volunteering opportunities, still in 2021, barriers remain and opportunities can be sporadic.
This week, however, Project Scotland published some definitive Guidelines to Youth Volunteering. And this is a good start. There can be no more excuses; young people are telling us they want to be involved, what they need to do it, and how we can make it happen for them. Because * news flash * volunteering isn’t just about getting a task done, it is about progressing people -- helping people to flourish -- and this includes young people, as they develop their capacity and skills.
Are young people truly ‘among us’ when it comes to being able to be active members of our community? Are our doors open to them? Are they voices in our organisations or on our boards? Are young people welcomed, guided, and supported in volunteering? Can we let them make mistakes, succeed and learn on our time? Are we doing what we need to do for young people?
Sometimes it is not straightforward to take on younger volunteers. I get it. But maybe it has been too easy for too long to find the reasons to say no, rather than yes to young people. So many third sector organisations are already pressed for time and resources, and giving an opportunity to a young person, isn’t somehow allowed to become a priority. But it needs to be. And it can be easier than you think.
Covid-19 has shaken so many things up. A seismic shift in volunteering occurred, with informal volunteering taking centre stage – and many young people grabbed the chance of this open door and volunteered informally. But will these opportunities last or transform into something more permanent? As workers in community development, we need to make sure this happens.
The Scottish Government continues to move forward with its Youth Guarantee, and this is a serious commitment in making workforce opportunities available for young people, including being able to access a formal volunteering placement.
Locally, Developing the Young Workforce Moray has just welcomed four new high school coordinators. This newly expanded team will be a vital link needed in making opportunities happen for young people (and crucially making it right for the person) and will include working with tsiMORAY in securing volunteering opportunities, as well as working with the wider third sector as employers in securing work placements and apprenticeships.
So, we have the mandate and people on the ground to make youth volunteering the norm rather than the exception. But we can’t do it alone.
I look forward to the time when volunteering is as normal a thing for young people to do as going online. But most of all, I look forward to the day when young people are not just among us but are with us -- just people being able to achieve what we all want - a happy life connected to each other.
If you would like to find out more about how to get involved in Volunteering in Moray, visit the tsiMORAY website here - Volunteer | tsiMORAY.