I am proud to represent Walsall as a Member of Youth Parliament and to act as the Chair of the Youth of Walsall (YOW). In addition, I volunteer at the Cancer Research Store in Walsall Town Centre. I am also a member of the ‘Change Your Mind’ team, where Year 12 pupils from Queen Mary’s Grammar School deliver Mental Health workshops to Walsall primary schools.
I was born in Walsall and I have lived here since then, therefore I feel a sense of responsibility and a sense of duty to work towards a better Walsall. I want to spend my time productively and act upon the issues facing people in Walsall every day. I am very proud to be from Walsall and I believe that complaining about issues is not effective; instead, we should all transition from complaining to campaigning about the issues that affect us and the issues that we care about.
I joined YOW because it was a local group and I had always wanted to be involved in making a local impact. I came to my first YOW Meeting to find out what it was and since then I have become the Chair of the group and was elected as a MYP in early 2019. Both of these roles have given me a way to represent young people in the community and engage within Walsall.
Safety is a massive priority for young people in Walsall. The top issue voted by Walsall’s young people in the most recent ‘Make Your Mark’ Consultation was knife crime and this issue has unfortunately taken lives in Walsall. Policing cuts and the rise of youth violence are some of the reasons for young people feeling unsafe in their hometown. At the ‘Youth of Walsall’, we have recognised this issue and have spent over a year working on a knife crime campaign, to address the issue from different angles in Walsall.
Lack of Mental Health funding is something that affects a lot of young people and needs to be addressed. Mental Health is something that everyone has and open conversations about this topic need to be welcomed.
Social Media has created a global community. This means that young people in Walsall are informed about humanitarian crisis’ and international events. Young people are passionate about issues beyond Walsall’s borders. For example, US gun legislation and the recent events in Kashmir are on the radar of Walsall teens. Young people care about a range of different issues including climate change, university tuition fees, hate crime, our NHS and they definitely care about Walsall.
When I started volunteering, I expected to benefit the community in a worthwhile way. However, I didn’t realise how volunteering would benefit me. I have learnt to put myself forward for things, I have improved my confidence and I have made many new friends.Through weekly meetings at the ‘Youth of Walsall’, I have met many young people who are prepared to stand up for their town and give up time for their community. Through my volunteering at the Cancer Research Store, I have gained organisation, time management and communication skills. The Cancer Research Store is a great example of how volunteering hours can be transformed into positive change. The ‘Change Your Mind’ programme has given me the opportunity to vocalise my thoughts regarding Mental Health and also allowed me to develop and practise my presenting skills, alongside the support of the project coordinator.
My next steps are to continue working as part of the ‘Youth of Walsall’ and our Knife Crime Campaign ‘Real Knives, Real Lives’. I aim for the group to thrive in the coming weeks and for more young people to join our group, so they can jump into the world of volunteering. I want to keep up my volunteering at the Cancer Research store and utilize my free time. My aspiration is for youth-led organisations to be driving forces in every area across the UK and in Walsall.
My advice to young people would be to explore the opportunities available in Walsall. I would encourage every young person in Walsall to apply to join the ‘Youth of Walsall’ and come to their first YOW meeting. Walsall’s charity shops need young people to step through the doors and volunteer their time. Take ownership of your community.