How has social action changed my life? | social action | #iwillWeek

This week is #iwillWeek, a week celebrating youth social action coordinated by the #iwill Campaign for which I am a 2019 Ambassador. You can read more about the campaign here and read my case study profile here. In a similar post to this one, I wrote specifically about being a Scout and this week I also had a post published on the #iwill site about inclusive social action.

Today for #iwillWeek the theme is evaluating impact, and with that no only comes looking at data, but stories as well. Some of us who are part of the most vulnerable groups of young people have found our home and life and passions within social action, and it’s so important that this is recognised.

I talk about parts of my story quite often, but in case you don’t know much about me – I was ten years old when I lost my best friend and began to find out that something was wrong with my body, and I was spending a lot of time in therapy and waiting rooms. It wasn’t really until I was in Year 9 that things really started to turn for me though, with me beginning to have panic attacks and starting my time in CAMHS. In Year 10 I went into a mental health unit for 4 months and in the same year, I became significantly more chronically ill and began to identify with the label “disabled”, as well as being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There wasn’t really a proper start to my social action virtually – I’ve been tweeting about politics, mental health and LGBTQ+ issues since I was about thirteen, and blogged on and off about the topics too. It not only helped me with my identities, but let me support others and understand them. I love online activism because it gives me a purpose, especially in times when I can’t move from my room due to the pain I’m in.

My favourite part of my social action, though, is volunteering – and that’s what really changed my life and continues to do so. I began working with the Cub Scouts a month after I came out of the inpatient unit when I was still finding my feet again, and I fell in love with it immediately. The kids we work with are so intelligent and have so much to offer the world, and it’s so brilliant to watch them grow. Running badges that mean a lot to me or are similar to my own hobbies, like Disability Awareness, Chef and Scientist badges is always fulfilling, and I love running nights like ones for UK Parliament Week as well. More than anything, I love giving back to a community that has offered me the world over the last nine years and got me through so much.

During my time at Sixth Form I also worked with a GCSE Science class each week, and although it was such a different age group to work with (sixteen year olds are just slightly different to eight year olds), I loved it just as much – it provided challenges and definitely meant I built up my resilience, but there were also the lessons where something clicked or they worked well.

Lastly, my most recent time volunteering was with a little organisation local to home called the Square Peg Foundation who run stay and plays along with other events for disabled children and their parents. I helped at the stay and plays twice a week during the summer and I’m going to be helping at one of their Christmas events. It was such good fun to sit and play with cars or lego or helping with painting, but more than that I got to know the kids and their parents and I like to think that I might have had a little impact on some of their lives.

In the future, I want to take even bigger steps in my social action – I want to work with schools or other groups, talking about my experiences with mental illness, disability and LGBTQ+ issues, as well as my social action. I gave a talk to the staff at my secondary school about my ASD and it was one of the best things I did during my time there, and I’d love to work with more teachers or other adults who work with young people about it.

My social action is such a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine it not being so. I’ve gained friends, skills, and a life beyond my illnesses or my academics; I’ve got more confidence than that Year 9 ever imagined she would. I’d recommend it to anyone, no matter the organisation or charity, or whether it’s in person or online.

What has being a Scout done for me? | scouting

It’s currently the summer holidays so I think it’s the perfect time to look into opportunities for September either for kids or for yourself, so I thought I’d talk a bit about my time in Scouts so far as both a youth member and an adult volunteer. Yes, I’m probably a little bit biased, but I can genuinely say that I don’t know where I’d be without it.

I joined the Cub Scouts when I was 10 and I was the only girl in my pack at the time (and was then the only girl Scout a year later) because some of my friends were in it and I fell in love with it. I was one of those kids who thrived on reward, so getting badges was my favourite thing, and I just enjoyed having friends somewhere that wasn’t school. To be honest, that’s a bit of a lie – I still thrive on reward and I still love getting badges, although as an adult you don’t get half as many!

Scouting has seen me at my worst and at my best, because it’s been one of the only constants in my life over the last 8 (nearly 9!) years. It saw me through when my best friend passed away; during all my symptoms of chronic and mental illness and this year they’ve celebrated how far I’ve come. My group have done everything they can to make as much as they can accessible, and I’ve had so many cool experiences.

The main campaign for Scouting at the moment is #skillsforlife and I’ve gained so many skills. People think of Scouting and just think of skills like map-reading, pioneering and things like that, which I have learnt (and still fail at), but it’s more than that – leadership and communication and trust. I’ve achieved my Silver Duke of Edinburgh award and I’m on my way to Gold and becoming a Queen’s Scout, which has been my goal since I was a much younger Scout.

The opportunities I’ve been offered have been incredible. I’ve been in Gang Show twice – a Scouting variety show happens all over the country – performing for a week each time in a proper theatre. Last year I went to Belgium and went to several of the war memorials for the anniversary (and a chocolate factory, so my ultimate goal now is to be a chocolatier), and next year if all goes to plan I’m going to Canada.

I actually still think about the waffles I ate in Belgium, so I just thought I’d make you hungry even though it’s not hugely relevant here.

But apart from these big experiences, there’s the weekly meetings which are just as important to me. I was a Young Leader for two and a half years, and in September I’ll have done a year of service as an adult. I’ve run several badges with the Cubs – Chef, Disability Awareness, Scientist – and I like to think I’ve made an impact on some of their lives, even if it’s just one thing they’ve picked up along the way.

Scouting is absolutely my second family, and I don’t know quite where I’d be without them. I’ve loved every camp, every experience and I honestly think that every child should have the opportunity to be part of an organisation like it – Scouting, Guiding, Cadets or anything else. It gives kids skills that they won’t learn in school, and experiences they probably won’t find anywhere else. It’s fun, it’s challenging and it’s a family. If you’re an adult, I’d 100% recommend getting involved as a leader – it’s so fulfilling and you’ll be changing the lives and mindsets of so many kids.

You can find a group in your local area if you click here. Pop your local group an email and I’m sure they’ll welcome you in with open arms! And if you’re not convinced by me alone, there’s plenty of testimonies available on the website too.