Summer of Hope reawakens children’s rights

For months children and young people have sacrificed some of their most basic human rights to help safeguard the lives of those older and more vulnerable than themselves.

These rights are detailed in the UNCRC and have now been adopted into Scottish Law. They include the right to an education, to play, to see family and friends and to belong to groups.

By being denied these rights, it is obvious that children and young people have felt a range of difficult emotions over the past year and a half – anxiety, isolation and loss. We are only just beginning to understand the long term impact of this on children and young people.

With support from our usual valued funders as well as the Scottish Governments Summer of Play funding and in partnership with the Highland Council we have witnessed a tide of change this summer.

Youth Highland member clubs have been offering a wide range of opportunities, activities and learning programmes to children and young people across the Highlands.

The atmosphere in youth clubs is joyful and filled with energy.

It feels great to be able to work with young people again!

Youth clubs have been innovative in the creation of programmes which have taken place mostly outdoors – increasing young peoples levels of physical activity whilst decreasing the risk of contamination and spread of the virus.

Luckily, so far, the weather has helped and everyone has enjoyed weeks of sunshine.

The voluntary sector is in a good position to positively impact on the local economy and has created positive opportunities and pathways for young workers and local people.  We have supported young workers and freelancers who have spent the past year and a half unemployed, furloughed or carrying out low skilled jobs back into work this summer.

Programmes have been collaborative with local youth clubs bringing in a range of external providers to deliver varied activities and learning programmes for children and  young people.

Active – with games, treasure hunts, sports, circus skills

Exploratory – nature walks, STEM

Creative – arts and crafts, clay work, sculpture, dance, film and music

Aspirational – meeting and working with local role models, coaches and supporting young people to help lead and work towards awards and qualifications.

Apocalyptic! – survival skills, zombie make up

Nourishing – growing projects, daily food provided

Participative – gathering voices, including children and young people in planning and visioning for the future

Sociable – with a focus on ensuring children and young people are supported to gain confidence with friendships, rebuilding positive relationships, working confidently in groups

Already we can see the difference in the children and young people taking part.

When asked to describe the past year and a half young people use words like

‘boring’ ‘disappointing’ ‘isolating’ ‘chaotic’ ‘frustrating’ ‘ lonely’

When asked to describe the summer activities they are using words like

‘exciting’ ‘fun’ ‘learning’

They have identified ‘time to spend with their friends’, learning new things’ and ‘play’ as things they value getting out of the summer sessions and things they missed over the past 17 months.

These responses show the impact that having their rights taken away has had on children and young people and the empowerment they have felt this summer as they have been taken back.

The rights to play, have friends, be part of a group and to have their voices heard have all been exercised in the summer programmes this year. It is important that we support communities to involve everyone to support children and young people to readjust and reshape the future in this period of recovery after the covid pandemic.