#Its time to say thanks

June 1ST – 7TH marks volunteers week. This years theme was going to be ‘Lets Celebrate’. But because we have all found ourselves in the midst of an emergency global pandemic, the theme has been changed.

I enjoy celebrating and have been known to really enjoy a good party. But now doesn’t seem the best time to celebrate. As a mum of 3 children who have had birthdays during lockdown I can definitely say it has been difficult to successfully organise 2020 celebrations.

No gatherings or parties celebrating volunteers will be allowed in 2020 and we will need to mark volunteers week by promoting staying safe and maintaining social distancing rules.

However, this year’s new theme is one I can get behind, and I hope I can persuade others to get fully behind it too. ‘Its Time to say thanks’ is a great theme for the voluntary youth sector in Highland and I hope together we will be able to raise awareness of our work during volunteers week. It is time to recognise the value of volunteering and of community organisations. To recognise the difference this work makes in our Highland communities and to say a big thank you.

Over the last seven years I have been privileged to lead Youth Highland and the voluntary youth sector through some of the toughest times it has ever experienced. A major part of my job is spent supporting voluntary Youth club management committees to seek 100% of their running costs to ensure the survival of community based youth work across the Highlands.

Youth Highland currently supports more than 140 organisations from across the region through the Voluntary Youth Network.

Our membership includes about 50 traditional youth clubs, playschemes and community based groups. These groups work with local volunteers – mums and dads, local community members, young adults, unemployed people.

Volunteers tell us that through helping to run youth clubs they gain new skills and qualifications, feel less isolated, make new friends and build up confidence.

Youth Highland also works closely with specialist organisations who provide support for young people. We have encouraged organisations to use a collaborative approach which supports early intervention and prevention. Organisations active in the Voluntary Youth Network include bereavement and mental health services, disabled organisations, young carers and care experience groups, criminal justice and addiction services.

By using a youth work approach and promoting volunteering, we can support young people facing specific challenges to participate in group work and recognise their lived experiences to positively help other young people. If you would like to know more about the work of Youth Highland and our network of third sector and voluntary youth organisations please sign up to receive our regular newsdrop by contacting jacquie.steel@youthhihgland.org.uk, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or visit our website at www.youthhighland.org.uk

#Be Kind for Mental Health Awareness Week

Since the start of the CV-19 lockdown my social media feeds keep telling me that we are all in the same boat but some of us travelling in choppier waters.

We are all living in strange times with heightened anxiety and new and difficult challenges.

This week marks mental health week in the UK. The theme this year is kindness.

Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. And we want to start a discussion on the kind of society we want to shape as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Over the past 2 months, thousands of acts of kindness have been undertaken by volunteers across Highland. It has been inspiring to see Youth Highland member clubs stepping up and responding to the needs of their local communities. Although our member clubs usually offer safe spaces and social opportunities to children and young people, they have been able to adapt and offer alternative support in the face of the global pandemic and fast changing community needs.

12 of our member clubs are offering essential emergency support – filling and distributing food parcels for families and activity packs for children and young people, delivering prescriptions and making calls to isolated older people to help keep them safe and feel less alone.

Our clubs are very well placed to offer this support. They are run by local people who are trusted within their local communities. They have strong and established relationships with individuals and families and they know which households might need a bit of extra support in such difficult times.

Many of our member clubs, and other voluntary organisations in Highland are offering support to young people online. This is new territory for many youth workers but has proved essential – ensuring young people maintain contact with trusted adults and are able to share their worries and talk about their hopes for the future.

Last week, YouthLink Scotland launched a campaign to ‘Invest in Youth Work’ stating that they expect an impending youth mental health crisis as a result of months of isolation for Scotland’s young people.

This prospect is very worrying. We must be ready and prepare to offer support and kindness to our children and young people as lockdown is loosened.

We cannot return to the ‘old normal’. We need to embrace and encourage change. Communities have proved that they are strong and resilient and able to make decisions and take control.

We must learn from our experiences during lockdown and encourage and celebrate more kindness as we move from a state of emergency into a period of recovery.

If you would like to know more about the work of Youth Highland and our network of more than 130 third sector and voluntary youth organisations please sign up to receive our regular newsdrop by contacting jacquie.steel@youthhihgland.org.uk, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or visit our website at www.youthhighland.org.uk