YWN Article: The Young Volunteer Army Saving Us Millions

11 September 2009 — Leave a comment

ywn-logoThe following is a short article I wrote that was published in Youth Work Now Magazine (A supplement of Children & Young People Now) last week. In addition to the print copy, it can be found on the CYPNow website here.

The Young Volunteer Army Saving Us Millions
Over the summer holidays I’ve had the privilege of working alongside more than 50 enthusiastic teenagers. These young people, who gave up their own time voluntarily, were helping to provide fun and memorable activities for hundreds of younger children. They sang, played sports, danced, did art and craft activities and even got voted into a gunge tank on some occasions!

These summer activities have become a regular feature for us locally and we always have a large number of young people wanting to volunteer because they know it is worthwhile.

Sometimes though it can be a risk to accept certain young people in a voluntary capacity as they may not be suitable for the role. I remember a few years ago, a particular young person wanted to join the team and volunteer at a play scheme we were running. Due to his ongoing offending behaviour and reputation in the community we were unable to accept him. We dangled the carrot that he could be involved when there was a significant change in his attitude.

It actually took another two years until he was able to help us and work with the children. That summer he was determined to prove himself and put everything he had into the activity. As a result, the other volunteers voted for him to receive an award for his efforts. That was a powerful motivator.

Back in June, the Evangelical Alliance published a report titled Young People Matter, which highlighted the positive impact of young people volunteering. After surveying 700 young people aged between 14 and 18, it found that 45 per cent regularly volunteered in some capacity, with an average of 3.57 hours a month. Staggeringly, this equates to 33,000 full-time workers at an economic value of £210 million each year (based on minimum wage). Combined with the findings that 80 per cent of young people donate money to charity, they estimate that English 14-18 year-olds contribute £300 million each year to the economy.

Whether or not you accept the maths, the voluntary aspect is exciting and has implications for our work. How many young people do we know that volunteer in some capacity outside of our work with them? How might we find out and endorse their voluntary activities? How can we thank and reward them for what they do? We all know that young people have a lot to offer, and it seems that they are finding ways of doing just that!

Jon

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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

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