British Youth Council, vtalent year volunteers (Spotlight Project)

Participation Works interviewed Siobhan,17, and Joel, 18, two vtalent year volunteers working as full time campaigners at British Youth Council for a year.

Tell me about yourself?
Siobhan:
I am 17 years old and am originally from the north-west of England. I recently completed my GCSE’S and decided that I wanted a year out of education to develop new skills, pursue new interests and explore a new place.

Joel: My name is Joel Odumosu. I’m 18 and, as well as volunteering, I’m currently studying Global Politics and International Relations at Birkbeck College.

Why did you decide to apply to become a vtalent year volunteer?
Siobhan: I have always wanted to get involved in volunteering, specifically poverty in developing countries, as I lived in Argentina. However these opportunities are not available for under 18’s it seems. Therefore, when I found this opportunity, I applied straight away as I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain new skills and kick start a volunteering pathway for myself!

Joel: I decided to take on the opportunity to be more productive with my time, but mainly because I have always been interested in Policy Issues, which goes in line with my degree course.

How long have you been a vtalent year volunteer? What type of activities have you been involved in?
Siobhan:
I have been a volunteer for the past three months and will continue on this scheme until June next year. As a British Youth Council volunteer I have participated in meetings in parliament, I have helped deliver training to local Youth Councils, held stands at events and completed research tasks on key issues that affect young people.

Joel: Almost three months so far. I have been involved in a wide range of activities with BYC, such as campaigns, attending various seminars and sessions at the Houses of Parliament and the Hansard Society. I also had the privilege to write a policy brief for the new British Youth Council manifesto, which will be launched soon. This was really exciting and highly informative.

From your experiences so far as a vtalent year volunteer how would you inspire other young people to get involved in campaigning to get their voices heard on issues that matter to them?
Siobhan: I would inspire them simply by sharing my experiences with them and telling them all the benefits of being an active citizen. This would hopefully encourage them to get involved in campaigns which they feel strongly about.

Joel: Get them engaged in every political activity, no matter how small it might seem. Every voice does really matter. Don’t get angry, get engaged!

What do you think are the key skills needed for developing campaigns?
Siobhan: I think you just need to have a strong belief in the issue you are campaigning on and motivation to develop your campaign. As well as patience of course!

Joel: Access to reliable and credible information and most importantly a good team that shares the same enthusiasm as you do.

What do you hope to get out of the experience of being a vtalent year volunteer
Siobhan:
I hope to gain a lot of new skills out of this experience, especially my speaking and written skills. I am already improving these, through the media training day and Speaker’s Bank training I received, but would like to continue to be stronger in both. Also, I would like to gain more confidence to be able to speak my mind and learn more about policy making and campaigning.

Joel: To have developed enough confidence when it comes to policy issues, and to be a better and more informed person by the end of it all.

What are your plans after you finish your placement?
Siobhan: I am not quite sure what to do once this year is over but in the future I would definitely like to volunteer in South America , especially Argentina and Peru.

Joel: I’ll continue with my studies. I might volunteer with another charity if it’s as cool as ours!!

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB