When I received the email notifying me that I had been nominated for an MBE I was absolutely shocked speechless. My partner thought something awful had happened! As someone who has worked and volunteered in the youth sector for well over three decades (including my time volunteering as a young person with my peers) I am delighted that youth work is being recognised.
However, I did have to stop and think about accepting an honour that comes laden with colonial language that is not fit for the 21st Century and a modern Britain. The UK absolutely needs a way to recognise the commitment of citizens without the overtures of empire. I stand with many others in calling for a recognition in the name of British Excellence and not British Empire.
In accepting this Honour, it is important that I acknowledge that I have achieved nothing without the support and teamwork of others. My character was very much formed by experience in Brownies and Guides. Guiding and Scouting gives young people from all backgrounds a taste of leadership, service and teamwork. I am who I am because of my experiences in guiding as a child and teenager, and over many years gave back to the movement as a volunteer locally, regionally and nationally. Whilst I am not currently volunteering I know that there will always be a place for me in the movement when I am ready to return.
I am also incredibly proud of the work I did as part of the staff team at Girlguiding. From expanding the range of social action undertaken in partnership with many other charities to modernising the Promise to enable girls and women of all faiths and none to find their home within the movement, as a team we achieved brilliant things with and for girls and women across the UK.
For the past four years, I have had the privilege to lead the team at the British Youth Council. We are a small charity with big ambitions with and for young people. I am inspired every day by the passion, commitment and tenacity of the young people we support, their resilience to keep advocating on behalf of their peers for change that will positively impact on the lives of so many other young people. One of my proudest moments this past year was sitting in on a video call between a group of young people and the Governor of the Bank of England, hearing them present their peer-research on the financial impact of Covid-19 on young people and challenging the Bank to take this on board as they form economic policy.
Our staff team are hugely dedicated to the cause, going above and beyond to secure opportunities for young people to talk truth to power, and to ensure that young people have the support and development they need to confidently take up the space they are entitled to. I have been so proud of the team this past year. The speed and innovation of adaptation has been tremendous. It has been inspiring to see the shift from a quick pivot to digital delivery, redesigning physical events and conferences, so that our youth advocacy and development could continue. And they have continued to develop our offer, developing new partnerships and relationships to continue delivering brilliant youth engagement in a range of settings from health, to finance to education. This is the work of the team – not me. But I am proud to have been part of the support structure that enabled them to do this.
I also want to take a quick moment to recognise Rhammel Afflick BEM, who has also received an Honour. Rhammel leads our communications work and is himself someone who has been through our programmes, as a Member of Youth Parliament and then the steering group for the UK Youth Parliament. He has continued to serve his community, including volunteering as the Director of Communications for Pride in London. Working alongside a colleague who has experienced the work of the British Youth Council first hand is a brilliant reminder that our work empowers young people to be active citizens both now and long into their future.
And if you have made it this far through my blog, then perhaps you might consider helping us to continue to do this important work and be a part of our future success. As the national youth council of the UK we receive no core government funding. As with every other small charity, the British Youth Council is constantly writing proposals and pitching for funds. We are proud to have a strong and growing supporter base who make regular and one-off donations to help our work to continue. By making a donation to the British Youth Council you can help us to strengthen our support for young people, and ensure that young people can continue to advocate on behalf of their peers in places of power.