On Monday 16th April 2018, Anna Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council addressed His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales, Damian Hinds, Secretary of State and delegates of the Commonwealth Youth Forum.
“Welcome everyone from all corners of the Commonwealth to London and welcome to the start of an unforgettable few days for us all!
“As mentioned, I am Chair of The British Youth Council and I am thrilled to be speaking at the opening of the Forum and to welcome you to this fantastic event.
“We’ve already had some fantastic speakers to kick of the next couple of days, and I don’t know about any of you but I am already excited. Before I start can I just get a good picture of who we are…
“Put your hand up if it’s your first time to the UK? First time to London? Have you set goals for what you want to achieve for your time here? For the young people you represent in your country, is mental health an issue? Is engaging with voting and the democratic process an issue? Is access to youth services beyond formal education important?
“That’s really interesting to see and immediately I can see that there are some cross-cutting themes for young people across the Commonwealth by using the top issues for young people in the UK as a simple benchmark. As a British young person, I can say I’ve had a wealth of opportunities, a fantastic education and have benefited from the open democracy that enabled progress. However, there is, as always, still more to be done! Young people here in the UK are passionate about improving mental health services and fighting the stigma, having the chance to vote in local and national elections at the age of 16, and for youth services to be strengthened to relieve pressure from schools and families and to ensure young people have holistic support and a wider access to opportunities.
“Around 17 years after The Commonwealth of Nations was formed, the British Youth Council was born. Since then we have been committed to empowering young people to make a difference in their lives and the society around them. Which is very similar to the values of this Forum. We will be focusing on impact, voice and sustainability throughout the next few years as a charity which mirrors the essence and themes for this year’s CHOGM – Prosperity, Security, Sustainability, and Fairness.
“So, to finish I would like to leave you with some sound advice to get you thinking about how you want the next few days to go, and what better person to turn to than my mum. Just like you, I work hard to represent young people and with that, we go along to meetings, conferences and even to media calls etc. Perhaps just like your friends and families aren’t quite sure what it all entails… Either way, she has 3 key pieces of advice:
“LISTEN – really truly listen to one another, build an understanding, empathy and common friendship. The relationships you build here could truly change your life and others around you. Ensure that you are actively listening to the speakers, your colleagues, the words that are spoken and importantly those that are not. This will give you the stimulus for ideas and conversations that could spark something incredible.
“BE AWKWARD – something Brits are very capable and experienced in… Look to your neighbour you are sat next to. Have you said hello yet? Have you chatted with someone you don’t know at all this morning? Put yourself out there, sit next to someone on their own at lunch, smile at someone in the next session, put up your hand to ask a question you might think to be ‘silly’. If we stretch our comfort to break out of our comfort zones, and I know this is awkward, we can meet new people and share brilliant thoughts and ideas.
“FUN! – Even though we are growing up, we should never stop having fun. Yes, of course, we should all set goals, have aspirations and work hard these few days. But do this with joy and light! Ensure that today and the days that follow, the weeks, months and years that follow beyond that are filled with passion, enjoyment, and meaning. Because then and only then can we bring others along this journey for a better world with us.
“Our theme is ‘Powering our Common Future’. Well… we are the Power, we are the Future and we are the Now. Let’s grab this opportunity with both hands and showcase the irreplaceable strength of young people across the Commonwealth and make it impossible for people to deny us a voice in shaping the future of our community.
“I wish you the most magical and meaningful experience during your stay here and I am thrilled and honoured to speak to such an inspiring group of international leaders. Thank you and have fun!”