engage magazine issue 001 spring \'06 - Page 54

54 HEAD START IN LIFE Helping Youth Youth volunteering to get a step ahead Written by Lianne Parrett Volunteer Co-ordinator, One World Foundation Africa oung people in East London can get a head start in life by volunteering. One World Foundation Africa, based in Newham, is helping ethnic minority youth to find volunteer posts that will give them work experience, boost their skills and job prospects, and also improve their local communities. Newham is one of the most deprived boroughs in London, with high unemployment, low incomes and low levels of education and skills. Over half of all children in Newham are living in poverty. Worst affected are ethnic minority residents. Teenagers in East London have a golden opportunity to get ahead through volunteering with local organisations working to improve the East End. Ideally, this is a win-win situation - volunteering gives young people a chance to build their self confidence and improve their skills and job prospects, while also benefiting their local communities. Y Yet some young people view volunteering as uncool, boring, or a white middle class activity. Time and cost also put them off - time spent volunteering is time spent not earning money and many young people (and their parents) feel they can’t afford to volunteer. In the words of one young African woman “Why should the poor volunteer?” On top of this many young, disadvantaged people don’t feel confident that they have anything to offer. One World Foundation Africa has found that once young people became aware of the wide array of volunteering options that exist in East London and the benefits of taking part, they were much more likely to give it a try. And those who do are overwhelmingly positive about their experience and report feeling more confident about their abilities. Initially, some organisations believe that young people lack the skills, discipline, and commitment required of an ‘ideal’ volunteer. But while some young volunteers undoubtedly need support, these posts offer young people a chance to improve themselves and their life chances. Surely the extra investment in our youth is worth the pay-off? While One World Foundation Africa is striving to find volunteer placements for young ethnic minorities, we are keen to hear the views of teens and organisations on how we can encourage more young people to try out volunteering. Please contact One World Foundation Africa on 020 8555 0788 or email lianne@oneworldfoundation.co.uk with your opinions: For more information on volunteering in East London, contact One World Foundation Africa or your local Volunteer Bureau or see www.do-it.org.uk Volunteer Network Centre Newham 020 8221 4514 malvindervnc@yahoo.co.uk Volunteer Action Tower Hamlets 020 7377 0956 info@towerhamlets.org.uk Hackney Voluntary Action 020 7241 4443 volunteers@hackneyvoluntaryaction.org.uk Barking & Dagenham Volunteer Bureau 020 8227 5480 bardagvb@hotmail.co.uk engage SPRING ISSUE 2006