SE1 United offers regular youth-led events, cultural opportunities, mentoring , training and educational support for young people. Deborah visited the Royal Festival Hall at the SouthBank Centre to find out more about this organisation.
Twenty-three-year-old Munira Mohammed decided to become a youth volunteer from working in dance with young people. She then wanted to transfer her skills into something that would have an impact on young people in their lives.
What are some of the challenges you face as a volunteer?
It’s having to counter the negative stereotypes there are about young people, especially since the riots – you get a lot of images of young people as anti-heroes, yobs or people who are violent. So I guess it’s just working really hard to counter those images. There are actually a lot of young people in our area that are volunteering and giving back to the community and helping another generation further their aspirations.
How do you make sure you provide a positive platform for young people?
With SE1 United every year we do a showcase or we do the youth Oscars, which is kind of similar to the MTV Oscars. You get young people who have volunteered before, people from sports organisations and schools, that are given awards for their contributions in whatever field. It’s really an opportunity to promote a positive image.
Project Manager, Camelia Muldermans had an interest in education which was her route into working with young people. She was increasingly annoyed with negative stereotypes of young people in the media and is involved with journalism, environmentalism, public relations and marketing to promote a positive image of young people.
What can SE1 United bring that’s inspiring for young people?
SE1 United is basically youth-led, so it’s inspiring because the young people lead on all the projects, ideas and initiatives. They create what they want and we facilitate anything from trips abroad to looking at how culture, religion, and different political systems work in the world to leadership projects that focus on raising aspirations through debates or consultations; to extra academic support and creative projects. We run many different projects at once.
How has the organisation made steps to provide a strong growing community encouraging, even when conflict arises?
It’s a case of ‘practising what you preach’ because we are a diverse team culturally, ethnically, academically and we all get along well. This sets a tone for young people, so they enter this environment on the understanding that you just have to be open-minded.
How do you ensure all young people are trained and doing the right thing?
We are very informal, which can be quite hard to manage because you also need to maintain professionalism. We usually introduce people via the homework sessions because they are the easiest to run. We say, ‘Have a go and observe if you want to be involved, then we can talk afterwards and see what you think!’ The process is usually tailored to the individual and quite free-flowing.
How important is it for young people, to become young volunteers?
Ithink it’s important for any individual to contribute something positive to help others. I think life is about what you can do for other people not just yourself, and the younger you can actually appreciate that, the more it will stand you in good stead for life.
Finding out the great contributions some of the young people are doing for their community in SE1 United at the Royal Festival Hall was truly inspiring.