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The Youth Congress

The Youth Congress community transformation programme was designed for young people, aged 16-18, from across London, who were interested in recognising their personal potential by working on goals as well as being a voice for other young people.

For each young person the process began with an orientation where they would find out more about the programme and decide whether or not they would like to participate. They identified personal goals that they wanted to work on for nine months including; finding a job, improving relationships with parents, building self-confidence, dealing with anger and other emotions.

25 young people attended a ‘pre-course’ workshop where they met each other and the volunteers who would be supporting them for the first time. They had an experience of how we would work with them on the residential and what we were expecting from them. They were all clear about what they wanted to work on and committed to participating fully.

Departure day came and 24 young people got on the bus to go to the residential site in south Yorkshire to meet the team of residential volunteers, already there waiting for them to arrive.

The residential was a roller coaster of emotions for many of the young people who were willing to engage in challenging conversations, designed to have them take a ‘no kidding’ look at themselves. They were brave and courageous in opening up about the things that had happened to them, about mistakes they had made and how they wanted to move forward. They did exercises and a challenge run each morning – pushing themselves physically and feeling the achievement of beating their individual time each day.

As the days progressed they began to share more of themselves and work with the volunteers who were there to support them. On day 5 of 6 the young people were matched with their ‘Committed Partner’, a life coach, who will work with them for the next 9 months.  Young people and coaches alike were reminded that powerful coaching starts with willingness and a commitment, there will be times over the next 9 months when likes and dislikes will get in the way, what matters most is the commitment to keep working through it together.

Day 6 flew by and everyone headed back to London for the ‘Welcome Home’ event with family, friends, professionals and supporters. Volunteers shared their experiences of the residential and the impact of working with this group of young people. Then the young people stepped up to accept certificates and share their accomplishments – a few young people apologised to parents for past mistakes. Some told their mum and dad how much they appreciated their support and others acknowledged different key adults in their lives. The room was often in tears, moved by how far the young people had come in just 6 days and rooting for their continued success.

Now the work really begins, back home where maybe the only thing that has changed is the young person themselves. They now have a Committed Partner and the wider Youth Congress community who are ready and willing to support them towards their goals.