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Our Amazing and Inspiring Young Leaders By

Cheryl Merrin-Rankin

Cumbria Youth Alliance

Wanted, reliable, flexible person to work hours as required, you will be required to work some evenings, weekends and must also be willing to travel across county. You must be personable, professional and have knowledge of current health issues surrounding young people’s needs here in Cumbria. Good organisational and people skills are essential You will take a lead on residentials and develop peer led workshops from current research undertaken by the young people covering a variety of health and wellbeing issues. You will deliver workshops, carry out research and enable other young people to achieve their full potential. You must be able to work and develop partnerships with strategic partners, young people and other stakeholders and be able to report back to inform the direction of work undertaken. Fundraising knowledge would also be useful to ensure project sustainability.

How much would you be willing to pay for a member of staff that was capable of doing that work?

If I told you this is what our young volunteers do on the Journey of Youth undertake this role, what would you say!! One volunteer in particular has stood out for her contribution to the project, joining us within a few weeks of the project starting back in 2009 and she is still with us today giving of her time and energy to assist the project. Here is Jennie’s story:

Jennie, 21, has been a part of the Cumbria Youth Alliance, Journey of Youth health project for the last 3 years. Jennie is one of our most inspiring young leaders. Jennie gives the project her time and energy and keeps the project propelling forward with her enthusiasm and dedication. She is passionate about raising the awareness of young people to health issues and helping other young people make informed choices about their health. Jennie has also helped co-ordinate the distribution, collection and collation of 3 major pieces of research and she has written up the results for two of the research reports. Jennie organised all aspects of our last residential for the young people at Kepplewray. She took control of all aspects from booking the venue to organising the agenda for the weekend then finally overseeing the young people’s activities. During the week Jennie comes into the office and works on updating and writing workshop material and going out into schools and delivering the very same


Jennie also studies full time at Furness College – and still finds time to give the project at least 2 days a week. Jennie is studying Health and Social Care in the hope that next year she will be off to University to study Social work or Forensic Psychology. Jennie can see the long term benefits of belonging to the project, recognising the skills that she is developing and extending her abilities to be able to transfer her skills into the work that she hopes to do in the future.

Although Jennie is learning some very important skills that will help her in her future career, I can’t help thinking that the project is getting much more than Jennie gets back. If you asked Jennie she will say that she does it because she loves it and she has a lot of fun during the process! How many people do you know, including yourself that at some point in their job has felt that they just want to stay in bed some days?! Jennie will travel in and be in the office from 8am and work a full day – now that’s dedication from a young person – someone who sees the value of what they are doing – it isn’t just about Jennie, she enjoys going and working with other young people and raising their awareness and being able to open their minds about the choices they can make about their lives, today and for their futures. Jennie has also had an input into helping secure funding for the project – and with her insight into what young people want, Jennie has been an invaluable source of information and knowledge for the project. Having written a couple of successful funding bids herself, Jennie was then able to go and develop with other young people the Tobacco Awareness and Emotional Wellbeing activities that have been delivered to nearly 1500 young people in the South of the county.

So, the next time you are reading the newspaper or listening to the TV and it is all about young people and showing how negatively they are portrayed, think again and think of Jennie and the hundreds of young people just like her who do the most amazing things with and for other young people and their communities. These are the stories that reflect what many of our young people do here in Cumbria and elsewhere across the UK. There are 100’s of stories about these inspirational young people who are making changes for the better. By featuring those stories then maybe the young people who feel that they have nothing to do and are feeling neglected by society might be inspired by these inspirational people and start making their own changes for a better future.

Jennie (middle) being interviewed for regional news about standardised packaging – with other young people who came together for a conference in Manchester with the Smoke and Mirrors project run by SmokeFreeNorthWest.

Jennie and other young people from Journey of Youth working on fundraising with Dr. Michelle Collins from Lancaster University.

Jennie doing delivery at Furness Academy in Barrow on Tobacco Awareness.

Cumbria Youth Alliance  

A Volunteers perspective.....