Monday, 15 October 2012

Martha Payne, Whitney Kropp, Games Makers And My Little Sister

The One Show today has got Martha Payne of Never Seconds on, and it's reminded me of a blog post I keep meaning to do.

My little sister (now in her twenties, so not all that little!) has been keen on volunteering for things for over half her life, ever since she was old enough to get involved, really. She's worked with younger students in school, taught in India, stage managed for several years at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, hitch-hiked to Morocco for charity... (I'll give it a rest there as I'm already feeling inadequate in comparison!)

Her most recent venture, as some of my Twitter followers may have noticed, is as Team V leader for Derby City. Team V is a network of 18-25 year old volunteers run by youth led organisation vInspired which aims to inspire a new generation of volunteers. They're planning, organising, and delivering three social action projects this year, starting with one on youth homelessness, to make a difference in their communities.

She blogged last month about a conversation she struck up with a man on a train as she went to her interview for V. The man, aged perhaps 10 years older than her, said to her after hearing that she was heading up to Leeds from Derby just for the interview "Wow, that's dedication.  Not many people would do that.  Especially your age."

She thinks he's wrong. I agree. Despite the lazy stereotypes of young people in some quarters, I know myself as a teacher that there are a huge amount of people out there who DO get involved in this sort of thing. Whether it's organised volunteering like vInspired, or spontaneous things like helping out elderly neighbours, there are tons of young adults, teens and children who are contributing to their communities.

Take Martha Payne, for example. Martha hit the headlines with her Never Seconds blog about school meals. It was already fairly popular when Argyll and Bute Council scored perhaps the biggest PR own goal of the year by banning Martha from taking photos of those meals, perhaps because they were embarrassed by the tiny portions they were providing. Instant outcry and the involvement of MSP Mike Russell got the ban lifted, and provided a big increase in traffic to Martha's blog. Within 48 hours of the ban being handed down, the amount of money Martha had raised for her chosen Mary's Meals charity had reached £65,000. Since then the amount of money raised has hit six figures, she's travelled out to Malawi herself, and (the book link in this post!) you can now pre-order her book at Amazon for just £6.99. (Buying the book also means you'll be feeding 25 children in Malawi!)

Martha is clearly an exceptional girl, and her dad Dave Payne, who assists her, is also doing an incredible job, of course.

But as well as Martha, there are other youngsters out there who are doing superb things. Take Whitney Kropp. After being voted onto the Homecoming court as a cruel prank by fellow pupils at her school, the 16-year-old could have been forgiven for not wanting to go near the celebration. Instead, backed by donations of gown, jewellery, shoes, hair styling and make up from local people and businesses, she attended the ball after speaking out against bullying. Whitney's handling of the situation was incredibly level-headed. I was hugely impressed by the interview she gave a few weeks ago, saying "The world is proving they do, well not really care about me, but they care about the situation."

Of course, this year, it's hard for anyone in Britain to talk about either volunteering or inspirational people without mentioning the Games Makers who played such an integral part in making the London Olympics and Paralympics such a success. Having loved every minute of the five days I spent in London at the height of Olympic fever, I felt hugely proud as a teacher when I later found out that several boys and girls who I'd taught and were now in sixth form or at university had been part of the vast number of purple-shirted volunteers.

These are just a few examples of the outstanding, inspirational, children and young people out there at the moment. Despite what the man on the train thought, and despite what you'd believe if you watched the adverts encouraging you to vote for police and crime commissioners, there really are a load of them out there.

Cheap plug - my sister's blog can be found at Team V Derby City and her Twitter account is TeamVDerbyCity. I know she'd be really pleased if anyone felt like commenting or helping to get the word out by retweeting a post or two/

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