Monday, 5 August 2013

Young volunteers show the way

When he became leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron said he wanted to establish some kind of modern day National Service which could, in time, become a universal rite of passage that most young people would participate in. Military National Service was phased out in Britain more than half a century ago but still exists in some countries. What if we could create something new that would replicate some of the good features of National Service but could be broader and something young people would want to do?

In the past few weeks thousands of teenagers have taken part in their National Citizen Service. The aim is simple: to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds in common endeavour. The project is aimed at sixteen and seventeen year olds and runs over the summer holidays. Initially, participants take part in a series of team building activities outdoors. It is a residential course so they leave home behind for a couple of weeks and are immersed in a new environment and make new friends. This can be a great way to develop their confidence and independence. It also means they are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter what school they go to or where their parents live. It’s a great way of breaking down barriers.

In the final week of the programme, the young participants break up into much smaller groups and decide on a project they want to deliver for their local community. The group in this area took on the challenge of making the skate park at Tuckingmill Valley Park more welcoming. In several question and answer sessions I have done at local primary schools, younger children have told me that they feel intimidated at the skate park, so it was a good choice.

Like anyone trying to do a good turn, they encountered their share of frustrations. Officials at the council initially said they couldn’t do the work because they were not an “approved contractor” and some of the very skaters they were trying to help vandalised some of their work before the paint was dry. But they had many supporters too. Local sponsors like B&Q, Homebase, Warrior, their councillor Paul White and our local Conservative branch helped out with some materials. They had support from their team leaders, Rob and Amber. When they approached Cormac (who were the approved contractors) to get permission, the local rep put all the petty bureaucracy to one side and said, “just do it.” Good for him.

So congratulations to Lamorna, Aidan, Rowan, Tamsyn, Erin, Aphra, Tom, Terry and Tyler for all their hard work. When I asked them what the best part was, they said, “making new friends” and that’s what matters most.

George Eustice can be contacted atgeorge.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.