To celebrate Local Charities Day, we’re delighted to welcome Isaac Jones from First Give as our guest blogger. First Give offer a curriculum-based social action programme to schools across London, Wales and, from this year, Yorkshire. By igniting the spark of social conscience, developing skills and building connections between schools and local charities, First Give granted almost £250,000 to local causes last year. Here, Isaac celebrates the role that small, local charities play in supporting the First Give programme and enabling opportunities for youth social action, and what the young people can offer in return.
In February 2018, a group of year 9 students from Ark Academy Acton were called on stage at their First Give School Final. They had just won a grant of £1,000 for Ealing Centre for Independent Living (ECIL). The crowd went wild! These students had spent the term learning about, meeting and subsequently raising awareness and funds for this local charity. Following this event, the students continued to volunteer their time, visiting ECIL’s head office to present their learning and getting involved with further projects.
This is just one example of social action we have seen young people lead on over the last 5 years. Last year, thanks to the support of the Pears Foundation, First Give worked with students at over 150 schools in London and South Wales. At every school, an entire year group participates in a programme that sees students connect with local charities to tackle social issues in their community. The programme culminates in a celebration event, where students from across the year group advocate for their chosen charity to win the £1,000 grant.
Of course, there are challenges. There is quite often a perception that young people are not able to make a substantive difference. Perhaps on their own this might be true. But at First Give we believe that young people can contribute to social change most effectively by working with charities already active in their community. And of course, it is when the charities are local that the biggest impact is often seen. Local charities know the community; they understand the context; and vitally, they have existing strategies in place to tackle social issues to which young people can contribute.
A key element of the First Give programme comes after students have selected the charity they would like to support. A representative of the charity is invited into school. It is quite often a moment of magic. Students begin to see how their work can make a real difference. Unlike much of their schooling, this isn’t about passing exams. It’s real life. Relationships are built, and students lead on the creation of innovative social action plans to raise money or awareness and support their charity of choice.
This Local Charities Day we are joining with our funders the Pears Foundation to celebrate those small charities that work with and for the communities in which they are based. Young people across First Give schools in London, South Wales and Yorkshire are combining efforts with these local charities to improve their communities. We’d like to invite you to do the same. Why not use this year’s Local Charities Day to join First Give students across the UK and pledge your time to support a local charity?