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01 May 2020

I’m not sure how other people feel, but for me, time appears to be standing still – yet the outside world is moving so quickly. Everyone is having to adapt to a new way of living, working and being. I’m sure some of us are thriving and making the most of our time, while others are suffering – too often in silence and isolation. I feel like I’m somewhere in between, and just taking one day at a time – trying to do my best but feeling like I’m falling short.

I can’t imagine anyone feels like an expert at the moment and totally confident in how to proceed for the best. I really do feel for my friends and colleagues who have children and are experiencing being teachers for the first time. This really is the time when we have to come together, listen to each other and try to find a way forward that helps and supports the people who really need it most.

Which is, of course, why London Youth exists: to help our member organisations to support young people across London. But how can we best support our members at the moment? Having had to cancel all of our face-to-face delivery until at least the end of the summer school term, our teams have been working to adapt as much of our delivery as possible so that young people don’t miss out.

It’s impossible to host a football tournament or run a Keeping it Wild action day, but where we can we have moved our work online; holding our Dare London meetings on Zoom, our Visual Arts Competition over Instagram, developing an activity programme to keep young people busy throughout the day, plus delivering training and networks remotely.

The teams have made impressive progress on our digital journey but I can’t help worrying how many young people we are actually reaching and helping. Do our young people have enough data to be able to join in with PE with Joe every morning? Or do they have a quiet space in their home to take part in a Dare London meeting on Zoom?

It’s so difficult to know how to best keep track of whether this is actually supporting young people. So, a call out to all our wonderful youth workers: please do keep letting us know how you are doing, what activities young people have been accessing and of course if there’s anything else we can be doing to help.

In his opening speech at London Youth’s first ever virtual AGM earlier this month, our President, Sir Ken Olisa, made reference to what world will look like on the other side of this, and that we must adapt our offer to members accordingly. I couldn’t agree more. So, more than ever before, we really do need to hear from members and young people about how we can support you now but also once we are through this crisis. And funders really are keen to listen and support new ways of working. There has never been a more important time for us to co-produce programmes of support and work together to help our young Londoners in the most beneficial way.

So let’s make some good come out of this crisis. And let’s look back on this time and remember the heartwarming examples of where people in our communities, and the entire country, have pulled together – the weekly clap for our key workers, our love and admiration for Captain Tom and people supporting their vulnerable neighbours. These sorts of examples make me feel very proud to live in the UK and I very much want this spirit to continue.

Zoe Mellis – Director of Programmes


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