Friday, 8 October 2010

Saying thank you, an inspirational story and how big is Big Society?

Last Tuesday afternoon we invited the many people who helped us to rebuild the WEYES project building and interested local people to come an view the building. We wanted to say thank you to everyone by showing them what they had helped to achieve. We were delighted that nearly 100 people came to view the building and join us in a small celebration. I am really pleased that so many visitors told us we had created a place that young people can be proud of, which tells them that they are valued. This is what we set out to do and why Children North East has invested in the project.

Councillor Dipu Ahad, one of the local councillors introduced himself to me during the afternoon. He is a young man who was one of the original group of local young people consulted as to what the WEYES project should be like even before it started. This would have been about 13 years ago. He remembered the group visited other youth projects before deciding that what was needed was am 'Enquiry Service' where young people could drop in and ask about any sort of issues. Later when WEYES first opened Dipu was a volunteer helping to run the project. He said it was that experience that got him interested in youth work. He trained and worked as a youth worker in Gateshead for a while which is where he got interested in politics and was elected to serve in Elswick ward in 2007. Dipu said he felt an obligation to help 'pull up' other Asian young people into politics as well. We invited him to meet the Newcastle Youth Councillors whom I am sure would be very interested to talk to him.

I was hopeful that David Cameron would use the Conservative Party conference to explain what he means by the 'Big Society'. Having heard his speech yesterday I am disappointed. By linking the 'Big Society' to 'Fairness' it is less 'big-hearted' society and more 'mean-minded' society. The Conservatives seem to be saying that if you work hard and look after your own that gives you the right to judge whether other people deserve assistance or not. Surely fairness is about looking after the people who don't get the breaks, not bolstering up those who can take care of themselves? Doubtless there will a lot more discussion about this in the coing weeks.

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