Giving young people a voice – green influencers who are changing the world

August 17, 2022

By Rosie Russell-Cohen – Youth and Communities Officer at YDMT and co-ordinates our Green Influencer project

As climate change and other world events threaten our environment and wellbeing, it is more important than ever that young people get their voices heard.

In the UK today, an estimated five children in every classroom has a mental health problem. And when it comes to the climate, three-quarters of young people think the future is frightening.

Too often society fails to listen to young people’s views or recognise their ability to make a difference. This is even more true for young people from low-income backgrounds and marginalised communities.

But things can get better.

Green Influencers – giving young people a voice

Through YDMT’s Green Influencer project, we provide young people with tools to look after their wellbeing and their environment. We give young people the space and confidence to get their voices heard and change the world we live in.

We are leading the movement to make sure every young person is supported and empowered to make a positive difference on the issues that affect their lives, their communities, and broader society.

How does the Green Influencers project work?

Over the past year, we have worked with nine groups and more than 200 young people. Groups focus on how nature can act as a vehicle for wellbeing and take part in activities such as making lip balms, bee baths and bird feeders alongside planting seeds, sustainable cooking and other eco-friendly activities.

When young people take part in our project, they build their skills, confidence and wellbeing. Communities benefit too. They become stronger and more resilient.

Belle Vue Girl’s Academy is one the largest girls schools in Bradford. It is culturally diverse, drawing from Bradford’s large South Asian community. It also falls within the 30% most deprived postcodes in England.

Over the past two months, we have provided a select group of Belle Vue’s vulnerable students a bespoke programme of person-centred, nature-based activities. Together we have made our own eco-friendly lip balms, experimented with slime, woven willow into birdfeeders, and used traditional Scandinavian textile techniques to create beautiful friendship bracelets.

Willow Birdfeeders

The group have learnt new skills and gained experience and confidence – helping them create lasting and meaningful connections with the natural environment.

Mahya Dufrier, part of Belle Vue’s Enrichment Team, described how we made a difference to the group:

“We were running a club on our own but needed more ideas. The group was very small and we were finding it difficult to recruit pupils after the pandemic. Now Rosie comes once a week to run the club. We have about eight pupils coming to the club regularly and often more. They are really engaged and activities have been made simpler for them. Activities are diverse and can be held outside in our woods.  Students are chatting with each other more and gaining confidence. They are in a safe place with friends and learning new skills. I have also gained knowledge and ideas for future activities and projects with similar pupils.”

Emma Landau noticed how fast her students changed after working with us:

“The girls who come to the workshops are chosen because they are vulnerable. They might not have talked to each other at the start, but now they are helping each other and being proactive and chatting. It has made a huge difference to their wellbeing. Even in four weeks we can see how much the students have changed.”

By providing a vehicle for our young people to share their stories and experiences, we ensure that every young person feels empowered to make a difference.

Find out more about the Green Influencers scheme

The pioneering, country-wide Green Influencers scheme funds 40 Green Mentors based at organisations across England, supporting groups of young ‘Green Influencers’ in their environmental social action projects.

The scheme is funded by The Ernest Cook Trust, the #iwill Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund, and The Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport.

Together, we can build a society that understands and champions the power of youth, where all young people are equipped and enabled to shape and lead change in their own lives and communities.

Find out more about the Yorkshire Dales Green Influencers scheme.