As a YMCA and YoungScot member I am passionate about making change and always want to ensure young people can make a positive impact through empowerment. This is why I got involved in a COP26 Co-Design group where they ensure young people’s voices are being heard and represented to shape the global COP26 event being held in Glasgow in November. After a YMCA youth worker told me about the YoungScot COP26 group looking to recruit young people, I attended 2 interview sessions and was later chosen to join the YoungScot group! I am currently able to take information that I learn from my group and share it with YMCA. After 2 months of being part of this group an incredible opportunity came up for me: 3 young people from the national COP26 group could attend the Royal Opening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and represent young people in Scotland. I put my name forward, not expecting to be chosen. Two weeks later I was very privileged to be chosen to represent young people across Scotland at the re-opening ceremony! Being aged 13, I was also the youngest person selected and was privileged to be chosen to join the procession. I made history being the youngest person to ever join the procession and was even more amazed when I got to lead it. One of the things I enjoyed doing was wearing my YMCA tartan tie-in leading the procession with the Lord Lyon of Scotland. More importantly, however, was being so blessed to talk to MSP’s including the First Minister about climate change and our opinions and thoughts about this. The politicians were curious to see what the young people I was representing knew about Climate Change and I thought it was great that I could voice an opinion and hopefully be an influencer of change and provide some leadership of change.
Some of my opinions regarding this I share here with you all. We all know what climate change is to an extent, but just how much does our knowledge and understanding influence our involvement to make positive changes for climate recovery? As the COP26 event in November quickly approaches it is important to challenge young people to take immediate action in their personal lives and local communities. YMCA Scotland, for example, identified the opportunity to change young people’s involvement in the current climate movement through a project via social media and has begun to supply vital resources and opportunities for young people to make positive change. The most current related opportunity that we have supplied to young people is the YMCA Scotland up-cycling project. Fast fashion is the third biggest contributor to Climate change, releasing over one billion tons of CO2 annually. YMCA Scotland set out to involve young people in fashion recycling whilst giving them skills and knowledge about Climate Change. To achieve this we have created a competition for the different YMCAs to participate in, hopefully reducing our carbon footprint. The competition is to create and finish new clothing from old materials, creating beauty from waste. Each Scottish YMCA has been ambitiously working away. My local YMCA in Aberdeen has made a submission and the competition was a success in the North-East, involving 8 teenagers and 1 youth worker. They created a dress from a blue painting dust sheet, a yellow flower headband from fake flowers, and a tartan face mask from an old T-Shirt. Whilst Aberdeen YMCA created sustainable clothes, the young people also got the skills and ideas to do similar in their households at home.
During YMCA Aberdeen’s Primary Club I conducted an interview with 13 young people ranging from 8-11. I was intrigued to see what a younger age demographic would know about the current climate crisis seeing I had the opportunity to represent young people on the COP26 national group. Out of the 13 young people interviewed, 11 said it was bad but couldn’t give any further knowledge. Only 2 of the interviewed knew about CO2 emissions and the scale of climate change. Then I asked 2 more informed young people if they had any solutions that they could apply to reduce their Carbon footprint. They thought about it but couldn’t come up with any solutions. This suggests that Scotland’s younger people don’t have the same access to climate resources which in turn deprives them of vital knowledge and understanding to empower change in their own lives, households, and local communities. This is a great opportunity for YMCA to support young people to empower themselves relating to comate change and provide a variety of resources that we and they can easily access. The government doesn’t focus on young people as much as they should, which is why we need to give as much time and opportunities to young people as we can in our YMCAs locally, nationally, and internationally.
This is a short flavor of what I’m doing as one young person regarding climate change and something about what my YMCA is doing. But I’ll sign off with this question for YMCA leaders to answer: YMCA is doing a lot to empower young people regarding the climate crisis… but are we doing enough?
Andrew G G Will (13)
YMCA Youth Member