The Virgin Money Foundation Young Change Makers Fellowship Programme has supported nine exceptional young people Link opens in a new window to drive positive social change in their communities, and the places and spaces they call home.
A first of its kind in the North of England, the six-month programme provided expert support, funding, leadership and learning opportunities to bring ideas for change to life.
Each Young Change Maker has had a ‘method group’ of Virgin Money colleagues and a personal mentor behind them, using their expertise to advise, support, coach and empower them in their journey.
The Change Makers are currently traveling across the globe – from Brazil to Japan, to learn from others trying to achieve change and to bring that learning back to their home context.
We caught up with some of the Young Change Makers to hear about their incredible journeys, achievements, and learnings along the way.
Manchester-based law student Roukagia of Syrian and Ukrainian heritage is passionate about tackling Islamophobia and amplifying the voices of women from ethnic minority backgrounds, to provide them with access routes into leadership positions in our society.
Over the last few years, Roukagia has been pursuing her passion of social justice and change with youth and women’s organisations in the city of Manchester and nationwide. She has worked with various individuals and organisations, including former Speaker John Bercow and MEPs from the European Parliament, to represent young people and women’s voices in UK decision making.
“The change I want to create is to make Muslim women feel like they are more included in society. A lot of the time we experience stigmas.
I started this Fellowship with an idea but not a strategic plan, I knew I had to do something to make Muslim women feel more included and to raise more awareness of what we face when it comes to Islamophobia.
Thanks to the Fellowship and my incredible method group I was able to develop myself as a leader and strategic thinker and get to a stage where I will be creating my own social enterprise, which works to challenge and dismantle systemic Islamophobic towards Muslim woman in the UK.”Roukagia
British Army veteran Savannah, 24, from Durham, is passionate about human rights, equality and support for those with mental or physical health issues.
Savannah started volunteering at a young age. Through her volunteering she visited Nepal to refurbish a cancer hospice following the earthquake. She also spent time trekking in the Annapurna Mountains, and later trekking to Everest Base Camp, which led her to joining the British Army. However, at 25 Savannah was medically discharged.
Her participation in the programme has led Savannah to design an app, which is already 90% developed. When it’s live, it will be used by organisations such as Rock 2 Recovery, All Call Signs, and other charities that support service personnel and veterans.
“I’m a mother, a daughter, a veteran and a survivor of bad mental health in a severely lacking support system. I’m now working on changing the ever-increasing issues around veteran mental health.
I’ve developed an app, I’ve launched a podcast and put together an all-veteran Board of Directors for my new charitable company, CIC, URBackUp. Most importantly I’ve met an amazing group of Change Makers who understand the need for change in our communities.
My vision is a system where organisations work together to make access to support easier for veterans and serving personnel, so no one’s cry for help goes unnoticed. I’m looking forward to working with the charities already signed up to the app and my travels to the USA in September 2022 to meet organisations working to support our allied veteran.”Savannah
Salford activist Jaiden, started in the space of youth leadership at the young age of 11, leading alongside many other individuals and organisations. Jaiden’s main passions lie in inspiring new models of youth leadership, improving mental wellbeing and providing more opportunity, access, and support for working-class young people to thrive.
“I’ve created an organisation called Outliers which helps boys aged 10-18 to explore emotional literacy, masculinity and leadership. In my area we often get told ‘you belong to the gun and gang capital of the UK’ and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to create a space where young boys can bond and form positive brotherhood.
A massive shoutout to my method group. I joined Virgin Money Foundation a visionary but with their support we’ve turned my ideas into a plan and now an organisation that launches in August in three locations, fully funded. We turned £10k into £102k and made sure we could bring on staff and provide the best possible space for young boys as we could.”Jaiden
Louisa-Rose is a female filmmaker based in Bradford. Back in January 2021 she set up her own grassroots production company called Northern Fortress Films. Her priority was to shine a spotlight on Northern talent, giving Northern voices the chance to tell their stories. Diversity and representation are at the core of all the films made at Northern Fortress Films and Louisa’s ambition was to change the culture of the industry through keeping these values at the forefront of her filmmaking.
“From the Fellowship I have two core objectives I have taken away. Firstly, to continue to create pioneering Bradford based content that tells a story of issues in communities that often go under the radar.
The second is to improve the quality and diversity within the film and TV industry by providing the young people of Bradford with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to start their dream careers.”Louisa-Rose
Sarah, a mum to two boys, grew up in a small rural village called Highfield. Having children gave Sarah the drive to help others in her local area. After co-founding an organisation which was set up to reduce isolation and loneliness based in Gateshead, she soon realised that those same struggles were very evident on her own estate.
“When community services were stripped in our area, it left people with nowhere to go. Growing up I saw the issues starting to increase and I felt I had to do something about it.
In September 2020 I opened OurLives with a mission to raise community wellbeing, be a friend to the community, listen with an open heart and make sure everyone can find a way out. We aim to make our area a safe thriving place for the next generation where no one is forgotten or left behind.
During the six-month fellowship with Virgin Money Foundation, I have managed to impact 937 people! Since we’ve started our work, we’ve seen a huge shift in residents’ positive mentality in the area. Mindsets have gone from ‘why do you bother’ to taking ownership and becoming more active in their communities”Sarah
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