Changed my outlook on life…
(By a RASAC Youth Ambassador Volunteer)
Participating in the ENYA 2017 project really has been an influential and enlightening experience for me. It all started at a small organisation in Perth known as RASAC - the Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, a charity that aims to help women, girls and young boys deal with issues relating to sexual violence, however big or small. A lot of people wouldn't expect a boy like me to be volunteering at what many would consider a 'feminist' organisation; personally, I find the work that the RYI (RASAC Youth Initiative) Youth Ambassadors do highly beneficial and impactful, both for me and other groups we've worked with.
We began work on ENYA in early 2017, by looking at identity and relationships. Doing activities and looking at these topical issues in great detail was something that I felt hasn't been explored enough before - in school, at home and elsewhere. After laying the foundations for our recommendations we discussed the impact of technology on identity and relationships; with an emphasis on social media and how accessible it is to both the general population and those who maybe shouldn't be using it - and, by proxy, potentially harmful and frightening information such as pornography and cyber-bullying. It was agreed that these were relevant and pressing issues, so we chose to incorporate our views and suggestions on how to improve it into our list of recommendations for the ombudspersons. Other topics we found to be important were a proper work-life balance and age-appropriate and easy-to-access information being given to children and parents, specifically regarding sexual and mental health.
Me and one other Youth Ambassador were selected to represent Scotland in Paris - an opportunity that I was ecstatic to have been given. I am studying French in school, so I thought that getting to visit France would be a good chance to develop my language skills as well as meeting young people from all across Europe, learning about their cultures and issues relevant to them and forming lasting bonds with people who I otherwise never would have gotten to meet. The conference itself definitely exceeded my expectations of what it would be like; I had expected well-ordered, formal discussions about our issues and recommendations - which was certainly a part of it. However, plenty of chances were given for breaks and socialising with the other representatives from elsewhere, most of which I have retained contact with and I am glad to have done so. The range of ages was a great thing to have too - people from the ages of 14 through 17 all had different ideas and issues to share, but everyone appreciated and considered each idea equally in order to make our final list to send to a follow-up conference of the ombudspersons in Helsinki. We are pleased that we and our friends in Wales and Cyprus are to attend representing all 22 of the young people who became so close over just two and a half days.
Overall, participating in ENYA 2017 has really developed my views and opinions on a wide range of topics, gain important life skills relating to communication and rational thinking, as well as allowing me to form lasting bonds with many incredible people who I otherwise would have had no idea existed. I urge anyone who has the ambition to go out and do something like this as part of a volunteering project or a school group to do so; truly, it has changed my outlook on life.