|For 2020 the Duchy Health Charity has charged the Chaos Group to identify young people from two of the most deprived areas in Cornwall to support their ideas to improve health and wellbeing for their communities. Those invited to take part may be individuals or part of an existing friends’ set, a sports team or a youth club. They may be introduced by school teachers, parents, associations or by other like-minded individuals. They will be aged between 8-20 years.
We want to hear today’s young people’s voices. It is they whose future matters and together we want to grow strong, caring and exciting but healthy communities.
Chaos took up the challenge and DHC will find the funds to make the best ideas happen.
For data protection purposes some names of individuals have been changed and the copy below is based on events
This is Trustee Tim’s story
Yesterday I had one of those ‘life experiences’ when I joined the Chaos Group at Falmouth University with the single aim of engaging the ‘Authorial Illustration’ Masters’ Students in our Young Peoples’ Project that we have called ‘Sick’. (Street slang for awesome, cool). Eventually we may use another name that the young people suggest and this will be an early outcome sought by Chaos.
We arrived to find a number of serious young ladies and one young man seated around a giant table in not so giant a room. Finally after some jostling 17 eyes looked at me.
They had been summoned by senior lecturers to decide on whether to choose mentoring for the ‘Sick’ project as their personal choice for this years’ study. They were told that any engagement with charitable work would count towards their final degree (as much as 20% depending on commitment and activity) – but that it is their choice and was not at all under lecturer’s duress. So today’s ambition was to inform and engage.
We all took a deep breath and I began telling them what the Duchy Health Charity is and what we want to do to, with their help, providing disenfranchised young people of Cornwall a ‘voice’ in their community.
‘Do you mind being filmed?’ asked Babs the Chaos CEO. ‘We can cut you out of any clips.
There was silence. Little reaction so far – ‘Ooh is this going to be OK?’ I whispered in Bab’s ear.
Next moment she leapt to her feet brandishing a large brown paper bag out of which poured an assortment of weird articles. The force that she used meant that some of the students already had some of them falling into their laps and it certainly gave the room a jolt.
‘Pass these around and decide which piece you would like to use as a prop to tell us what you mean by mentoring’. Little reaction.
‘Oh come on you need to be a bit quicker than that’. A few began to sift through the items which included silks with medals hanging from them, a soft ball, shades, a voo-doo Marquette, Beatle-style gold frames with no lenses, beaded Indian slippers, and a bunch of rusty antique keys and many more.
‘Stand up’! Cried the lecturer in frustration over no action. ‘Now move around the table… we must get going’… and that seemed to work as one by one they inched themselves around the immovable worktop, I have to say with difficulty as there was little room between chairs and walls.
‘Stop. Take something. Now tell our guests what your selected piece says to you as mentors’.
‘Anne start the process’.
Anne picked up a soft ball and said, ‘I will hand this to my young colleague and say press this hard and you will find it lets you express yourself, in your own safe space, and together we will work to present your brilliant idea!’
We moved on to Rachel who held up a lanyard and name badge. ‘This identifies who you are what you stand for and gives you the authority to present your concept. It demands respect and your voice will be heard, she explained.
‘Wow’ I whispered again to Babs. ‘This seems to be working. Clever you, unlocking their creative juices’.
At last all 17 found their own voice and everyone had such original and clever ways to describe their methodology with the use of their prop. At the same time it brilliantly displayed their own personalities and creative thinking.
The ‘Foot Soldiers’ warm – up session had triumphed so Babs introduced the ‘Cavalry’ in the shape of Laura!
I’m known as Co-Pro and I’m going to get you all into 4 teams for the rest of the hour but firstly I’m going to tell you something about the two locations that the Charity has asked us to pilot this project with you – namely Liskeard in middle Cornwall and VEOR, Camborne in West.
She continued, ‘VEOR is very close to this project because one of the partners actually came up with the idea of doing this ‘soft’ version of Dragon’s Den for young people’.
‘His name is Scott’ – I interjected. Laura continued ‘Yes he is another Trustee – and he’s changed the way the Surgery deals with Doctors’ appointments. At VEOR, every-so-often they invite young people from the local community to run a surgery! So young ‘training doctors’ come in under the watchful eye of their mentor, the reception is looked after by another young person and the café ‘barista’ – yes the surgery doesn’t have the traditional waiting room but a new place called the Lounge learns how to make coffee..
And the doctors aren’t called Doctors – they are Christopher, James, Andrew and Miriam and so on – their titles don’t matter here. The patient – oh no, they are not called patients, they too are just known by their names, Pat Jones phones in and assumes she will see the doctor but reception now asks what the trouble is and it is they who signpost the patient to the most appropriate and usually the fasted place.
Pat, who only needs a dressing looked at, may be seen by the Pharmacist or the Nurse or a specialist Support Officer. Not everyone needs to see the doctor who is usually booked ahead for days’.
The scenario described is now known as ‘Social Prescribing’ and the experience gained by the young people who join for the day gives them hands-on insight into working within the health arena at the same time giving them confidence in the way they learn to talk to strangers. Many come from broken homes with all the baggage that living in a deprived area carries.
Laura said, ‘We are going to be doing things like that with you as mentors’.
‘So here’s my challenge. You will have 20 minutes to look at two folded slips of paper. One is an imaginary person; you will see their age, read about their life experience to date and guess what their strengths and weaknesses might be – especially in relation to their ability to present concepts and to persuade Duchy Health that their ideas not only ‘have legs’ but that they are worth investing time and money in’.
‘The other slip is the idea they have come up with. Divide your group into two halves and decide who will be the spokesperson for the young person and help them form, with your help, a way to present their concept with those added value propositions that you come up with, to our resident judges – Tim and Babs. In real life the judges will be made up from a number of similar young people with their own bespoke mentors.
It was as though Laura had turned the light on. Suddenly the room was a- buzz of activity and talk… the challenge ahead had obviously caught every student’s attention. There was giggling, laughter and serious discussion going on across the room as they huddled together to share thoughts and resolves.
‘Five minutes to go’ shouted Laura. The time flew by and soon Jane was asked to report for the first group.
The story for this group attempts to bring back into the community aspects that had disappeared or were missing. The young person’s personality slip had shown that Sharon, at a very young age, had been taken into care and later found herself with a drug problems. She had attended the UK’s only young persons’ rehabilitation centre which happens to be in Cornwall at Boscence Farm near Penzance. Here she had met new friends, learnt new skills and had realised how exciting and worthwhile life could be.
She had returned to her locality to learn that the Post Office was no longer open, that some activity centres had been closed and that young people had no place of their own to socialise in .
She approached Chaos Group with the idea of asking the local Primary School to give her a small parcel of land to put a Container on. This could be used for manifold purposes. The school could manage the Post Office with parent staff, on rota, parents would usefully use the Post Office at the beginning and end of the day when they deliver and collect their children and using her farm skills she would encourage the planting of vegetables and flowers around the site – use some of the space to sell items and plan with the school, after hours, to run young peoples’ community clubs.
‘A perfect start. Yes we like this on many fronts’, the ‘Judges’ concurred. ‘But how would you present those ideas, make them stand up financially and create a sustainable business oh and demonstrate the health gains – this is after all a health charity’.
The students knew exactly what they would do from the commissioning of a film with Sharon going back to Boscence to tour parts of the site to advise on growing seasonal produce. She would engage a local dance group to describe how they would run a club by actually giving a choreographed performance and other young interested parties would contribute to the creation of a vibrant hub, featuring photography, illustration and story- telling with in the concept presentation.
The ‘Judges’ loved all these ideas and as far as Duchy Health was concerned, it ticked a number of boxes; from a health viewpoint, the running of a garden is a perfect outlet for those suffering with mental problems and keeping young people from loitering in unsupervised places would help reduce crime figures and give them a purpose. Exercise stimulates young minds and creates ‘stars’.
We clapped with bravado and it was onto the next… all four were equally clever, compelling and original and the whole exercise proved to be a real success. By the time we finished and I stood up and said, ‘Right now the moment of truth, how many of you feel excited enough to make this the principle activity for your year?’ 15 hands went up!
Wow! That’s fantastic – so Laura when do they start and what’s next?
We left the room in high spirits. We had caught all of that on video and realised that we had the right material to launch the two pilot projects. And unwittingly they had all taken part in a co-production event. Now that’s ‘Sick’!