Commissioner Bruce Adamson and Kevin Browne-Macleod, our Participation Officer, visited schools, youth clubs and projects over three days in February.
First stop was Brae School, which has pupils from early years up to senior. Our team learned about their innovative human rights work and their strong youth work focus.
One young person said: “It’s important we know our rights, how to keep ourselves safe, and what to do if someone isn’t upholding them.”
There were lots of fun activities too. Kevin explained: “The primary children even gave us Viking names which was hilarious.”
Next the team visited Sandwick Junior High School, where young people from the pupil councils explained how important it is to have youth work embedded in the school. Bruce then joined in activities at two youth clubs: Isleburgh and Whitedale. He joined 40 children and young people and took part in arts and crafts and played football and games. One young person told him: “We get to spend time with our friends which I like.”
Bruce and Kevin then popped into The Bridges project. It supports islanders aged 15 to 19 and helps them take steps into employment, training, or further education. They showed us the furniture they had been building and one young person explained what support they get from the project, saying: “I have been coming here for a while, they teach us new things and help us get a job.”
We then met with the Mums’ Group in Lerwick where support and chat is always on offer. It’s free and allows mums – with their children – to develop their confidence, skills, and improves their wellbeing. A mum who uses the club told our team how critical the support has been to her: “Having this group has been life-saving.”
Bruce met the service manager of Mind Your Head, a new service to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing. We also chatted to climate activists and three young people from the COP-26 legacy group who are creating a sustainable pop-up shop. One said: “It’s important we can run projects locally and keep pushing for change.”
We spoke to island Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and Shetland Islands Council’s director of children’s services. The MYPs told us about the importance of being involved in decision-making, with one saying: “We have great ideas and can be part of the discussion if given the opportunity.”
Our final visit was to the incredible Michael’s Wood. This was created by Betty and Ray after losing their son to cancer, and lets children, young people, and the community come together to reflect, have fun, and play. Young people are a key part of its development and are creating a wooden pirate ship for children to play on. Ray can see the difference that working on the project has had, and said: “When young people work on something, they really come out of their shell. There was one person who hardly spoke at the beginning of the project, then grew in confidence!”