Jo Scott, talking about Millisle Youth Forum, is one of the hugely inspiring people the Semble team met at the Eden Project Communities Community Camp last November. This is one of a series of stories from the outstanding movers and shakers running or starting up community projects across the UK.
Where it all began
Around 17 years ago, Jo was fed up with hearing people complain about the teenagers in her village. She heard people say that the teenagers were creating havoc and running around town. ‘I know these teenagers,’ she’d think,’They’re doing nothing different to what I did when I was that age. The only difference is, they have nowhere to go.’
There were no council facilities in the local village and, although there were church groups, many of the younger people were reluctant to get involved.
‘I know these teenagers, they’re doing nothing different to what I did when I was that age. The only difference is, they have nowhere to go.’
Creating a Youth Centre
Inspired by wanting to improve things for her new grandson, Jo joined her local community association, and soon became involved with helping these young people to have a place in their community. With a group of 10 teenagers, she found a hall that the village’s young people could meet in, but uptake was so popular that they quickly outgrew the space.
Their solution? Ten years ago they leased and renovated an old petrol station with funds from the Rural Development Council. The Garage is now open 6 nights a week, and their monthly footfall is up to 400 young people.
What does Millisle Youth Forum do?
Millisle Youth Forum’s mission is to help the young people of Millisle reach their full potential and incorporate their skills, talents and interests into the village, while having fun. This means that the young people guide the activities, while Jo simply facilitates. They also work with other groups, like Keep NI Beautiful, local care homes where they befriend the elderly, and they do cross community work to combat rural isolation.
Painting the Town Pink for Eden Project Community’s Big Lunch
In the third year of organising The Big Lunch events, they decided that they wanted to do more than their
regular get together on the village green: they painted their village pink to raise funds for small cancer charities. After painting a wall of the church pink, the young people from Millisle Youth Forum were supposed to return the wall to its original white. Instead, they persuaded their local church to let them paint a mural. As Jo points out – it’s certainly easy to find the church now!
Jo’s work bringing the community together, across generations and across villages, really shows how barriers can be broken down and stereotypes challenged simply through connecting people. Like Jo, we should all try to empower the vulnerable people around us, instead of complaining about them.