This time last year I was training for the incredible Strive Challenge, undertaken each year by a group of extraordinary people to raise money for social impact accelerator, Big Change. The challenge was one of the greatest experiences of my life so far, both for the impression it left on me personally and for the money we raised for Big Change - a collective half a million pounds! The organisation’s mission to positively affect the lives of young people in the UK really struck a chord with me and so many others and, after the 2017 challenge ended, I signed up for the second year in a row, this time with an even stronger desire to be part of that change.
Over the past year, I have been introduced to even more of the work that Big Change do to help young people, and my eyes have been opened to issues that I had never even considered. Not every young person is given an equal playing field when it comes to education, jobs and even their living situation. According to Frontline (thefrontline.org.uk), half a million children in England do not have a safe or stable place to call home, and there are over 70,000 children living with foster carers, under the supervision of social services, or housed in children’s homes. I had never considered that while 40% of all young people in our country go on to university, only 6% of all young people in care do the same, or that young people in care are 6 times more likely to be cautioned or convicted of a crime than others their age (Frontline).
It’s not only children in care that are affected, however; even with parents in the picture, many young people face issues at early stages in their lives. Studies have shown that children born into poverty are 4 times more likely to be excluded from school and, once excluded, only 1% go on to get 5 GCSEs. Worryingly, research also reveals that 1 in every 2 prisoners in the system were once excluded from school.
In an environment where your education is not prioritised and your passions are not nurtured, what can you do to improve your situation?
In 2011 I watched the London riots happening on TV, with much of the destruction taking place in Croydon where I grew up and still live today. They represented a huge disconnect in our country, where middle and upper class youths are brought up with strong values, a great education, aspirational figures and opportunities to pursue their dreams, while people in less affluent boroughs and areas affected by gang culture are brought up lacking the same values, education, opportunities to thrive and therefore the same outlook on life. We live in a broken society where the gap between the wealthy and those living on the breadline is only seen and felt by the latter of both groups. Through this disconnect, we are failing disadvantaged young people, and it’s time to make things right in any way we can.
Big Change could be a beacon of light for many young people affected by these issues and systemic injustices. The organisation does some incredible work to find, fund and support charities and projects that are capable of driving real, positive change in this country. They are currently working with several organisations to help vulnerable children at their early stages, such as The Difference, who work with teachers to prevent school exclusion and improve inclusive practices, and EasyPeasy, who offer support for parents of preschool children to help develop the skills that will prepare them for school and beyond.
The Strive Challenge is a way for Big Change to bring together like-minded people with a platform for change. The challenge, which takes place in Italy and France throughout September, consists of 5 stages, and entails roughly a combined 27km of sea kayaking, 1100km of cycling, 12 days of hiking, and an ascent of 28,100m between cycling and on foot! If you want to find out more about the challenge on the official Strive website here.
I feel more ready than ever to take on the Strive Challenge and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of helping these young people realise their full potential. I hope that everyone who feels the same as I do about powering real change in this country will help me raise my target total of £50,000 before the challenge kicks off in September. Investing in the next generation is what helps to shape our future, so please dig deep and donate, and know that any and every contribution, big or small, will help towards change in this country.
Keep your eyes peeled right here and on my Instagram account @susiematropic for updates on my journey - it’s going to be quite an adventure!
Love, Susie x