Kayleigh, a resident from Swan House Foyer, shares her experience of youth leadership. Swan Housing is one of our Youth Power Fund Foyers and Kayleigh shares the impact of the project on her and the Foyer community.  

Tell us about your Youth Power Fund project

The Youth Power Fund has really given Swan House and residents within the Foyer the opportunity to develop confidence, skills and empower themselves – particularly in leadership, participation and community engagement. The project’s gone from strength to strength and pushed the young people to adventure outside their comfort zone. One of the successes has been the resident leads, including myself, organising meetings for the rest of the residents. This has gone very well with multiple people attending and getting themselves involved, something that staff previously struggled with, and is leading to a bigger difference within our Foyer and is helping with personal development skills including confidence, meeting new people and communicating effectively. 

Furthermore the residents have taken the role of customer inductions. This includes taking leadership roles in welcoming and integrating the new residents into the Foyer community. This makes the new resident feel comfortable where they are living and for some people who have no family or friends supporting them it really makes that whole difference. 

The Youth Power Fund has really empowered residents to challenge staff on personal safety. This is a huge milestone for residents as it shows they are confident to voice their concerns and advocate for their own safety and wellbeing. When someone joins the Foyer community we really don’t know what they’ve been through or experienced in their life. This could be a key moment where they feel like they can express how they feel and where their safety has to be met. We’d love everybody to gain the confidence and feel safe enough that they can speak up and voice their concerns. The Youth Power Fund has really helped in this department. It’s also led to residents being empowered to challenge local authorities on allocation agreements, demonstrating a high level of civic engagement and willingness to hold public institutions accountable for their decisions. I know of a situation where a resident spoke to the council in a respectful manner and questioned why things are the way they are and challenged them on what had happened.  

As part of the project you worked with an outside organisation who delivered some workshops. Can you tell us more about that? 

The Youth Power Fund has been very successful through a social change programme with Alpha Vesta who work to highlight key elements within our friendships and relationships. One of the workshops we completed was on ‘Controlling and Coercive Behaviour’. We looked at the key points of each element and spoke about how this could affect relationships/friendships. We learnt the signs of these behaviours and who we could contact if we needed help. This activity enabled residents to work in big or small groups, communicating, socialising, having a voice and many other skills. 

One challenge with this can be that residents suffer with mental health. This could trigger something in past experiences or bring up memories that they did not want to think about. It could also mean residents that particular day could be very low and would not want to participate. As a resident lead I encouraged as many people to join in with the activity as it really could help talking about past experience or even just sitting and listening could lift their morale. 

The best part about Alpha Vesta is that if a particular resident did not want to share to the group or participate, they offered a 1-1 chat/meeting to talk more privately. This really helped as counselling on the NHS is a long wait and they could benefit from talking to someone straight away. Overall Alpha Vesta was and has been very successful and we hope to have them next year.

What has been one of your highlights? 

Another experience which sticks out for me is the residential weekend. Around 12/14 residents travelled to FairPlay activity centre and completed a weekend of activities and workshops based on empowering yourself, the decisions that you make and how they can lead to different outcomes. We completed different tasks, took on personal challenges and as a group we participated in high ropes, archery and canoeing. These activities really brought the residents closer through teamwork and encouraging each other to face our fears. Canoeing was a fun activity that boosted confidence and communication skills, and bought out everyone's competitive sides too! 

The weekend wouldn’t have been the same without Kevin who really got everyone talking and thinking about individual growth. We completed many workshops with him, he made it fun and even threw in a couple of magic tricks. We believe that this helped residents so much that we actually organised another day to visit FairPlay house again and had more workshops with Kevin. This activity overall was very successful and was spoken about in the Foyers for months after.

What have you and the Foyer learnt about youth leadership projects since you started? 

One thing I would say we have learnt about is the importance of flexibility. Adapting to change of circumstances involving community needs and unexpected challenges is essential for the success and sustainability of any youth empowerment initiative. Being open to adjustments and agile in response to feedback is key.

We plan to continue with the Youth Power Fund as it’s creating more effective and impactful initiatives everyday. These principles have created an inclusive, engaging and empowering environment that has led to positive change within the Foyer and wider community. 

What has been the impact on you of being part of the Youth Power Fund project? 

The Youth Power Fund has helped me grow in confidence and empower myself. Before moving into the Foyer it was a very lonely and anxious time. Being able to throw myself into activities and helping through the resident lead really helped bring myself out again. I’ve always been someone who wants to help other people but at the time the Foyer Federation really helped me. Now I feel like I have taken everything I have learnt to help other people and I want to make a difference to people's lives. 

Kayleigh Long

Discover more about the Youth Power Fund!

Learn top tips for developing youth leadership from Youth Power Fund Foyers, and hear from a young person about their experience of being involved in the Youth Power Fund in Tori-Jade’s blog about youth leadership at CHADD. 

The Foyer Federation is registered in England and Wales under company number 2699839 at Work.Life, Core Building, 30 Brown Street, Manchester, M2 1DH. The charity is registered under charity number 1040482.
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