The turning of the year always feels significant; we make promises we fully intend to keep, we think about the person we would like to be, which is usually a little less flawed than the person we actually are.
Remembering Kim – a good friend who was always generous with her time
My mind has also been preoccupied with the passing of a friend, Kim Byles, whose loss is a big one for everyone in the Polbathic, Hessenford and St Germans communities. Kim was generous with her time in ways most of us only dream of; she selflessly set up and ran a youth drama club which many of our children benefitted from; my own included. She also was a devoted member of the Polbathic Players. I’d like to dedicate this article to Kim, and the many others like her, who enrich our communities by giving their time so generously.
There is a saying that it takes a community to raise a child and this is very true. The time Kim kindly gave our children helped them grow in confidence, making them feel valued.
Valuing our children
Our children do need to feel valued. With the world on it’s current warming trajectory they are likely to face adversity. They will need life-skill tools to cope. They will need to be able to know how to work within communities, how to love nature, how to be resourceful. If we can create a more sustainable society it is likely that they will increasingly need practical skills; how to grow vegetables, how to preserve food, how to mend clothes.
Mental health in young people is a real problem. They were utterly failed by Covid policies, becoming isolated, losing their education, being denied a fair exam system. If they were at university they ended up paying inflated rents and accruing debts for an education that was not delivered.They then have the indignity of the media writing them off as snowflakes, for daring to speak up against injustices.
Our young people are our future. My generation was born in the seventies, and when we were young the world was our oyster; we traveled freely without guilt. We worried about CFCs in fridges and aerosol cans, but global warming wasn’t well recognised; our biggest fear was oil running out, not the effect it was having on the atmosphere.
What can we do to help our young people?
- If you have children, help them find green ways of getting about; catch trains and buses, so that they get use to independent travel. Teach them about lift sharing and cycling. Family holidays by train in Europe set our children up well; so much so that last year they elected to go inter railing together. This hopefully taught them that holidays needn’t mean stepping on a plane. We should reduce our own flying, but don’t criticise them if they do so.
- Volunteer to help young people in the community. There was a lovely initiative at our children’s primary school where the elders of the village came after school to teach young people how to knit. It also helped to bridge the generation gap, so the children and elderly got to know each other. Messy church, craft and art clubs and inter-generational coffee, cake and play sessions are also good ways of bringing all ages of a community together.
- Volunteer to help at a youth club, sports group, or scouts or guides. If there aren’t youth groups near you, start one up. We are incredibly lucky in our village to have Donna, who, with her friends Emma and Kerry, initiated not only the local youth group, but were also instrumental in beavers, cubs, rainbows and brownies too. I help at Livewire Youth Project in Saltash; it’s the most brilliant music and social youth club offering free music lessons and therapy to all. It wouldn’t happen without the dedication of the director Andy and his team. Find your strength; if you don’t want to get your hands messy, most volunteer-run clubs need treasurers, secretaries, or other help behind the scene.
- Celebrate the teachers and youth workers who do so much, often for not a lot of thanks. There are some amazing people out there. Our children particularly benefitted from superb tuition in Maths and Art at Saltash Community School from teachers who went more than the extra mile. They also enjoyed foreign exchange trips and had class tutors who were genuinely interested in them. Teaching is so much more than a job; we need to make sure our teachers know they are appreciated.
- Young people need access to land and outdoor spaces. If there isn’t somewhere for them in the community, could this be rectified? Could you be involved in a community project to build a skate park, or shelter for young people? If you feel there are too many young people hanging around, ask yourself why.
We all have something we can offer to young people, even if it’s just a warm smile and a hello. So to conclude, I’d like to offer my personal thanks by remembering our friend Kim, and all she did for our children. I’d also like to thank everyone else who helps to raise children, whether your own, or other peoples, by supporting them and offering extra-curricular enrichment to their lives. Our children are our future; let’s help them become the people we would like to be ourselves.