Thursday 19-11-2015 - 11:30
Ebbi Ferguson, Deputy President of NUS Wales, talks about her experience as a young trustee and how she thinks more young people should take the opportunity to help make important decisions.
Last week charities across the UK celebrated trustee week. Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. They play a vital role, volunteering their time and working together to make important decisions about the charity's work. Trustees' Week is an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do and highlight opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference.
The majority of higher education students unions probably had cake and party poppers in their trustee meetings and celebrated how fantastic it is to have student officers and young people leading organisations. And truly, this is an excellent thing!
Young people are hugely under-represented on charity boards across the UK. Although 18-24 year olds represent 12% of the total adult population, this age group makes up just a fraction (0.5%) of the trustee population across England and Wales. Out of a total of over 810,000 trustees in England and Wales, only 4,220 are aged under 24.
For me, one of the biggest barriers to getting involved was the feeling of incompetence and inability. Being trusted to make decisions that carry a huge weight is scary and was incredibly daunting.
At the beginning of September I was elected into the British Youth Council (BYC) trustee board. This board is unique as we are a group of members all under the age of 25, elected by a conference of young people, leading a million pound charity.
I know for sure that the encouragement I received truly changed things for me and for that I will always be grateful. Working as a team on a trustee board filled me with confidence and I know that we are a true testimony to the ability of young people to show our skills sets, competence and enthusiasm to make positive change.
Being a young trustee is an exceptional experience and sadly, an opportunity not offered to many. Young people are rarely trusted to make the decisions today that affect our tomorrow.
There is a whole separate conversation barriers to opportunities, equality of access and in some places the just complete lack of opportunities presented. These are things that we do and will continue to fight for. But within all this it is important to remember the simple things.
I rarely say anything profound, so I content myself with quoting others. Some guy Paul said in a letter,
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.”
And if I could write a letter to young people, that’s what it would say. Let’s put meaning back behind the buzzwords. Build each other up, encourage one another and inspire others to take on the challenge.
So, as we celebrate let's think about ways we can encourage other people to get on the bandwagon. Inspire the leaders of the next generation that will shape a society where it’s the norm for young people to be leading, making those key decisions and shaping their tomorrow.