Behind Greta Thunberg’s headline grabbing thunderstorm of the #YouthStrike4Climate and the Extinction Rebellion protests, there is a grassroots environmental youth movement tackling climate change and boosting young potential. Nearly 100,000 passionate, skilled and environmentally conscious young people are leading the way to a brighter future, through Our Bright Future, a programme funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.
Whilst the #YouthStrike4Climate has been effective at raising awareness of environmental challenges, the portfolio of 31 projects that form Our Bright Future, have quietly been making significant societal and environmental improvements, across the UK for the past four years.
Already young people have gained almost 4,000 environmental qualifications started more than 200 entrepreneurial projects and improved or created over 1,500 community spaces.
Our Bright Future is a once in a generation level of investment (£33 million), aimed at bringing together the UK’s youth and environmental sectors to generate a youth movement to stand up for the environment. It is made possible by The National Lottery Community Fund, the UK’s largest funder of community activity.
One of the 31 Our Bright Future projects is The Belfast Hills Bright Future led by the Belfast Hills Partnership which involves young people in caring for their local Belfast Hills area; engaging and inspiring them to positively change attitudes and behaviour, helping them understand environmental issues and be involved in planning of small scale projects
Alanna was a 24 year who was juggling being a new mum with a menial bar job said “Before I took part in the programme I thought a career in conservation would be far-fetched, that only people with university degrees would be suitable. But through the programme I developed the key skills needed in order to help me gain a great job in a field I love with a well-respected conservation charity. Without this programme and the help of the Belfast Hills, none of this would be possible!”
Other young people have gained new skills, accreditation and knowledge as well as self-confidence, leadership skills and improved physical & mental health.
While the protests have stirred a sense of urgency for environmental action, it’s important to be encouraged by the action already taking by young people through Our Bright Future. 11-24 year olds are being given a seat at the table with key decision makers, contributing towards Government research, bringing local communities together and enhancing local green spaces for everyone.
Cath Hare, Our Bright Future Programme Manager says; ‘We’re giving young people a voice and the tools to make a difference in their local community, which is really inspiring for all ages. The £33 million investment, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, has been instrumental in supporting young people to connect, be empowered, develop new skills and improve their wellbeing. Enthusing young people about environmental issues now will lead to a lifelong passion for environmental improvements. I’m sure we will see many great things from Our Bright Future alumni’.
Dr Lizzy Pinkerton Scheme Manager for the Belfast Hills Partnership said:
“The Belfast Hills Partnership is delighted to be part of this exciting youth empowerment programme that will help transform the environment of the Belfast Hills. We are engaging young people with their environment, inspiring and enabling action. The National Lottery community funding has enable us to work with over 2000 young people per year, looking at topics such as rivers, wildflowers, habitat management, archaeology while providing the required training and support. It is our aim that we will develop confident, experienced and multi skilled young people who can find employment, and continue to respect and care for their local green spaces. If you are aged 11-24 years old and want to get involved either through your school, youth group or as an individual please do get in touch.”
Peter Ainsworth, Chair of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: ‘It’s fantastic to see how young people across the UK have been motivated and encouraged by this project. Thanks to National Lottery players, nearly 100,000 young people have played an active role in shaping the future of their local environment. An investment like this is a great start to empowering and inspiring young people to help make their own futures brighter and their communities thrive.’
For more information and to get involved in an Our Bright Future project visit: www.ourbrightfuture.co.uk