Bridging the generation gap

VIDEO Laughing and chatting, and taking the mickey out of each other, these three young people look determined to have fun in life.“Slow down, slow down!” laughs Jamie Hart, as beside him Rebecca Yearling chatters nineteen-to-the-dozen about her generation's hopes for the future.

By Tracey Sparling

TODAY'S edition of The Evening Star is dedicated to celebrating young people. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING and meets teenagers keen to tackle their boredom and bridge the generation gap - and asks what do young people really want?

LAUGHING and chatting, and taking the mickey out of each other, these three young people look determined to have fun in life.

“Slow down, slow down!” laughs Jamie Hart, as beside him Rebecca Yearling chatters nineteen-to-the-dozen about her generation's hopes for the future.

Yet beyond the light-hearted humour, there's also a very serious side to their friendship.

Jamie, 15, Rebecca, 12, and Harry Stewart, 13, are all members of the first ever district-wide forum for young people, called Suffolk Coastal Teen Voices (SCTV) which aims to put us in the picture about what young people really want.

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The young people decided what they want is to raise money for youth clubs, stop stereotypes, start activities in villages, improve transport and promote a positive image of young people.

Created with the support of Suffolk Coastal's youth co-ordinator, Keri Mohan, the group has quickly found its own voice and helped make spending decisions that has seen money allocated to local projects.

Theer are now about 25 members, recruited from youth groups and schools across the area.

Alexander Stewart, 14, from Felixstowe is another member of the group. He said: “Our targets are to promote the reputation of youths in Suffolk Coastal, proving that the majority of us are not the assaulting, vandalising 'yobs' that sections of the media so often likes to describe us as.

“Every week in the media, you see stories of how "yobs" are destroying communities when in actual fact these young people have done nothing wrong. Even if they have, it's usually because services are not available for young people to access- services like health nurses, counsellors and even youth clubs. Youths are being left with nothing to do, which is what causes them to behave inappropriately.”

Rebecca, from Hollesley said: “It's so annoying because I'm still 12, and when you're 13 there's so much more going on.

“There really is nothing to do, in my opinion. To go anywhere you end up walking on the road without pavements, past the prison. There is a youth club but not much to do there either and the members are mostly older than me.”

Jamie told how plans for a skate park in his home village of Grundisburgh were dropped, to be replaced by a 'kiddies playground' - but he said teenagers had raised the cash. He said: “It's always what they want, rather than what we want that's why we need to give young people a voice.”

He said the village youth club was well equipped with a PS2, air hockey table, pool table and more, but they tended to be dominated by certain members and lost their appeal after a few weeks anyway.

He said: “The village has two shops and one pub which I'm not old enough to go to. You get complaints about young people causing trouble, but they only do it because they've got nothing else to do. If they were actively engaged they would feel more peaceful and calm down a lot.”

He added that the most annoying thing about being a young person is people nagging you to do things, when you are already very busy.

Harry from Church Lane, Felixstowe, attends Level Two, a youth club in the town and said there was enough for people to do there but he thinks more money should be available.

The group enjoyed Felixstowe Carnival, and the Remembrance Festival at the Spa Pavilion, as ways of bringing the generations together.

Rebecca, who wants to be a doctor, said: “We have a lot more than when our parents were our age, like material things and opportunities - as long as we work hard enough for them. And now we don't have the cane in school!””

Jamie's enthusiasm has been fired to train as an optician after he enjoyed a work experience placement.

Harry isn't sure what he wants to do yet, but the idea of working with young people appeals to him.

SCTV gained £7,000 funding from the Youth Opportunity Fund for equipment, transportation and volunteering expenses. Members have also been involved spending decisions on the Youth Opportunity Fund and the Youth Capital Fund which saw £100,000 invested in 15 different local projects.

They made a DVD called Generation Jigsaw, and plan to send copies to all age groups including schools and old people's homes. The film concentrates on what older generations think of younger ones, and vice-versa, and members interviewed people in Felixstowe, Kesgrave, Woodbridge, Wickham Market, Framlingham and Leiston.

Rebecca said: “We talked to mostly older and younger people, and a few in between, about the relationship between older people and younger people, and whether they find the stereotypes are true.

“It was kind of difficult at first but I got more confident as we went on. Some people said playing bingo could help bridge the generation gap, and one person said the Harry Potter books brought people together!”

Councillor Doreen Savage said she and colleagues had been impressed by the 'forthright message and articulation' of the members of SCTV: “The SCTV team are doing an excellent job and I have met them on several occasions and also attended the launch of the Generation Jigsaw DVD. I would recommend people to have a look at this piece of work - it is very good.

“We need to listen to and learn from the combined voice of SCTV. I am very proud to be associated in some small way with them”, added Doreen.