Homewood duo challenge stigma of poverty at national youth event

Homewood duo challenge stigma of poverty at national youth event

Two Homewood students joined other young campaigners from across Britain at the University of Kent on Saturday 8 December, to help find solutions to eradicate the stigma of poverty.

Freya (in Year 11) and Rawan (in Year 9) were selected from dozens of applicants to take part in an intensive day of workshops, culminating in evening event, at the Gulbenkian Theatre on the Canterbury campus. The aim of the event, arranged by youth tech organisation ThinkNation and anti-poverty project Twist-It (supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation), was to help generate new ideas on how to smash the social stigma of living in poverty experienced by young people in schools, online, in the media and throughout society in general.

The students joined different workshop groups, supported by professional mentors, to debate and respond to different questions about poverty, from how to eliminate it from the media to eradicating it entirely from society. Each group then presented their conclusions and ideas at an evening stage event in front of a live audience of several hundred people.

Rawan’s group came up with the idea of conducting a live ‘alternative’ census at town halls and schools around the country, focusing on what made people happy or unhappy, rather than what race or background they came from. “This event has really opened my eyes on the extent of the problem,” said Rawan. “I started out with a clear definition, based on the absolute poverty of countries like Sudan. However, poverty in Britain is very different; people are currently consumed by their divisions so we need to get back to building a sense of community and reawaken social responsibility.”

In contrast Freya’s team produced a moving video, voiced by Freya, documenting one child’s daily experience of living in poverty. The objective was to send the video viral and start to change the conversation. ”If we don’t become aware of a problem, then no-one will discuss it and then nothing will be done to solve it,” said Freya. ”I believe that if we can get one big thing sorted, other things will follow.”

Both Freya and Rawan started helping to raise awareness for important issues when they were quite young. Freya was in year 4 at primary school when she got involved with her first campaigns: raising money to fund a clean water pump in India through Water Aid and then running a school stall in aid of marine conservation. She is currently involved with a school initiative to try to reduce the use of plastics.

Rawan, who joined Homewood in January, was previously heavily involved in debating and with the United Nations Youth programme at her school in Qatar. She attended her first UN Youth conference in year 8 and was an active member of her school Human Rights Committee.

Homewood’s Principal and Tenterden Schools’ Trust CEO Sally Lees said: “I am extremely proud of Rawan and Freya for representing the school and the county so well. They have not only shown real campaigning passion but also the kind of confidence, creativity and collaborative skill which will take them a long way in their future careers.