Children from across Southwark and Lewisham enjoyed an afternoon of games in a community-building event on Saturday.
A group of like-minded friends, concerned about teenagers they feel are often undervalued by society, organised the event at Riverside Youth Club in Lewisham for 50 children aged between 11 and 14.
The friends, a mixture of young professionals and mature students, volunteer as leaders and have supported each other in running neighbourhood junior youth groups (JYG) since 2014.
Charles Padie, 33, leader of Camberwell-based JYG Together We Are Strong, said: “This was a very special day. We hope that the youth will leave with new bonds of friendship we will continue to foster as we develop more and more events like this in future.”
The friends were inspired after hearing stories of youth from around the world who transformed their neighbourhoods and villages with a program of study called The Ruhi Institute.
The program of junior youth empowerment is being used in many cities, towns and villages and led to the Junior Youth Program, which recognises 11-14-year-olds as a valuable resource that can provide service to their community.
“We get them to think about what talents they can share with others and how others can benefit from them, but we also help them to recognise that helping others also greatly helps them too,” added Charles.
“It is a fantastic program. It looks to positively transform the individual and the community they live in.”
The event began with a team building exercises to encourage participants to work together as they solved problem games set by the organisers.
Miria Papasofroniou, 32, leader of Deptford’s United We Shine, Divided We Fall JYG said: “It went very, very well.
“The icebreaker session was fun and they were all laughing together – all of them managed to work well in small and large groups.
“It was interesting to watch them solve the problems together and it set the day up for fun as a large team.”
After the first session the event offered more traditional games such as football, pool, table tennis, and larger team games that involved all participants.
Denzel, 12, from United We Shine, Divided We Fall JYG, said: “It’s been lovely today – I loved playing dodgeball and capture the flag was really fun.”
The day concluded with a feedback session where the JYG members were encouraged to share their experience and make suggestions for the organisers to consider in planning future events.
Kiara, 13, from United We Shine, Divided We Fall JYG, said: “What I like most about this program is that we learn stuff that we don’t learn in school, like different perspectives and confirmation.
“I really enjoyed meeting different groups, playing with them and getting to know a lot about them as well.”
Visit http://www.ruhi.org/ for more information on the Ruhi Institute.