by Neil Martin Chief executive, Jewish Lads’ & Girls’ Brigade 

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

Today’s Jewish young people have the energy and enthusiasm to shape and change their world in innovative and meaningful ways that simply weren’t possible in previous generations.

However, young people of all faiths, cultures and backgrounds are also living in a more complex and challenging world of academic and financial pressure and where traditional community models have changed dramatically through technological advancement.

This creates the need in addition to school life, to find new ways to engage, prepare and inspire the next generation of Jewish young people to ensure they each have the best possible chance to succeed in a global, digital world and still make a positive contribution to society.

The Government defines ‘youth social action’ as: “Young people undertaking practical activity in the service of others in order to create positive social change that is of benefit to their community as well as to the young person themselves.”

Recently alongside my counterpart CEOs of the wider society national youth sector, I attended the second anniversary of Step Up to Serve’s #iwill campaign, where their patron Prince Charles, explained: “The evidence shows that by participating in social action young people simultaneously enhance their employability skills, developing resilience and empathy, while also honing problem-solving, team-working and communication skills.”

The #iwill campaign aims to double the number of young people involved in social action by 2020. However, one of the biggest barriers to achieving this goal is the need for more adult volunteers to support young people along the way, with Prince Charles highlighting: “When I discovered a few years ago there was an enormous backlog of young people wanting to join the national youth organisations all because there was a shortage of leaders and volunteers, it seemed to me that there was a lot of opportunity to build on.”

This is a key issue for the sector of which JLGB is a microcosm, where in too many communities up and down the country, there are new groups that could be opened easily but they simply don’t have the volunteer leaders to run them, others have huge waiting lists to join groups with not enough adults to support larger numbers and some, reluctantly, are even having to close, especially when older leaders retire with no one stepping forward to replace them.

As a result, thousands of young people who want to learn new skills in return for giving back to their communities are missing out because the previous generations have a different set of drivers and motivators and have become busier in new ways, struggling to commit in the more traditional formats. Therefore, new incentivised and flexible models are needed to find a solution to effectively engage more adults to do their bit in ensuring a positive future for our youth.

That’s why JLGB has launched the new ‘Do Your Bit’ campaign to address the national shortage of adult volunteers who can commit to giving a few hours one night a week to local groups across the Jewish community. The recruitment drive is backed by the Cabinet Office and Youth United whose support has enabled 32 adult volunteers from around the country to play a starring role in a campaign with each explaining what they do to support young people each week and what they have gained through their association with JLGB, which this year celebrates its 120th anniversary.

Volunteering as an adult leader can actually give you back far more than you’d expect. You can gain qualifications and transferable skills which can further your own career – highly valued skills like management training, team motivation and communication techniques.

Working with young people also keeps you abreast of the latest trends in music and technology. Don’t be surprised if they end up teaching you a thing or two!

It’s easy not to volunteer. We all have things to do in our busy work and personal lives, but investing whatever time you can give into supporting young people, can make the world of difference.

In every generation our community has been exemplary in stepping up to do their bit and offering their experience and life skills to support our youngsters, the future leaders of our community, and now we are asking you to do the same.

Think of it as paying forward – doing something to thank all those people that have helped you to get where you are today.

So if you feel it’s time to do your bit, visit www.jlgb.org/doyourbit and help us shape the future for the next 120 years.