Ruff Diamond and the Get Connected Cab

A safe home is something we expect all young people to grow up in. Somewhere they are supported and great parenting and teaching meet their needs. Am I romanticising the past when I say that like most people of a certain age, I feel that I had a better-balanced childhood than kids these days?

There are half as many poor people in the world as there were in 1990.The average life span for women in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 16 years since 1960. Seven of the world’s top ten fastest-growing economies are in Africa. The percentage of children in Africa who are in school has almost doubled since 1970. A baby born in 1960 had a 20% chance of dying before her 5th birthday. For a child born today, it’s under 5%.

So for children globally the picture looks positive. But what’s the story here in the UK?

Apparently, fewer children globally now live in poverty, yet here in the UK their education is still being held back by poverty and disadvantage. While children are doing better than ever in school, not every child gets a world-class education. Many parents resort to food banks and school breakfast clubs, as they can’t afford to feed their kids.

I played on the street day and night with my mates with only two warnings; that I must follow the green cross code whilst crossing the street and not talk to or go with any strangers. Falling down and scabby knees were rites of growing up – it made us braver and stronger and we were proud of our scars. Children are no longer living their lives like children, going outside climbing trees, riding bikes, running around in the backyard, going to the park. Instead they’re locked up inside their houses playing Xbox or hypnotized by Facebook or playing “Angry Birds” on their iPads.

I observe children now, who can barely be tempted to lift their video game obsessed backsides off their sofas, are scared to get their hands dirty or break a sweat doing chores around the house. My upbringing was filled with ownership, responsibility, dedication, morality, loyalty and accountability. Nowadays we are told that all children are being raised to be irresponsible, disloyal, narcissistic, co-dependent, selfish, lack morals and to never get anywhere. We are always giving youth a bad rap. None of this is their fault.

More mothers as well as fathers are pursuing rewarding careers, but can find it hard to balance work and family life. Parents regret that their children do not play independently outside as they did when they were young, but worry about safety if their children go outside alone. Families are more aware of how to pursue healthy lifestyles, but too much time is spent in front of video games or the television and fatty foods mean that child obesity is on the rise. You walk through the street and everyone is trying to block their senses, completely disconnected from reality: sunglasses (sight), headphones (sound). We continue to give youth a bad rap. None of this is their fault.

Young people need to enjoy their childhood as well as grow up prepared for adult life. We want a society where young people feel valued and in which their achievements are recognised. So whilst I grew up with the usual distractions of Top Shop advertising and Smash Hits mag, I most certainly wasn’t bombarded with images that confused the hell out me. Nowadays, depending on which music genre or celebrity you’re into, you can be convinced that false hair, false nails, false lips, false body parts and so on are the be all and end all of life. The ‘pornification’ of young people, the need to only own designer possessions and the stresses of inner city urban postcode wars can leave a teenager bewildered and out of control. We are all responsible for giving youth a bad rap. None of this is their fault.

Can young people nowadays even breathe with YouTube millionaires and stories of reality show starlets being thrust into their vision at every TV, Facebook or Twitter encounter? In fact, if you’re not a CEO of your own company by the age of 23 aren’t you a failure? These unrealistic expectations and pressures young people face daily are piling up.

There are 9.8million young people aged 14-25 in the UK and 65% will seek help for an issue before they are 25. A recent survey revealed that over a quarter of young people think that their future prospects have been permanently damaged by the recession, and most worryingly 21% of unemployed young people believe they have ‘nothing to live for’.

Increasing numbers of young people across the UK are turning to the Internet to look for help with personal problems, rather than seek solace with a family member or friends.
When young people make their first plea to the helplines online, they don’t often have a clue about their own self-diagnosis, whether that is abuse, dieting disorders, slavery and more. If they can’t verbalise and define their issue, they can’t possibly search online for an organisation that exists to help them.

This is why national helpline service Get Connected is a vital phrase all youth in UK schools and youth organisations should get familiar with. Get connected is the UK’s only FREE, confidential, helpline service for young people under 25 who need help for any issue, but don’t know where to turn. Get Connected can signpost or connect them to 10,000 trusted specialist support services across the country. Eight out of ten will find out about options they wouldn’t have known about.

Last week I attended The Annual Get Connected Charity Auction, at The Grange St Paul’s, an exclusive state-of-the-art hotel on the doorstep of St Paul’s, where Get Connected’s Chief Executive Jessica Taplin told me that ‘’we know that 9/10 young people say that they have been online to try and resolve a personal problem, but going online carries its own risk and young people can find forums that worsen, not improve their issues’’.

Recent horror stories of Internet bullying and false identity have seen a number of British young people die at the mouse clicking hands of their bullies or stalkers.

Get Connected helps with any issue they might be facing, 365 days a year. Their team of 100 expertly trained non-judgemental Helpline Volunteers (who I was lucky enough to watch at work) provide emotional support and information. They can then connect young people to any one of 10,000 trusted organisations for further support and advice.

There are 19 million young people under 25 in the UK, and many of them are facing challenging and isolating problems: Over a million 16-24 year olds are unemployed, 1 in 3 of the UK’s children live in poverty, 1 in 10 young people suffer from a mental illness and 1 in 13 young people struggle with self-harm. Last year GC helped 150,000 young people, and this number is set to rise to 250,000 in 2014!

For many young people, knowing who to approach for help can be incredibly daunting, particularly during times of difficulty and distress. Some young people may struggle to locate the kind of help they’re looking for, whereas others may be overwhelmed with options, and unsure where to turn.
Jessica Taplin Get Connected incoming CEO

Jessica explained

‘’Get Connected operates across five channels: young people can get in touch with us by phone, email, webchat or text. Young people may also use WebHelp 24/7, their online directory of help. We offer these channels so young people can choose to contact us however they feel most comfortable’’.

Shane Richie, Jessie Wallace and Auction Guest

At their annual black tie charity auction it was fascinating to watch the huge mobile phone companies I usually brand as ‘evil money makers’ throw their support behind the charity. After dance troupe Ruff Diamond opened the night with a jaw dropping routine, dinner was served and the conventional speeches were made. Familiar celebrity faces were also on hand to show their support, including actors Shane Richie, Jessie Wallace and Kara Tointon, as well as Olympian Louise Hazel and cricketer Ronnie Irani.
Kara Tointon

The riveting auctioneer Jonny Gould was mesmerising and most certainly in a league of his own. His humour, energy and goading made sure the paddles went up like a Mexican wave and he managed to harangue the diners into raising a fantastic £228,000! He drew cash out of diners with ego’s eager to impress with taunts like ‘’Sir, you don’t want that young whippersnapper to show you up, do you?’’ and ‘’one day that man will give you a job – impress him now!’’ and of course the classic brand against brand stand-off ‘’Is Vodafone not better than Carphone Warehouse?’’.
Jonny Gould Auctioneer

Carphone Warehouse – Get Connected’s principal corporate partner – egged on all the other brand tables to outbid them on lots and it was fascinating to see their top staff throw themselves into the spirit of things so passionately. Group CEO of Carphone Warehouse and Trustee of Get Connected Andrew Harrison announced

“I’m delighted by the success of the evening and the positive difference the funds raised will make to the lives of thousands of young people across the UK”.

Andrew Harrison, Group CEO, Carphone Warehouse

I am often asked about tips for connecting charities to celebrities and brands so it was impressive to hear that Carphone Warehouse has worked in partnership with Get Connected for 12 years. All the more intriguing when considering numerous charities internationally, find it so hard to engage high net worth individuals and brands, to support them for a season let alone over a decade. Jessica revealed the secret of the partnership’s success, ‘’our synergy is fantastic: their brand vision is to make more people’s lives better through connected technology and we aim to help young people improve their lives by connecting them to the help they need. The majority of contacts to Get Connected now fall in the 16-25 age group so both CPW and GC are now targeting the same demographic. Through this powerful synergy we have already built a strong, successful and long-standing partnership. There are new and exciting plans in the pipeline, as our partnership is set to continue to grow over the next three years’’.

Working in the youth media sector, I know that there are more opportunities for young people today than ever before. Literally thousands of youth organisations exist across the country to help young people make the most of themselves. Yet worries around sex, education, safety, image, self-esteem, social media and privacy are more serious than ever before.

If you’re young, life’s pressures are greater than ever before in the UK, but if you need help, for anything, get connected!

Get Connected Helpline contact details are: Call FREE: 0808 808 4994 (1pm-11pm daily). Text for FREE help 80849 (7pm – 11pm, Monday to Friday) Email: help@getconnected.org Webchat: www.getconnected.org.uk (1pm-11pm daily) WebHelp 24/7: www.getconnected.org.uk

Get Connected is registered charity number 1081840 and depends entirely on voluntary donations. Get Connected is a key partner of Child Helpline International, a global network of 173 child helplines in 142 countries.

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