Over the past year, Groundwork have supported young people in Stockport to become active members in their community, helping them develop activities which create greener, cleaner, safer spaces for all.

As a result, the young people learned more about the challenges which affect them and were empowered to make their voices, ideas and actions heard. They enacted positive change in their community by running events, taking part in creative activities and speaking to community leaders.

Erin Rhode, Youth Work Assistant at Groundwork who supported the young people throughout the programme added:

“The young people are constantly inspiring me; they are super intelligent and full of ideas that I would never think of. They’re super inspirational but sometimes they don’t realise it, and they just need permission to express themselves”

Creating a safer space for girls in Stockport

We started engaging with a group of young girls in July 2023, who were being supported by local youth network, R Time, who provide youth provisions across Stockport. We ran weekly sessions at Tiviot Dale Methodist Church where Erin engaged the young people about what Youth Social Action means and how they could use their experiences and voices to improve their lives and solve community wide issues. This helped the girls to open up about issues which affected them personally and generated excitement about what they could do to make a difference in their community.

Participants shared problems they knew about in Stockport, including anti-social behaviour, dog waste in parks and inequality between men and women. From there, they wrote a letter describing these issues and potential solutions, which they sent to their local MP.

The group, self-proclaimed as ‘Stockport Girls Group’, collectively agreed that they wanted more local activities which catered exclusively to girls, particularly sports activities. This led to the idea of running a girls 5-a-side football tournament, which would take place in a local park, along with stalls providing information about safety and mental health support. The young people felt the event would inspire girls to get more involved in sports, teach people about how to be safe and provide an opportunity for the community to connect and therefore feel safer.

With support from Erin, the girls group researched who they would like to have a stall – finding information about what support is out there on the way. They also created games for the event in which people would match up organisation names to the type of local support they provided. Erin shared considerations for event planning including how to run the event, helping them to work out budgets, create timings for the day and promote their event to the local community.

On the 17th of September 2023, the girls delivered their ‘Stockport Girls Safety Day’ which took place at Adswood Park. Over 50 people attended the event, including the general public, family and friends, Locala (the sexual health clinic), Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Greater Manchester Police, and Councillor Frankie Singleton.

The girls had a great time engaging with the public and playing in the tournament. They developed and improved a variety of skills during their time on the project, from listening and communicating to building confidence in their ability to create real change.

One participant said:

“I’ve really enjoyed girls’ group recently it has been an amazing way for me to learn new skills and socialise with more people. I’m excited for the event, it’s amazing that we have managed to set it up ourselves and to have the opportunity to do something to help the community!”

Creating a greener Stockport

In October 2023 we started working weekly with a new group of young people at Stockport Central Library. Erin initially engaged the young people, who were aged between 12 and 14, through nature craft activities, however the group were not as confident as the previous Girls Group.

Erin persevered, explaining how Youth Social Action can contribute to environmental improvements and sharing examples from other young people she’d worked with.

Slowly, the young people began to open up and develop their own ideas. They identified various green spaces in their local area they wished could be improved.

The group worked as a team to plan litter-picking events, craft sessions and planting events.

They worked with the wider community to re-plant a raised bed in Edgeley. This provided the young people with the opportunity to meet other people in the community who shared their vision for a green Stockport. Their work was commended by local Councillors and widely recognised on Facebook:

The group also planned and hosted their own Celebration Event to recognise the work they’d done in the area and their own person developments. They prepared homemade baked goods and showed their new planting skills to those who attended, explaining how to pot and decorate plants. Over 30 friends, family and community members attended the event to celebrate the achievements of the young people.

The community had a lot of positive feedback for the group, saying that the area now made them smile as they walked past, and applauded their hard work and dedication.

Amber’s Story

One participant, 13-year-old Amber was a real driver of the group’s activities and was instantly keen to express her ideas and make an impact in her community. She had experienced gardening with her grandparents, but had never had the opportunity to improve a community space.

Despite dealing with worries and anxiety at school, Amber saw the weekly sessions as a space to wind down, get creative and think about other things. With an aspiration to work in child and social care, Amber particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to help children navigate and enjoy the art and gardening activities provided.

“This project has made me feel more positive about the future and I now feel I can positively influence the environment”

Freyja’s Story

Another participant was 13-year-old Freyja who, as a young person who is home-schooled, found the project to be a great way to make new friends, get creative and improve her teamwork and leadership skills. At first Freyja was hesitant about voicing her opinions, but after a few sessions realised that the project encouraged youth voice and that her ideas really mattered. From there, she began suggesting ideas for green space designs and event activities.

“I really enjoyed this project, it was a nice to have an activity to do in the evening. Erin is lovely and understanding with everyone. It was nice to feel like I was making an impact while having fun”