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Championing young voices: Meet the youth advisors shaping BBC Children in Need’s funding

As the largest UK funder focused exclusively on children and young people, BBC Children in Need believe it is vital to give young people a voice within the organisation. The charity’s Youth Advisors, Mercy Shibemba and Alvin Owusu-Fordwuo, do just that. We caught up with Mercy to find out a little more about what their roles involve.


Please tell us a little about yourselves and your roles as Youth Advisors at Children in Need.

We started our roles in lockdown, so Alvin and I have never met, which is strange! But we’ve still managed to build a strong connection and it’s a pleasure to work alongside him (virtually!)

We have the privilege of being able to lead Black Futures, which is a £10million fund that will help Black children and young people across the UK to achieve their full potential. We also work across some other programmes and more broadly support the organisation’s journey of sharing power with young people. One of the best things about this role is that we just get to be ourselves, that’s what we’re here to bring.

It’s crazy to look back to our first few days and how much we’ve achieved and reflect on the challenges and opportunities that have come with having this role.


How has the pandemic impacted you?

I think the biggest impact for me has been changes to routine (I used to travel a lot!) and seeing friends and family a lot less. I’ve enjoyed being able to do a bit more of that more recently.


How do you think young people have been affected generally during the pandemic?

Where to begin!? Everyone has sacrificed so much in this pandemic, particularly young people. From huge interruptions to their education, being most affected by changes in unemployment and access to careers, to just missing out on the normal experiences of growing up.

There is so much that young people are facing and it’s so important that any efforts to ‘build back better’ consider this and include the voices of children and young people.


Why is the work BBC Children in Need is doing so important?

Many funders and organisations across the sector are recognising the value of lived experience leading programmes. If you want to serve communities, you should do so ethically, which means they should have power in decisions that will directly impact them. This is why it’s so important that BBC Children in Need is actively including young people in the systems and processes that in the end, impact them.


Why should we champion the voices of young people?

Why shouldn’t we? Young people are the future, they provide us unique insight and perspectives and are often free of limitations we’ve all assumed as normal due to experience. As BBC Children in Need, our number one goal is to support young people to achieve their full potential and we cannot do so without consistently championing the voices of young people.

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