Inspiring others

We spend a lot of time focused on bad news, but there are amazing people out there doing great things, and many are the much maligned younger generations.

Young men and women


I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last week with young people, more than usual perhaps, given that I live with a fair few. And it has been fairly inspiring. Last week the charity I’ve set up for my daughter trained its second cohort of mental health peer mentors. The idea is inspired by my daughter’s own listening skills and by the countless stories told about her by her friends.

There were 12 sixth formers at the training session, all raring to go and deeply committed to helping others. They will be offering a listening ear to younger students who are struggling, but may not want to approach an authority figure. The mentors support each other, but are supervised by the school’s pastoral team. They are trained to know when they can help and when an expert might be needed. We discussed everything from how students could contact mentors more easily to setting up a wellbeing garden and creating special events to raise awareness. Their enthusiasm was powerful. I hope we can harness it.

After all they are the ones who know more than anyone – more than government ministers certainly – the scale of the mental health problems their generation is facing because they are living it both personally and through their friends. They are the ones counselling their friends every day. That should be recognised.

I also interviewed two winners of the everywoman in Technology Awards, both phenomenal young women who have faced a fair few challenges themselves. Both didn’t come from a tech background and taught themselves coding during the pandemic. Look at them now. One was named Woman of the Year for her mentoring work for women in technology and her commitment to diversity and inclusion; the other was named Rising Star for her work setting up a Somali network at her workplace. One was fostered as a child and has carried on her mentoring work despite being diagnosed with cancer; the other is the first in her family to go to university and to work in a corporate and has opened up discussions for others from those backgrounds to talk about how they navigate unfamiliar spaces while continuing to be true to themselves.

I work in my other job with a lot of students. Not all of them are young, but what they have in bucketloads is a commitment to making a difference. Yesterday, for instance, I was working on a podcast with three remarkable women about how we use culture as an agent of peace. One is a Ukrainian poet, another has worked in Bosnia bringing communities together through education and the other works at the UN Security Council having survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. For all, their own personal experiences were a huge motivation.

We spend a lot of time focusing on the bad news, and there is more than enough of that, but in the midst of all of that gloom there are people all around us – whether alive or dead – who are absolute beacons.

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