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Catching up with Young Leader, Lee Bird

Thursday 23rd May 2019

The Boys’ Brigade is blessed to have so many people willing to use their time and talents to make a difference in the lives of young people.  Some of our Leaders also use their time to champion and represent the BB at a wider level.  Lee Bird, Officer in the 1st Sittingbourne Company and U26 member on England & Wales Regional Committee, has also served on the Youth United Foundation’s (YUF) Youth Panel since last session.

The Youth Panel is made up of young people aged 14 to 24 who are currently members of the uniformed organisations that Youth United represent, and will lead on a research piece as part of a UK Government-funded research programme into Loneliness.   

The Gazette caught up with Lee to find out more about this role, the work of YUF, and his experiences as a BB leader and member…

Tell us a little about your role with YUF Youth Panel…

I have the pleasure of Chairing the YUF Youth Panel this year, which means I can use my experience of being part of the Panel last year, and my knowledge of being a BB leader, to support other members of the panel. I have helped plan the sessions, as well as having discussions with the staff team at YUF about how to get the best out of the young people. I also get to take part in the research, which is what the panel is all about! We’re looking into loneliness among young people and the effect youth organisations have on young people, which is so important and something that should be talked about a lot more.”

How do you think YUF funding can make a difference – for young people and local communities?

The funding we received from last year’s research is so important, not just for the BB nationally, but  locally as well it will help us reach into communities and areas where young people can’t currently take part in BB activities. Any opportunity to make the BB more inclusive and more accessible is a massive help, and the funding will help us do that, Youth organisations such as  The Boys’ Brigade have been proven to give young people a good start in life – providing good role models, opportunities and experiences. For me, as a young person the opportunity to be part of The Boys’ Brigade has been invaluable.”

The Youth Panel is giving a voice and responsibility to young people. Why do you think this matters?

The youth panel is a really important part of the Youth United Foundation because it puts young people at the heart of its work. The panel is able to give opinions and perspectives on topics that concern them, that will be different from what staff members or adult volunteers think. Taking part in the research activity will give the panel members the opportunity to really influence the work of the BB, and the YUF.  I believe that this is so important, especially in a time when young people’s views are often ignored. I am also really keen to make sure the panel members leave the panel having felt they have been part of something important and that will have a real impact, so as chair I’m going to be looking at ways that the panel members can really develop and push themselves this year.”

What does The Boys’ Brigade mean to you?   

I’ve been involved in The Boys’ Brigade for 18 years, so it’s a massive part of my life! I’ve been lucky enough to represent the BB at lots of different events and in lots of different roles, and my favourite part of that is having the chance to meet young people and hear their stories about how they got involved in the BB. The Boys’ Brigade does amazing work and it’s a real privilege to be a small part in that. Having grown up in BB and still being a big part of what I do, it is very hard to stop, which is why I’m still so involved.”

If you could change one thing about BB what would it be?

I would make leaders wear armbands as part of their uniform! As a young person, you spend a lot of your time working towards all your badges, and then when you finally get them, they end up in a ‘BB drawer’.   I would love to wear my Queen’s badge on my arm when I’m out and about celebrating the great work of the BB. (I actually have the pin badge on my tie- not in the uniform regulations I know but I’ve got away with it so far!)”

You are on an overnight expedition and you’re allowed one luxury item – what would it be and why?   

What a great question! I’ve spent a lot of my time on expeditions with The Boys’ Brigade and, whilst not strictly an “item”, I would bring my friend and co-leader Tim! We’ve spent many hours in a tent together during Duke of Edinburgh’s camps, or battalion camps (and all the others!), and we’ve become a bit of a double act. (It also helps that he’s quite handy when it comes to cooking great meals out of not a lot!)”

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