“I spoke up and was listened to”

In December 2020 a decision-making panel will be hosted by The London Community Foundation to decide which applications to the third round of the Grenfell Young People’s Fund will receive funding. The panel consists of nine community members of which seven are young people who live in the area surrounding the Grenfell Tower and are responsible for the decision making relating to this fund.  

The Grenfell Young People’s Fund is an Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund initiative. The funds distributed by the panel come from a range of fundraising campaigns including The Evening Standard newspaper, the Artists for Grenfell fundraising single and from The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  

This is the third and final round of this fund which aims to improve the lives of children and young people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. Over the first two rounds the fund has supported 19 organisations with funding totalling £716,735. Young people have been involved in developing and shaping the fund, including identifying its target outcomes based on what they believe are most important for local young people:  

  • Children and young people have improved health and wellbeing
  • Children and young people are engaged, empowered and have a role in the improvement of their environment and society
  • Young people are ‘work ready’ and/or employed  

We spoke with Leila who has been involved with the panel since the beginning to hear about her experience of having a voice on issues affecting young people locally.

For the past three years I have been a member of the Grenfell Young People’s Fund and it has been an absolute privilege. I was 15 when the Fund began and I was more nervous than I’d ever been at that first meeting: with no experience on a panel and having only just written up a CV for the application process.  But there’s no point in feeling useless until you’ve tried. So, I spoke up and was listened to: which isn't an experience familiar to many teenagers. It got a lot easier to speak up and my confidence grew exponentially. Not only that, I realised that my vote on the panel was equal to people far beyond me in age and experience. To find out that you have meaningful contributions and opinions that hold value in real, high-stakes work environments is such an empowering feeling, especially for young women, such as myself, who end most sentences with “If that makes sense” or “I guess?” for fear of sounding too assertive.

That is one of the great strengths of the Grenfell Young People’s Fund. It isn't a group of adults assuming the needs of young people in the area. Young people take a genuine and active role in the decision-making process of the panel. The panel is made of people who really know the area, who understand that despite being one of the richest areas of the UK, the gap between the richest and the poorest is gaping. It is truly representative of the diverse and nuanced area the fund strives to assist. 

I applied to be a panel member with an interest in social justice, an interest I wanted to shape into a career but with no idea how. My experience with the panel showed me that you can make meaningful change in a diverse range of ways that didn't involve occupying significant positions of power. Meaningful change is possible anywhere, particularly at the grassroots, and young people deserve to know that they have a stake in what that change is. One of the best ways to do that is by giving them real power, especially on grants, where they can see their insights and personal experiences make real impacts on the world around them. After all, how are young people supposed to believe that they have real political power when so many don’t have a platform to exercise it? Young people have such a unique perspective and insight of the world, especially in the current crises we as a world are facing. We cannot afford to just be the notional ‘leaders of tomorrow’, young people need to take the lead now. 

I am currently applying to study International Relations at university and I have become a trustee of an emerging charity very close to my heart. I am in no doubt that the confidence, the conviction and the clarity of my beliefs that I have developed on the Young’s People’s Fund will stand in me good stead as I go onto new challenges my life have to offer.

The Grenfell Young People’s Fund is open for applications until Friday 30 October 12pm. For more information please click here.