My name is Saleha and I am a Young Consultant at Participation People. 

I have been working with Participation People since 2020 and hope to be here for as long as possible as a young person  – until I get too old to do what I do – so I wanted to outline some of the reasons why.

Why I love Participation People

I love Participation People because I get to be expressive and truly be myself with the staff team, who all value the importance of youth voice. When I came to my first session, I was an extremely shy person. I didn’t really talk and my nerves often got the better of me. But after a couple of months, I started becoming more myself as I felt increasingly comfortable around the Participation People team and other young people I was working with. 

The Participation People team makes it very accessible for me to share my voice. They meet my needs as a young person and are truly inclusive. I say this because, at some organisations, I have felt discriminated against and overlooked, which led me to leave after only a few months. 

Participation People was the very opposite of that. My experience has been so incredible that they definitely won’t be able to get rid of me anytime soon. The welcoming environment they have created has left me wanting to involve myself as much as possible in a variety of different projects.

Projects

The projects I’ve been involved with include Birmingham Young Researchers (BYR) and Acacium (ACM) Mental Health Super Heroes. 

The Birmingham Young Researchers project was all about making Birmingham a better place to live and grow up for future generations over the next 10 years. This also included reviewing what services within the city needed to be improved to function successfully for young people. This meant I was trained by Participation People to design surveys, facilitate focus groups and run interviews with other young people across my city. Alongside a group of Young Researchers, we discussed how to make healthcare services, mental health services, knife crime, and schools better with young people’s views at the heart of everything. My confidence grew so much throughout this experience that I signed up for another project!  

The Acacium project got me involved in something called User Experience testing. I had no idea what this was before I started, but trusted that Participation People would help train and support me to better understand the task at hand. I worked with a team of other young people from across England and together, we used our own experiences of accessing the mental health support available to co-create a web-based platform with designers to improve online mental health services for young people. We talked about how it was important for adults to think about gender, confidentiality and emergency help, and we also looked at how it would work to provide better support for younger users – including using a Chatbot we called Chatty. 

What I’m working on now

The current project I am involved with is Stand Out Young Champions, working with employers to improve how young people find and land jobs in the West Midlands. Because I have a physical disability and learning difficulties, I have been able to share my own insights into what would and wouldn’t work for me to help guide the project.  

As a Young Consultant for Participation People, my job involves helping to train other adults on how to make organisations, products and services better for young people. It’s such a great experience that I can’t believe I get paid to do it for work. 

I love Participation People because I am involved in so many different projects and most of all, each of them has been A LOT of fun. In life, my passion is to support individuals who have disabilities and to help make improvements within the UK’s mental health sector. Participation People have helped me do that through a variety of projects that recognise the importance of youth voice and I feel as though I have made a big impact amongst influential decision-makers, which is incredibly rewarding.

Learnings

Participation People has been a big part of my life since 2020. If I were to do it all again, I would be more myself from the offset (which means being cheeky!) and not be scared to get stuck in. 

The one piece of advice I would give young people who are considering working with Participation People is to be yourself and don’t be afraid to express your views –  and HAVE FUN whilst doing it!

Participation People has given me a voice that I never felt I had before. I can now speak up for myself. Before Participation People, I wouldn’t dream of speaking in front of decision-makers or having my camera on in a virtual meeting because, to me, adults were big scary people who have a lot of power and no interest in my opinions. 

Through Participation People’s projects, I have pushed myself to present in front of key decision-makers. The biggest impact I have felt is this boost in confidence and the ability to speak my mind, as each project I have been involved in with Participation People is personal to me and reflects my own experiences. I don’t have to pretend to be anyone else, I can just be myself as my opinions and beliefs hold value. 

Participation People has strengthened my mental health, mainly through the support of CEO Antonia Dixey. Antonia listens to me and I keep her on her toes in turn. She’s an amazing CEO who consistently advocates the importance of youth voice and will always be there for you in your times of need. For anyone thinking of getting involved, you won’t regret it and there’s tonnes of fun to be had. 

 

Thinking of getting involved with one of our projects? We’d love to hear from you. 

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