Global Grub – a youth participation story

Global Grub – a youth participation story

If you were to ask someone what Global Grub involves who had no prior knowledge of the project, they might correctly guess it involves food from different cultures. Less obvious is the project’s link to mental health, but a desire to deliver proactive work on mental health motivated the creation of Global Grub. As the title suggests, we also believe the project is a fine example of youth participation.

The Mental Health Connection

Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2021, we challenged the young people accessing our services to design a project based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. The ‘Five Ways’ are five things that everyone can do to strengthen their mental wellbeing. In a way, this was partly an academic exercise: it’s main objective, to see if the young people understood the ‘Five Ways’ framework.

The young people presented their ideas to each other, and one stood out above all others – not least because the other young people in attendance also thought it was brilliant. Their idea was to learn to cook food from different cultures during the summer holidays – a time when many felt their mental health was at its lowest due to social isolation. They suggested a cooking project would help them to Connect with other people. By cooking food from different cultures, the young people would be Learning, and finally, through exposure to new dishes, they would be more Mindful due to a raised awareness of new flavours and scents. As the project has evolved, we have integrated new ad hoc ways of learning, for example this month (Easter ’24), the young people have the opportunity to learn to DJ and paint henna. An additional ‘way to wellbeing’ has also been integrated via being active: for example, this month, team games like dodgeball have also been integrated into the programme. In keeping with the broader ethos of Global Grub, these are young people’s ideas.

Participation

As must have been clear by now, youth voice was at the forefront of this project’s development. Building on the initial excitement from that first week when the young people had conceived the idea for Global Grub, we spent the following weeks both listening to the young people’s ideas so that they could shape the project (for example it was in one of those sessions that they came up with the name “Global Grub”), but also training the young people in skills so that they could assist with the search for funding to actually get the project off the ground.

Youth voice and participation has been at the forefront of the continued development of the project and has led to some special twists on its delivery, such as retiming the cooking sessions to coincide with Iftar during Ramadan. Other, modifications have included Global Grub picnics, where we take the food to the park and the young people assemble it themselves, making wraps and salads.

Another area of the project that young people have led is promotion. We have found the most effective approach is for young people to record pieces ‘talking to the camera’ promoting what is going to happen. These clips are then shared on range of social media platforms. Not only does this promote the project, but it also supports new skills development for the young people involved.

Funding

The young people had a vision for the project in May, but where could we find funding? Their idea coincided with the launch of an NHS Innovation Fund and Frimley ICB awarded the project £5,000. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford successfully campaigned for young people entitled to Free School Meals to have similar rights during school holidays. The opportunities presented by these two funding streams allowed us to deliver our first Global Grub in July and August of that year. In subsequent years, the HAF Fund has been a vital source of funding, as has been generous donations from Stoke Park.

Key Ingredients

As is so often the case with youth work projects, the right staff are integral to the successful running of the project. Kevin Muhammad has been key to the success of the project. Kevin cut his teeth in a range of commercial kitchens before starting to run his own courses and he later became a home economics teacher at Windsor Boys’ School. Kevin has a fantastic rapport with the young people accessing our services. Finding any teacher who could teach the young people was challenging – most are looking forward to their holidays, when Global Grub takes place – so to find one with Kevin’s qualities was an astounding piece of luck.

Kevin has been ably supported by our youth workers and have spent enough time with Kevin that though he is unable to join us this Easter, they have learned enough from him to ‘hold the fort.’ This would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago and highlights how much he has built our capacity. Indeed, in December 2021, we were faced with that very challenge as Kevin tested positive for COVID on the eve of four days of Global Grub. Thankfully at this point we had 19 months experience of online youth work. We simply dropped off the ingredients at the young people’s homes and met them online, where Kevin felt well enough to instruct them how to cook on Zoom.

Another key ingredient of the project is a venue. This has not always been the easiest aspect of the project. Initially we put a makeshift kitchen into the YES Shop – a pop up venue in the local shopping centre. The venue was ideal for us – centrally located, with a recreation room off the main kitchen for activities. When the Queensmere shut this side of the shopping centre we needed to look further afield. We relocated to Weekes Drive Community Centre in Cippenham. This took us away from the centre but was an easier location for pick-ups and drop offs. It was also prohibitively expensive. It led us to our latest destination in Kedermister Park, Langley, a venue owned by the Guides. The venue has a sizeable kitchen and a decent sized hall we can use for various activities. The park has a reputation for violence and antisocial behaviour so there is also a sense that we are in the right location, to bring something positive to an area which needs it.

Equipment

We have a lot of equipment, and this is an ingredient which cannot be underestimated. The key reason for this, is that if the project was simply about giving the young people food, a few industrial sized pans would have sufficed. But the project has always sought to ensure the young people can reproduce the dishes at home, and if they were only familiar with, for example, making a small contribution to an industrial process, they couldn’t recreate the recipes. Instead, every young person goes through all the steps themselves, and if that means that seven young people are cooking at the same time and it’s a recipe requiring two pans, we need fourteen pans in total. It is easy to see how an abundance of equipment is important.

The Recipes

Global Grub is run during the school holidays in Easter (one week), Summer (four weeks) and Christmas (one week). The dishes are determined in consultation with young people. They create a long list and Kevin, Sanna and Aida establish what can be achieved in a one-hour cooking session.

We had intended to create a cookbook for the young people, of the recipes they created. However, the young people told us quite directly that any such books would gather dust and not be looked at. Rather, they advocated for the creation of TikToks which would allow the young people to remember and follow the recipes in future, in a much more interesting way. At the time of writing, Global Grub recipes have attracted over a thousand views!

Famous Supporters and Royal Participation

As noted above, the project was no stranger to leveraging to power of social media, most significantly with promotional work on YouTube and recipes on TikTok. We also used Instagram, Facebook, and X to advertise the project. Marcus Rashford made one of our Global Grub tweets our most shared tweet ever when he retweeted it from his official account, resulting in over 230,000 views. Even more impressively, in January 2023, HRH Prince William visited Together As One to learn more about our work and took part in a Global Grub cooking session.

HRH Prince William gets involved in Global Grub cooking with Inaaya and Daisha.

HRH Prince William gets involved in Global Grub cooking with Inaaya and Daisha.

Views of Third Parties

Donna Sheldon visited Global Grub on behalf of the Department for Education in August 2023. We were delighted she took the time to really engage with the young people and joined us for some food. She was impressed with that she saw and invited Together As One to be a part of a best practice Bite Size Learning clip for HAF Providers. The clip can be seen below with the focus on Slough from 12:48:

Participation

Global Grub pre-dates our move to the fantastic Upshot system, which analyses data so straightforwardly for us. However, we can take 2023 as a snapshot to give readers an understanding of the scale of young people’s involvement and the diversity of the young people who have chosen to get involved. 128 young people took part in Global Grub. The average age of the participants was 14. The young people were from six different faiths and eighteen different ethnicities. 32 of the young people indicated they had SEND or a mental health condition.

At any given time, we struggle to exceed 7 or 8 young people in the kitchen. The optimum number of participants is probably slightly fewer at 5 or 6. The project has grown in popularity and though the young people who initially conceived the idea have started to move on, the new young people have shown a fantastic appetite for it to continue.

Evaluation

During the first Global Grub we asked young people to rate themselves against these key questions:

How would you rate…

  • your ability to cook different dishes?
  • knowledge of different cultures?
  • knowledge of nutrition?
  • confidence in communicating with people you don’t know?

We also used the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale to try to gain an understand of the project’s impact on mental health. Across the four areas outlined above and all but two of the areas covered in WEMWBS, the young people attested to an improvement.

Key Ingredients
  • Spaces for youth voice to inform project development.
  • Staff who are able to draw on youth work skills, as well as food technology
  • A spacious kitchen preferably with multiple ovens/hobs.
  • Plenty of equipment – the kinds of which you might find in your own home, rather than large commercial pans.
Young Health Champions Scheme for Windsor and Maidenhead

Young Health Champions Scheme for Windsor and Maidenhead

In April, the Young Health Champions Scheme will be introduced to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM). This initiative, led by Together As One and supported by Frimley ICB, offers young individuals the chance to earn a recognised qualification from the Royal Society for Public Health.

What is the Young Health Champions programme?

The Young Health Champions programme is a guided-learning programme which leads to a qualification; RSPH Level 2 Award for Young Health Champions. The programme is for young people who want to help other young people develop a healthier lifestyle and make their voice heard around health and wellbeing issues. This programme is for young people living or attending school in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead who are in schools years 9, 10, 11, or 12.

YHCs in the community

YHCs in the community

Who is leading the programme?

Together As One has been delivering training and youth work in the local community for the past 25 years. We have supported 6 cohorts of Young Health Champions through the programme, supporting a wide range of health messages in schools and the wider community.

Where will RBWM’s Young Health Champions meet?

We have planned for sessions to take place in the centre of Maidenhead. We have withheld the precise location for safeguarding reasons but contact us for further info.

When will sessions take place?

The Young Health Champions qualification is comprised of four modules. Young people will also meet with health professionals to drive change. Some modules will be completed in a day, others will take place on Wednesday evenings. A full schedule can be found below:

Module 1 Meet the team, learn about the programme, develop your understanding of health. Easter Holidays

Wednesday 10th April

10.00-17.00

Module 2 Develop your understanding of factors impacting mental health and wellbeing, and learn how you can support others to look after their own wellbeing. Wednesday evenings, 17.30-19.00

24th April

8th May

22nd May

 

Module 3 Discover what health services are available locally. Spend the afternoon secret shopping these services and provide feedback to commissioners and service leads. May Half Term

Wednesday 29th May, 10.00-17.00

Module 4 Your opportunity to be creative and share what you’ve learned with the community… Create a social media campaign, record a video or podcast, lead a workshop or presentation – the choice is yours! Wednesday evenings, 17.30-19.00

12th June

26th June

10th July

24th July

 

*Additional Wednesday evening sessions will take place in September/October 2024 to develop your health message.

 

If you would like to apply to be involved, please complete an application form by Thursday 4th April.

Safeguarding

Please see further information here

Have further questions?

Please contact Rosa Hopkins on [email protected] or 07540 750 269

Together As One hosts visitors from Northern Ireland

Together As One hosts visitors from Northern Ireland

Our connections with Northern Ireland remain strong in 2024, evidenced by two recent visits, and it’s not even the end of February yet! Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting Mid-Ulster Youth Voice, a group of young advocates from various areas including Dungannon, Magherafelt, and Cookstown, all focused on improving employment, transportation, and community safety. Twelve young people aged 16-18, along with three staff members, participated in our Safe and Sound event at the Curve. The following day, they enjoyed a sightseeing trip to London, and on their final day, they explored Slough, participated in our Global Grub project, and engaged in icebreaking activities with local youth. The experience was enriching for all involved as they bonded and learned from one another.

This week, we are fortunate to host staff from Springboard, Belfast, and young people from Roe Valley Residents Association, thanks to a visit facilitated by Belong, the national cohesion network. They were particularly interested in our approach to cohesion work, and our young volunteers shared some of the strategies we’ve developed for bringing people together, both in educational settings and the community.

Capturing the learning and joy of these gatherings can be challenging, but a podcast recorded in 2020 provides some insight. Featuring young people from Together As One (formerly Aik Saath), Long Tower Youth Club, and Our Streets (Derry Londonderry), the recording offers a glimpse into their lives, covering topics such as youth violence, faith, substance use, and mental health. In just 23 minutes, listeners can hear them compare and contrast their experiences, highlighting the value of providing opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to share their lives with each other.

 

Slough’s young people to begin their adventure in beekeeping

Slough’s young people to begin their adventure in beekeeping

Today marks a significant occasion, long-awaited and carefully prepared for! A group of young people from Slough are embarking on a journey to Ley Hill Cricket Club, eager to begin their education in the art of beekeeping.

But how did we reach this point? The British Science Association (BSA), along with the University of Reading and Slough CVS, extended invitations to community groups and charities in Slough and Reading. These groups primarily serve communities that are either new to research or typically underrepresented in such endeavours, inviting them to participate in a Community Led Research Pilot.

Initial discussions between the young volunteers of Together As One (Aik Saath) and representatives from the University of Reading and SCVS revealed a strong interest among the young people in the natural world and environmental issues. Some were concerned about climate change, while others were eager to contribute more to environmental causes.

Throughout the summer of 2023, the young volunteers participated in a diverse array of environmental activities, including upcycling clothing, canal cleaning, and learning about bat conservation and beekeeping. Among these activities, the beekeeping session emerged as a favourite among the young people. Their feedback indicated a strong enjoyment of all sessions, with beekeeping being the preferred pursuit to carry forward.

So, what came next? The university recognized the value of the young people’s journey, and due to the success of the initial exploratory projects, a decision was made to delve deeper. It became apparent from the outset that engagement in environmental activities could benefit the young people, and beekeeping was a subject they wished to explore further.

After successfully reapplying to the BSA, the project was selected to explore the impact of beekeeping on young people’s mental health. The search began for a beekeeping club or society willing to offer support. Several societies were contacted, and one, Chalfonts Beekeepers’ Society, enthusiastically offered their assistance. Their President, Sarah Peterson, has been supportive from the outset, and the society has generously collaborated to develop a training program for the young people.

While bees play a vital role in humanity’s survival, they aren’t always viewed positively. Securing accessible land willing to host a hive posed challenges. However, a pocket park next to Cocksherd Woods in Britwell has been identified as the ideal site. The volunteer-led site has everything a hive might need, including security, level surfaces and access to water via a pond (not essential but most welcome). Moreover, this initiative has the potential to contribute to broader initiatives aimed at making Slough more hospitable to wildlife, facilitated by the newly established Green Slough Community Development Trust.

Meanwhile, the university introduced the project team to Prof. Ciara McCabe, a renowned academic in mental health research, and her doctoral student, Sena Demir Kassem. They lead the research aspect of the project, focusing on mental health. Additionally, the project team is gaining valuable insights from them into the research process undertaken by universities and how to collaborate effectively with higher education institutions.

Please check back to follow our journey!

How SEND can affect mental health

How SEND can affect mental health

In this SEND Youth Forum session, the young people discussed mental health. The discussion started around why young people with SEND may be more likely to have mental health challenges than their peers and how mental health and SEND intersect. The young people shared a range of responses from some of their personal experiences to what their peers have felt.

How we feel…

Low self-esteem and low self-confidence were recognised by the group as some of the more common experiences that a young person may have because of a negative view of themselves and their diagnosis. Some young people with SEND have negative feelings linked to feeling ‘different’ or having different needs to their peers. As a result the young people can feel socially excluded and can have challenges building and maintaining friendships. This may cause them to feel left out and can result in  feelings of depression and anxiety.

Masking

Many young people may use masking as a coping strategy in their day-to-day life such as at school or in college. Masking is when someone disguises parts of their character to fit in better, this can include mimicking others. This can have a harmful effect on mental health as it is often exhausting and can result in feeling ‘burnt out’.

Feeling overwhelmed

Another theme that was highlighted was feeling overwhelmed in school by both academic pressures and behavioural expectations. There are instances of young people feeling as if they are expected to work at a standard that they feel is unattainable and when the young people internalise these pressures it negatively impacts them. Particularly when they feel the school or college is not providing them with accommodations that can help them feel like these goals are in reach so they feel more motivated to work towards them.

Furthermore, both young people and parents have emphasised that some young people do not have positive relationships with school staff and that they sometimes feel labelled by their teachers. When a young person is called out by staff or asked to leave the classroom repeatedly they can start to feel excluded from their peers. Particularly when a young person spends less time in the classroom due to internal/ external exclusions or a reduced timetable this can amplify the feelings of social exclusion and feeling left out. This results in them experiencing feelings of social anxiety and nervousness when they re-join the class.

Each child with SEND has a unique and distinct experience and it is important to consider how their diagnosis can influence their mental health and how they are supported to overcome some of these challenges in different environments.

Need support?

If you are concerned about your mental health or the mental health of another person, there is a useful list of services here.

If you are interested to learn more about the lived experiences of young people with SEND in Slough please contact Jovi 07709525687 or [email protected] .