On Saturday 3 February 2018 Youth Forum members from Our Bright Future projects across the country met in York. Aaron Wheeler was one of them. Here’s his story…
Hey guys, my name is Aaron Wheeler. Not Alan, Darren or even Karen…as I’ve been called on the phone before! I’m 24 and I’m involved in a Liverpool Our Bright Future project called BEE You. In my obviously biased opinion, it’s an amazing and important project that is focussed on getting young people into; how’d you guess? beekeeping! Organised by a Liverpool woman’s charity, Blackburne House, and a housing organisation called South Liverpool Homes, it’s delivered as an easy to follow but intriguing course. It even grants students an official qualification, which is recognised by the BBKA (British Beekeepers Association). The goals of the project are to tackle social isolation and to address the declining honey bee population in Britain. The team who run the course are all incredible, with a special mention to Martin, Lynne and our main tutor Ian; if you ever get a chance to meet Ian, ask him about his bees down on the allotment!
As with most things in life, my involvement, even discovery of the course, was completely random. I was living away from Liverpool at the time and only spent weekends at home. I bought the local newspaper and saw the ad that offered me the chance to immerse myself in a world that I only too often admired from afar, or at the height of a dandelion flower. A free beekeeping course for 11-24 year olds! It’s probably here I should say that I have always been obsessed with bumble bees; in my opinion the most iconic, noble and beautiful of all insects, which bears a rustic and quintessentially British charm. The majestic creatures are both gentle and docile, despite their depictions in pop culture. From this appreciation, it was quite an easy transition to the fascinating world of honey bees. And with this ad, I now had the opportunity to play a part in the reversal of declining bee populations. Willingly playing the cliché card with ‘and the rest was history’.
Just by saying ‘yes’ to something you feel passionate about, in this case beekeeping, it can lead to so many opportunities, and the chance to meet genuinely fantastic people. Between us, I’m quite a shy person, and feel as though I don’t put myself out there nearly as much as I should. But just by saying ‘yes’, I have been asked to be a beekeeping tutor. How did that happen!? In addition, I was asked to be a part of a bigger project and a bigger vision, to be an Our Bright Future Youth Forum member. It is a great opportunity, and my friend Rachel and I became the Our Bright Future Youth Forum representatives for BEE You. Likely different for everyone, but for me, being part of a Youth Forum, is not only about being an ambassador for the causes I hold sacred, but also to represent the place I call home and the people that live there. You see, accents, places, ages, labels, jobs, schools, media can all divide us, and at times we are a bit guilty of being glued to our phones and forgetting about the real world.
So, in whirlwind, there we are, me and Rachel riding on an early morning train to York, discussing ideas and feeling inspired. We were heading to the Youth Forum meet-up, a BIG get together of a whole host of environmental projects, all interconnected through the Our Bright Future programme.
We arrived at a grand hotel like something out of Georgian painting, with an immensely scaled portrait of a young Marie-Antoinette hanging in the lobby, ten out of ten for the venue we thought! And this was before being served that quality spread!
We found the hall and were met by Jenna and John who were lovely and so warming, it was then I thought we were in for a really positive day. We sat at a table with two other Youth Forum members, who came from London and the Midlands. It was only when the representatives started taking it in turns to present their projects, that I truly got a sense of a what a national movement for environmental change Our Bright Future is. It was so inspiring to see other shy young people completely owning that space and time with their endeavours. I felt blessed and privileged to be there with everyone. When Rachel and I rose and took the baton, the entirety of our 3 hours preparation, played off, and fell out the window! At least on my behalf anyway! Hopefully we got the essentials across though.
The activities throughout the day really brought us together as a unit. I loved having the chance to meet so many, switched on and motivated young people, who felt as strongly, and were as determined about the environment as I am! To conclude, awesome day, great people, serious game-plan time and can’t wait to meet up with everyone again very soon!