Katherine Walton, School Programmes and Partnerships Manager at Restless Development meets with a young triathlete to see how she’s been coping and making change in lockdown.
Youth Power to me means young people being brave and doing something good that they believe in.“
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that there’ve been times during this pandemic that it’s been too much. Anxiety about family members and friends, feeling isolated, or feeling helpless at the state of the world. It’s sometimes difficult to find those bright lights in times of darkness – which is why it was an absolute pleasure to be part of the International Youth Day celebrations and interview Georgia! Her incredible resilience in the face of uncertainty is so inspiring. Being confronted with unprecedented challenges and rising to them, supporting the people around her and working with others to achieve something wonderful. I’m proud to share Georgia’s story with you and I hope it’s a light in dark times.
Georgia is 10 years old, in year 5 at Pinewood School in Wiltshire. After COVID-19 forced UK schools to close, millions of young pupils were sent home and into lockdown. Georgia told me about some of the things she found difficult, as well as the things that helped her get through it.
“It has been a weird and scary time because of coronavirus, and I’ve really missed my friends. We had to do virtual homeschooling during the week. I think we all worked hard at that, and it was good to see each other in the live lessons.”
“We also found new ways to keep in touch with Zoom, and WhatsApp video calls. This was a good thing, because we were really feeling lonely and sad. It’s better now that we can see friends again, but sad we can’t hug.”
“Also my mum is deaf and has a respiratory condition. I had to stay home more, and now if we go to a shop I have to help her hear what people are saying because of masks she can’t lip read.”
Her family are all avid cyclists, and have enjoyed going for lockdown cycle rides together! Georgia has often taken part in the under 10 cyclocross and other sporting events.
I’ve missed school and all my friends a lot this year, but I’ve been doing lots of cycling which is my favourite thing to do.”
Georgia was also signed up to take part in the Flight Centre Schools Triathlon, the largest sport charity event for young people in the UK. This is how I met Georgia, as I help organise these events. This year we had 4,300 pupils aged 7-13 expected to take part across 5 events, raising money for Restless Development and local charities.
Like many mass-participation events, the Schools Triathlon Series was cancelled. As part of the International Youth Day celebrations, we launched #TriThisAtHome – a virtual summer challenge with the aim to travel 40,075km around the world by the end of August. And Georgia was really quick to jump on board.
“I chose to do the #TriThisAtHome challenge because I was going to be doing the Marlborough College Flight Centre Schools Triathlon in May with a team of my school friends, but it was cancelled because of coronavirus. I didn’t want to let the charity down. I like fundraising, I think it’s important to help and the challenges look fun!”
Hundreds of participants have committed to running, walking or cycling one of the 6 famous landmark challenges: 3km Golden Gate Bridge, 5km Sydney Harbour, 10km Great Pyramids, 35km English Channel, 55km Niagara Falls and the showstopper 130km Mount Everest! Tracking their kilometres, learning fun facts and receiving rewards on the #TriThisAtHome app.
But for Georgia, one challenge just wasn’t enough, and she signed up to complete all 6 #TriThisAtHome landmark challenges (238km!!) by the end of August.
“I’ve completed the first 4 challenges so far, some with extra kilometres! I’m planning on doing the Niagara Falls challenge next and then the Mount Everest challenge, which I may split into two stages. I ran the Golden Gate Bridge challenge, that was tough! I haven’t run properly since my school closed in March. I’m much happier cycling the challenges. I liked the Pyramid challenge best so far, it was a really fun route.”
Georgia has raised £135 on her JustGiving page to raise money for Restless Development.
“I’ve read some of the stories of young people that have been helped by Restless Development to have the skills and confidence they need to help their communities. I think that’s a good thing, and that girls are given the same chances as boys.”
Restless Development is all about young people’s voices and youth leadership. But for me that means more than just creating space at the table for young people – it’s giving them the microphone, letting them speak and insisting they’re taken seriously. Training, mentoring, nurturing and connecting thousands of young people to lead change for a just and sustainable world.
When asked what was the one thing that she wanted to change in the world, Georgia replied:
“I would really like to see fewer cars on the road and a lot more people cycling, that was a great thing to see in lockdown, everyone was friendly and we made friends with people we passed regularly. There was a lot more wildlife about and the air was much better/cleaner.“
International Youth Day is always a great time to reflect on how the world is supporting young people. There are undoubtedly a whole host of unprecedented challenges faced by young people today – climate change, rise in unemployment, discrimination, disrupted access to, or lack of education to name just a few. It’s easy to feel incredibly overwhelmed and lost but young people like Georgia remind me that young people also have power. Young people are resilient and brave, able to persevere and rise to the challenges we face, building communities that support one another to make our world more just and sustainable.