Phoenix Role Models

Author: Rebecca Delin

24th September 2019

When W.C. Fields said the now very famous quote: “Never work with children or animals” he was referring to child and animal actors as they would steal the scene.

Well they certainly did when I recently visited the Phoenix Youth Project!

I’ve been working at Cumbria Community Foundation as a Media & Content Officer for over 10 months and tonight was certainly the best day at work so far. I’m so lucky to get to meet so many great people in my role at the Foundation. From the moment I walked in, I was made to feel welcome and part of the group. That’s what makes me proud to live and work in Cumbria. I’m sure there is something in the Cumbrian air that makes people so friendly and generous.

Phoenix Youth Project has received more than £200,000 in grants from the Foundation and I was there to learn about the positive impacts these grants have made. In 2016, PYP received £5,000 to run a scheme called Phoenix Role Models. Local professionals attend youth work sessions to share career stories and give advice to young people. This session was the turn of environmentally friendly fashion brand Ruby and Bean.

Having role models in our life is very important. Positive role models influence our actions and motivate us to strive to uncover our true potentials and overcome our weakness.

Founders of Ruby and Bean, Amy and Louise both have a love for fashion. They use screen printing techniques and the finest quality inks, to create clothing for both adults and children. The designs are inspired by many things including their children, their lives and their own personal likes. Using popular colours and an array of garments, they have something for everyone. They are both very proactive in being involved in the community and you can often find them doing something to raise money for charity.

We started the night with an introduction to Cumbria Community Foundation’s connections with PYP and then a chat about careers in fashion and how you can change careers as your commitments and interests change. Then everyone had the opportunity to try on some of Ruby and Bean’s hand printed t-shirts and hoodies. I took lots of camera equipment including a spare camera, reflector and tripod so everyone could have a go. After a practice shoot indoors, we went out and about in Cleator Moor and had a fun-filled fashion shoot starring the young people as models, photographers and reporters.

It was a lovely warm evening and after an hour of fresh air, a good laugh and lots of posing for the camera, spirits were high and confidence even higher; even for the most shy. The comments were heart-warming: “I want to be a photographer when I grow up, I love this!”

Initially some of the young people were unsure about having their photo taken, so I made an effort to make sure everyone had a job. Whether it was as a second photographer, and believe me, my second photographers took some grand photos, or a reporter; interviewing each other on what they liked most about coming to PYP.

The change in their confidence was amazing.  “I love the clothes, thank you for your time and for being so kind to me, it’s boosted my confidence.” The fantastic young people involved have had an amazing evening and so have the role models, it’s a win-win. Connections were made and one young girl who volunteers in the younger youth group sessions, will keep in touch with Amy and Louise and do further modelling for them.

Towards the end of the session, one young girl asked if she could have a go with the camera as she hadn’t had the chance to yet. She loved it! And even took a fabulous photo of a dog whilst we were walking back after the photo shoot had finished. “I really enjoyed that; I’d like to ask for a camera for Christmas.”

Amy and Louise said: ‘It has been fantastic to share our experiences and business with PYP, seeing the children engage in what we were doing and really get involved was incredibly rewarding.’

Life is a journey, not a destination. We are always learning from each other. And tonight I learnt a lot. It’s good to try something new and build social connections. I came away feeling more confident about myself because I had made people smile and they had made me smile. I would certainly recommend being a positive role model in your community. Although that wasn’t my intention tonight as I was there to do a job as part of my role at the Foundation, I felt in some way I was able to be a positive role model and share my passion for photography and was able to infect others with my passion and motivate them to try something new. Amy and Louise did absolutely the same with their passion for fashion. It was all round a great night.

Role models play an important role in inspiring young people to learn and overcome obstacles. Remember success is to be measured not so much about the position that you have reached in life but by the obstacles which you have overcome.

If you would like to get involved and share your passion and inspire others, get in touch with Paul Rowe, Project Manager at Phoenix Youth Project: 01946 814555, paul.rowe@phoenixyouthproject.org.uk.

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