Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Below is a personal account of what it is like to be part of Youth for Peace, Sant'Egidio's youth movement, for Ailsa: a 17-year-old member from London.
Youth For Peace isn't an organization, it really is a community of people who care about what they do and the people around them.
I’ve been able to grow so much as a person since joining Youth For Peace. The first time I joined when I was 16 we went to a Care Home for the Elderly and spent time with people who had become our friends. It was a way of keeping the elderly alive and reminding them that they have not been forgotten. It was an important experience because we befriended a number of people who had all had different experiences and had come from different backgrounds. We, as young people, can learn so much from older generations. Being able to become friends with people who had survived WW2 or had left their home countries when they were my age gave me a new perspective on the elderly that I may not have had if I hadn’t had the opportunity to become a member of Youth For Peace.
My favourite part of visiting our friends at the care home is celebrating our friends’ birthdays with them. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to put a smile on someone's face, something that as a society we should all strive to do. Happiness is a constant goal for Youth for Peace, it's the best way to make people feel less lonely or feel like they are part of a family. I also enjoyed singing songs with our elderly friends because you can instantly see their mood improve when we sing to them, it really is like looking at a new person.
I have also been lucky enough to have the chance to volunteer on Christmas Eve to help give free meals to the elderly and homeless. My role was to decorate, and then to be a waitress in the evening. Despite it being tiring, it was one of the best things I have ever done. Without Youth for Peace and Sant'Egidio, coming together as a family to help the wider community, many of the friends that came would have spent Christmas Eve alone. I was able to work with many new people, who all taught me so much, everyone was so sweet and even speaking to the older members of Sant’Egidio really was like speaking to someone who I’d known my whole life.
A year later I am now 17 and have applied to university. I can easily say that being a part of Youth For Peace has had a hand in preparing me for this next great step in my journey to adulthood. Constantly coming across new people has made me so much more social and has massively increased my confidence. Hopefully, I can carry on being a part of Youth For Peace because the work that is done truly is amazing; what we do really improves us as people as much as it improves and helps the community as well. The one lesson that I have taken from being a part of Youth for Peace is to never take kindness for granted, because everyone is important and nobody should be forgotten about.