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Want to change your community? Just think big

This opinion piece is over 7 years old

Young Jordan Kyle and his friends transformed their local community for the better

Victory always tastes sweet – at least that’s what my dad tells me. So when we, a group of school kids, managed to get our local authority to agree to us creating a safe play area in Motherwell’s Forgewood, we felt we’d changed the world.

We created the campaign after our friend Ryan Chan was racially abused by teenage drinkers in the local park. The area had become littered and populated by drinkers and even the council wouldn’t go near the place.

All we wanted was to reclaim our right to feel safe in our local park.

Forgewood doesn’t have much in local amenities. It is classed as an area of high deprivation despite being relatively small. So young people don’t have much to do in the evenings and the area has been labelled with a reputation for crime.

Jordan Kyle
Jordan Kyle

With help from our parents, teachers and backing from the community, we created a plan to transform the area. We came to the conclusion that if it was looked after and policed by community officers, then it could become the place we always wanted – a safe enjoyable area for families and the general public.

We first met with councillors who, while initially impressed, said no cash would be made available. So we went to a dozen funders before eventually winning an award from the Big Lottery Fund for £15,000.

This bought gardening tools, fencing, soil and materials. We provided the labour – 30 volunteers lent their time and effort over a six month period.

Things only progressed when we got our MSP involved. I sent a letter telling her about the situation and she invited us to the Scottish Parliament to discuss it with her.

She then got in touch with the council and were eventually allowed to start work on the park.

We even got comedian and broadcaster Tam Cowan involved. He gave us his backing – he grew up in Forgewood and said he was proud to be associated with the campaign.

The whole experience we gained from campaigning was life-changing. I realised the most important asset is the people you have around you. If you believe in something – like we did – then nothing can stop you. If you are motivated then you can achieve anything. As long as you have the belief that what you are doing is justified.

I'm only 16 but after the project was complete I felt I wanted to do more. We have a career advisor at school and she said it is something I could look forward to doing as a profession after I leave university.

It also taught me a lot about politics, central and local governments as well as how legislation works.

The core who formed the group are still together and we want to go on and create new campaigns to regenerate the local area. We’ve still got the momentum and we’ve talked about getting other schools involved from outlying areas in Motherwell to share our experiences.

If you believe in something you have to fight for it. And if you do so you can change even the most impossible situation. You’ve just got to think big.