A group of French youngsters visiting Wearside to learn about youth politics received a warm welcome from Mayor of Sunderland Cllr Doris MacKnight and members of the city’s Youth Parliament today (Wednesday August 23rd).
Six youngsters from Saint-Nazaire, Sunderland’s twin city in France, will be spending four days in the city as part of a youth council research project.
The French visitors will be working closely with Sunderland Youth Parliament (SYP) to learn how to develop the work of their own youth parliament, as well as compare ways of working and share best practice. They will also get to spend some free time touring the city.
SYP, a group of 22 young people, aged 11 to 18, works to give a voice to children and teenagers in Sunderland. The group works with Together for Children, to help shape services, regularly meeting with staff as well as Sunderland’s councillors and MPs.
Greeting the French youngsters to the city, Mayor of Sunderland Cllr Doris MacKnight said: “It is a pleasure to meet the young people from our twin city of Saint-Nazaire and formally welcome them to Sunderland.
“I hope that through working with our Youth Parliament our visitors can gain an insight into the fantastic work that is done here and take home new ideas and knowledge that they can use to develop their own work.”
Visitor Gaïdig Carré, 17, from Saint-Nazaire, said: “This visit is the culmination of a year of hard work and the first official year of our work in citizen engagement. We are looking forward to experiencing another culture and meeting people, as well as learning about the work of Sunderland Youth Parliament.”
Thomas Crawford, 18, chair of SYP, said: “We’re all excited about meeting and working with our French visitors, having spent time preparing for the visit. We can’t wait for a few days of fun and activities with them, plus a chance to brush up on our French.
“The visit shows that the concept of youth voice doesn't stop at borders, and we're all feeling privileged to be able to help another youth group develop theirs.”
Recently SYP has worked with Together for Children’s education services in the city to design a ‘Curriculum for Life’, helping to prepare school pupils for the experiences they may face in areas such as mental health, sex and relationships and money management.
The group is also responsible for hosting the State of the City Debate, which takes place in November each year and brings together schools across the city to discuss topical issues.
Simon Marshall, director of Education at Together for Children, said: “It is fantastic that the groups from Saint-Nazaire and Sunderland have this opportunity to work together and shape how they can be involved at the highest level in the decisions that affect them in their respective cities.
“Sunderland Youth Parliament’s work this year around Curriculum for Life has brought fresh and interesting ideas around how we can shape the city’s education services in future, putting young people at the heart of what we do.”