Jemima explains her experience on Drivers for Change and highlights why her peers made it so special.
It’s midnight and I’m sat awake on my bed, wondering what on earth I am doing. It is just over a month since I started on my journey with Drivers for Change and I appear to find myself right where I started. Sat awake on my bed, wondering what on earth I am doing, just now I’m wearing a funky DfC t-shirt instead. I only returned home a day before I was due to leave for Liverpool to go on a trip which would, quite literally, change my life. I’d been camping in Scotland, and although I had a nice time, I underestimated how tired and agitated I would be. I really didn’t want to go on Drivers for Change. I just couldn’t be bothered. I started thinking about all the excuses I could give, the ways I could get out of it, so I could just lie in bed for the next 11 days binge watching TV, eating junk food and doing nothing of worth whatsoever. At this stage, you may be wondering why on earth someone like me got picked to participate in such a programme, and at this stage, I was also asking myself the same question.
My motivation must have been washed away by the rain in Scotland because I really wasn’t feeling the need to change the world – just the need to change into my pyjamas. I am glad to say that despite the lure of bad daytime TV, I got up the next morning and got on the train to Liverpool. On the way up, I started to give the journey some thought. I realised that over the past couple of months, so much had happened, that I hadn’t actually looked into what Drivers for Change was all about. I struggled to tell people what I was going to be doing for a week and half because I didn’t actually know myself. And then the stress hit. I was going to a city that I had never been to before, to meet a bunch of 80 young people, who I’d never met before and drive around the UK for 11 days. What on earth was I doing? Before I had time to really ponder that question, my train ride was over. I was in Liverpool. I must inform you all that I am not a city girl. Walking around Liverpool, I found myself absorbed into another world. People were rushing about around me, cars were beeping, cyclists flying past. I was mesmerised by the hussle and bussle of it all. By the time I eventually made it to the meeting point at Blackburne House, I felt exhausted. But I had made it!
I met the organisers of the programme before being pointed in the direction of ‘the others’ – it was time to mingle, make awkward introductions and typical British small talk about the weather and Brexit. I could feel the stress rising again, as I kept asking myself over and over again what I was doing there. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have such a passion for what they were doing. I met people who wanted to stop food waste, fight for female empowerment and equality and help vulnerable young people. I began to feel as though I was not worthy enough to be part of this group. I just liked trees. I only started my project to get more people into forestry 3 months previously and I felt completely out of my depth.
I look back at this moment and with hindsight, it is painful to see how wrong I was. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was part of an amazing group of people, and I was worthy enough to be there. I could go on for hours and hours (or pages and pages) about all the details of the journey, but there is not the time for that, so let me just relive one moment for you.
We were in Liverpool for two nights and on the second night, we spent the evening in the Baltic Triangle. We were all living the dream, as we had been given food vouchers to get ourselves dinner and we spent a long time weighing up all the different options. By this stage, we had been split into smaller groups so that over the course of the journey, we could all feedback to each other and work on projects. I stuck with my team as we went on the hunt for food, but I soon found myself getting
overwhelmed. There was just so many people, so much noise and movement. This was a whole new environment for someone who has grown up in the countryside and spent the majority of their time studying in forests. A lot of my team decided that they were going to stay out and grab a few drinks, but I really didn’t want to. I just wanted to head back to the hostel and clear my head. I was dreading telling everyone that I was just going to head back because I am then normally accused of ruining the fun, but something strange happened.
My team understood.
There was no negative peer pressure or name calling. They asked me again if I was sure I didn’t want to stay, but after my second no, everyone accepted my decision. Not only that, but I then got offers of people walking back to the hostel with me. It was then that I realised how special this group of 80 young people was.
This was no run-of-the-mill leadership programme with people who needed an egoboost. This was a community, a family of like minded people who were understanding. After that, my stress disappeared. I wasn’t worried about fitting in or being ‘worthy enough’. Everyone on that journey accepted everyone else for who they were, no matter their background, colour, creed, religion, interests, drinking preferences, fashion choice, hair style, status, age, gender, race, wealth… There was a mutual understanding that everyone was different, but that the difference was what made us all special. For the rest of the journey, I spoke to so many people, and it was no longer awkward to introduce myself, and the need for small talk vanished. We learnt to lead with our vulnerabilities and to not be ashamed of them, but to embrace them. I didn’t just learn about entrepreneurship and social action, I experienced it. I didn’t just go on a journey from Liverpool to London, I went on an adventure, rediscovering the passion and drive for what I want to do.
But most importantly, I learnt that anyone can make change happen. You don’t have to be an important person to be influential. Sometimes the biggest impact is made with the smallest of changes and just knowing this has changed my entire outlook on the world. I call it the DfC effect. Now, when I see something I don’t like or I think something could be done differently, I don’t just comment on it and move on. I start to think about what the problem is and how I can change it, and now I have a whole network, or should I say family, of people to help me create the change I want to see.
So, I am still sat here, on my bed, but this time it is different. I am sat here in awe at the fact that I have the power to make change happen. I am still wondering what on earth I am doing, but because I never believed that I could make a change – the DfC effect has most certainly taken a hold of me and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.