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Lancaster University’s Volunteering Unit has received recognition from the Government for its work tackling social problems such as homelessness and helping others turn their lives around. Staff and students involved in Voltage were invited to meet Cabinet Minister Jack Straw, along with Vernon Coaker, School Minister, and local MP Ben Wallace, to demonstrate their progress and achievements in the House of Commons on Tuesday 30th June.
Voltage, which was launched in 2002, helps young people who have had a difficult upbringing to create their own social enterprises and a better future for themselves. It has helped many vulnerable youngsters turn their backs on the street. “We believe we are delivering a project like no other in the country and we are thrilled and honoured that the government wants to learn more about what we’re doing” said Ben Matthews, director of LUVU.
Jack Straw said “Young people often get bad press, but what the Voltage project is showing is that if we focus on unlocking their talents they can find ways to improve their communities and our society”.
A clear indicator of the success of the showcase can be seen from the media attention across the globe. USA Today featured the article on their website, labelling the organisation a “pioneering scheme”. The event also enabled the Voltage volunteers to reach out and attract the attention of several cross party MPs, alumni and influential people in the charity sector, who have since been in contact with the organisation. Matthews commented that some of the meetings had been very “hopeful”.
Michael Payne, LUSU President, called the showcase “a roaring success.” With the organisation’s current strength and high aspirations, Voltage will carry on to contribute significantly to the local community, encouraging youngsters to reach their full potential with a little bit of help and motivation.
On future ambitions for the project, Matthews said “the growth of the project is a challenge but we just need more people to get involved”. To become involved with the Voltage initiative visit the LUVU website www.luvu.org.uk or call Ben Matthews on 01524 592828.
Profile: Debbie Wilkie
From living her life on the street corner, alone and destitute, to becoming the managing director of her very own company, Debbie Wilkie, 17, has managed to change her life around with the help of Voltage.
At the age of 15, Wilkie found herself on the streets of Blackpool with little hope of anything positive happening in her life after her mother died of a brain haemorrhage and her father refused any contact with her. “I was heading toward a life of drinking and taking drugs and I was afraid,” said Wilkie.
However, her life took an abrupt turn when she discovered Voltage. It has helped her start up her own business, Earth, growing plants and selling greeting cards to raise money for Streetlife Trust – a cause which has helped many of her friends. “I have now got my own place and I have moved on with my life” said Wilkie.
Ben Matthews said “Debbie is an inspiration and a wonderful example of what young people can achieve if they are given the right support and encouragement”.