2020 has been a tough year for all us. With new challenges, adapted ways of working and, of course, lockdowns, the youth sector is functioning very differently from how it did only one year ago.

At the end of this turbulent year, members of our team have reflected on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the sector as well as our personal lives, with a focus on the positive lessons we’ve learned. Take a look at their thoughts below.

Rachel, Mental Health Ambassador Coordinator

This year has been a test on our mental resilience. Our Mental Health Ambassador programme, which is part of the new Mental Wealth Academy partnership, has witnessed the strength and passion of individuals wanting to help and make a difference to others. The ambassadors are a group of young people aged 18-25 who are currently learning how to to use their own lived experience to help others. They are a reminder that we can help others find some light in a difficult time. ‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn the light on’ Dumbledore

Magda, Research and Impact Manager

I have learnt that in the face of a challenge, the youth sector in Oxfordshire was able to unite and share resources and knowledge to ensure that our local communities stayed supported.

Becky, Youth Participation Coordinator

Over 2020, I had the chance to work with our youth committee to support them to bring to life their idea of creating a podcast to offer young people a platform to have their voices heard. For me this reaffirmed the power of youth work and how when you give young people your time, support and the trust to take on leadership roles they can excel as individuals and a team to create something incredible.

For young people to show everyone exactly what they are capable of, sometimes all they need is a safe space and for someone to believe in them. Our youth committee are incredible and I couldn’t be more proud of everything that have achieved for themselves and others this year!

You can listen to The Oxfordshire Youth Podcast #AreYouListening on Spotify, ApplePodcasts, Anchor and YouTube.

Tad, Progression Coach for Young People’s Supported Accommodation (YPSA)

First and foremost we have come to realise the essential value of the overworked, underpaid key workers from nurses to shop workers. That they provide the integral backbone of our society, and deliver us the safeguarding services we need to separate order from chaos.

We have gained an understanding of isolation. But we have also seen the true colours of humanity from acts of great bravery, great greed and great kindness. We have learned the value of community and the essence of its nature. We have earned a greater understanding and appreciation for the simple things in life, and how to be thankful for them.

I hope the world will learn a lesson from Covid-19 that won’t be forgotten: Become better people to our friends and neighbours, learn to be grateful. The world will never be the same again, and we should count our blessings every day, however small they may be.

Hayley, Training Coordinator

2020 has definitely been a year of challenges where we have had to find creative solutions to continue working. It has been different but many of the new ways of working have been really effective and may change the way we work in the future. I am really proud of the things that Oxfordshire Youth has achieved this year, including the unforgettable Oxfordshire Youth Awards 2020, and I feel very grateful to be part of such a fantastic organisation.

David, Partnerships Manager

I don’t think the need for human connection has ever been made more stark in my lifetime than during this pandemic. Social distancing rules and the need to prioritise safety over comfort has had a profound effect on how we as individuals live out relationships that make our lives more meaningful. Before Covid-19, if someone told me I would be attending my Grandfather’s (my hero) funeral by watching it from my sofa, I would not have known how to react! But that’s what happened. We grieved together but separately. The relationships we already had within our families grew in new and unexpected ways, and the distance between us felt greater and smaller than ever before.

The need for positive relationships is a fundamental part of being a human, but, in 2020 we were told to stay apart and be there for each other. What a challenge! The ways that communities responded to the challenge was quite inspiring – people’s needs met by those they’d never met. Mouths covered but eyes and hearts wide open. Those supporting young people found creative and imaginative ways to use technology designed to bring us together to maintain relationships as well as house visits and conversations in the street. Whilst this may have meant that group leaders and professionals may have reached fewer numbers of young people, I will say with certainty that the impact of that connection will have been unquantifiable.

If I have learned nothing else from 2020, I will have learned that relationships transcend the social context in ways we sometimes can’t imagine. For those of us that seek to support young people as they journey through their lives; we must remember that no pandemic, social distancing measure or face covering can prevent us from making a meaningful impact. This is both a privilege and a responsibility. In 2021, how will I make a positive impact on all those that I have relationships with?

Sophia, Marketing Manager

I have learnt that in a time of disconnectedness, the power of social media and digital communication tools goes a long way in forming and maintaining a feeling of community. They allow us to share our knowledge and offer support. We hope to continue expanding our social media presence and we look forward to many more inspiring webinars in the New Year.

Leon, YPSA Service Manager for West Oxfordshire and South & Vale

I have learnt that in a year of change, not only within the [Young People’s Supported Accommodation] service but with Covid-19, the team have been tremendously resilient and never faulted with their hard work and passion for working with young people.

Georgia, Development Coordinator

When it felt like things were going against us, I learnt the one thing we will always have is the innate drive to support ourselves, and our young people. We are more resilient than we first thought, and half of that is because we showed up, rolled our sleeves up and got stuck in.

The image at the top shows Oxfordshire Youth team members and Oxford Media Factory staff who helped us turn the Oxfordshire Youth Awards 2020 into a successful livestream event.