Meet the young people breaking down barriers in Scotland

Published on 02.04.21

IYS provide culturally appropriate mental health support for young people in Scotland

Intercultural Youth Scotland

is a grassroots nonprofit, led by young black people and people of colour (BPoC.)  The charity provides a culturally appropriate youth service, with an emphasis on fairness in employment, positive destinations and performing arts, all of which has a positive impact on young people’s mental health.

Through a network of Ambassadors, IYS reaches out to children and young people aged 11 – 18, giving them a voice and offering them a safe space and a place to nurture their talents.  A lot of the work that IYS does is to create pathways into the performing arts, giving young people a way to express themselves.

IYS received a Tiny Changes Covid Relief Fund grant in 2020. At that time, this small charity was under a lot of pressure to suddenly move their services online in lockdown, against a backdrop of funding cuts, surge in the Black Lives Matter movement and lack of culturally appropriate mental health services for BPoC young people in Scotland. This is their story.

The race equality movement gathered pace and gave strength to the voices of young people of colour.

As a result of this, IYS has seen a massive increase in the number of young people using their platform. Covid-19 has been ‘a double-edged sword’ for IYS. It was important for IYS to take this new engagement and amplify what young people are saying and what they need. Their focus was to get young people together, support their mental health and engage them in activities and research, but with numerous lockdowns that was difficult and became almost impossible.  IYS champion the importance of peer support – young people supporting other young people – and this has been greatly impacted by lockdown and the withdrawal of face-to-face support.

Tiny Changes’ funding has allowed IYS to take their services both online and into safe spaces, allowing them to connect with more young people than before.

Here is the story of 19-year-old D.

D is a nineteen-year old with Nigerian heritage, who immigrated to Scotland with his family:

D found his love for music playing the piano. Since joining IYS, with encouragement and support from IYS friends, staff and volunteers, his confidence and performance ability has grown and he has immersed himself in everything that IYS has to offer.

D’s favourite performance with IYS was an event held at the Pianodrome, held last November when restrictions had been lifted a bit, although they were still respectful of socially distancing guidelines.

‘The whole place was literally made of pianos, from the seats to the stage, everything was a piano or was made of piano parts.  As a pianist, it was a really enjoyable experience performing on a piano, surrounded by pianos.  The drome had vibrant and rich acoustics which made singing in that environment mesmerising.’

“Watching D on stage is delightful.  He truly shines.  At our first Scotland in Colour event, D performed an original song about embracing who you are.  Seeing him on stage in a room full of people of colour, dancing and singing along to his music was amazing and the joy on his face was priceless.”

- Intercultural Youth Scotland

The funding IYS received from Tiny Changes helped raise young people’s voices.

The grant helped IYS young people have access to mental health support, to create something, have something to look forward to and be heard. It also made it easier for young people to access accreditation, which is crucial for them to get into further education.

IYS are in a better position to access further funds after securing this small grant and showing the big difference they can make, even with a small amount of money. In their own words:

“Without IYS this year, I wouldn’t have coped with being cooped up in this house 24/7. It allowed me to leave my house and I could meet friends and new people, perform, vibe and eat.”

- IYS young person

“It helped give us hope, it supported artistic expression which is key for mental health.  Young people had an opportunity to be involved with something that was unique and that they felt comfortable in.”

- Intercultural Youth Scotland

What's next

Historically mental health services in Scotland for young Black and people of colour have only been provided with short-term or insufficient funding and have had to subsequently shut down shortly after opening. IYS is advocating for a stable, permanent and specialised mental health service for BPoC young people. They’re working to improve access

They’re looking for people to help them bring about this systemic change and we at Tiny Changes are looking forward to working alongside the amazing team and young people at IYS and others on this.

If you’d like to find out more about Intercultural Youth Scotland and the work that they do, head on over to their website.

To help young minds feel better, and fund more projects like this one click here to donate to Tiny Changes.

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