Breaking down stereotypes

Sophie Livingstone, CEO of City Year UK

I live in multi-cultural London and yet, if I didn’t work for a charity, how many people would I meet from different walks of life? Sadly, research shows not many and that’s having a negative impact on trust; in our neighbours, wider communities and between generations, leaving us all the poorer.

That’s why, like The Challenge, I believe in the need to create new shared spaces where integration not segregation is the norm. The organisation which I lead, City Year UK, does that through voluntary service. As Martin Luther King said “Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve” and that’s the experience of our volunteers, known as corps members, who’ve given a year to support disadvantaged children in urban schools as role models, mentors and tutors.

Aged 18-25 and deliberately drawn from diverse backgrounds, corps members can not only have a transformative impact on pupils, widening their horizons, but also find their City Year life changing. When questioned at the beginning of the programme, only 32 per cent of volunteers thought that ‘most people can be trusted’, by the end, it was 59 per cent. As one explained: “I’ve met people who have different views to mine but are working for the same cause…it breaks down your idea of stereotypes”

Sophie is a member of the Commission's Delivery Working Group

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