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I took a bit of a gamble when I was Mayor. All Mayors use their year to fundraise for their chosen charity, but in my case I decided to set up a new one, Young Kingston. There was a risk that people would not get behind my vision, that little money would be donated and that the charity would not be sustainable.
But it worked. We raised over £23,000 during the year, which was a terrific start, and we have added to that figure since, with sponsorship from Chessington World of Adventures and Kingston Philharmonia among others.
For me, the most important thing is that in the last five years we have given away many thousands of pounds to young people in the borough to fund their dreams and their projects.
The criteria for the awards are simple. The applicants must be in the age range 5 to 19 (or 25 if they have a disability), and they must live or study in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
Young Kingston will awards grants of up to £500 to support projects that are led by young people and that provide some benefit to the wider community. They are allowed to have adult help and we can supply CRB checked advisers if the young people need advice and extra encouragement. (If you're wondering how to apply, go to the website).
We have backed dance performances, a film festival, and the construction of a garden in memory of a teacher, amongst others. In several cases we have provided grants to cover training which will allow the young person to then share their skills with others - these have included a range of sports coaching courses.
Another strand of our work is the encouragement of excellence. Young Kingston gives grants to young people who represent the Borough at a national level - this is particularly important for minority sports, where there is little national funding for competitors. We are particularly pleased to have helped members of the Special Olympics ten pin bowling team. We have also supported a young actor who had been accepted into the National Youth Theatre. In all these cases the benefit to the community lies in the glory they bring to the Borough.
Last year Young Kingston sponsored the International Youth Arts Festival, which is based in Kingston, providing funds to train a key volunteer and backing some of the performances. The same offer is available this year.
The decisions about grants are taken by a Grants Panel whoich is made up of young people aged 14 to 19. They also act as ambassadors for Young Kingston in their schools. Inevitably, they grow up and move on, so we constantly need to find new volunteers. This week I went along to the Schools Council Forum, which brings together the members of the school councils in each of the secondary schools in the borough. I told them about the opportunities that Young Kingston offers and asked if anyone would like to join the Grants Panel. To my delight ten young people volunteered, so our future is assured.
I should add that Young Kingston is not, strictly speaking, a charity but a charitable fund administered by the London Community Foundation. They provide us with admin services and invaluable advice to our steering group.