A day in the life of... Rachael, Young Ambassador for Seventeen Nineteen

In September 2019 a £4.3 million project to repair and regenerate Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, began. The project, supported by Heritage Fund, will transform the church into Seventeen Nineteen, a stunning cultural venue in the East End of Sunderland. During the construction phase Rachel has been volunteering and helping out behind the scenes…..

 

Hello, I’m Rachael and I am 14 years old, I really like art and music. I live in South Tyneside, so hadn’t known anything about the church or the Seventeen Nineteen project before I visited in September 2019 and took part in one of the hard hat tours for Heritage Open Day.  The church is amazing!  It looks quite small from the outside but it is really huge on the inside and I love the big, open space. My favourite part is the unicorn’s horn on the Royal Coat of Arms on the gallery above the Nave – I can’t quite believe it is still intact and has survived all these years without getting damaged! My favourite room is the library with the hidden drawers – I know there were library tickets hidden in there that the team found which is cool.

 

I’m at school full time, and even during Covid-19 I have been home-schooled so have not had too much time to myself, but I wanted to help out so volunteered to do two micro-volunteering projects for Seventeen Nineteen.

My first volunteering project was to help Amanda and Tim (the project architect). They had been working with the college students to come up with some designs for new furniture for the building and they had to narrow the choices down to just three. I looked at each design and measured them against the student brief, I set up a matrix to mark the designs on creativity, heritage and interpretation. I then gave my feedback to the team, who used this to help make the final decisions – I am really proud my work helped with this, most of the designs were good and it was a tough choice.

A few months after I was asked if I wanted to help again; for the past 5 months I have been collating all the feedback from the events held at the church before lockdown and putting this into an Excel sheet – a huge task! I enjoyed entering the data and making it make some sort of sense, and reading all the comments to find out what people thought about the events – their handwriting was hard to decipher at times! I really like volunteering for the project, I like being involved in all the hard work that is going into trying to save this building and know that I am helping save it for the future. I have learnt some new skills too which I know will look great on my CV. Before this I had only used Excel once in school, now I’m quite confident in using it to record data. I’ve also learnt that these things take longer than you think, I am proud of how I was able to focus on the task and complete it without getting distracted by others things, which sometimes happens – especially with school work! Although it has been a bit weird to be volunteering whilst we are in lockdown. I feel more confident and am looking forward to being involved more in the future. I’m proud of myself and excited to get good feedback from the team. 

I like that the team are taking something really old and making something new for everyone. I think this will appeal to young people when its complete, the designs look cool and the activities look good if I was in charge I think I’d get a huge screen on the side of the building and play movies, or I’d do something at Halloween for young adults.

 

I think it’s important that young people are involved in heritage – it’s our future, and we need to know that what we do to help can save it in the future. At the minute there are a lot of older people looking after heritage, having young people involved is really important. I think if you were to try and get more young people involved, I would say skills building that helps yourself in the future and other people are important. It makes you feel proud and feel accomplished that I have done something to give back.

Top tips for any other young person thinking about being a Young Ambassador.
•    Don’t just think of this as a dusty old church – it’s more than that. Come along and find out, once lockdown is over of course!
•    Try to focus – and don’t get distracted. Volunteering is fun but it’s important too, and people are relying on us to help them out.
•    You can learn lots of new skills
•    It’s a chance to work with other people who you might not get to meet through your school / friend networks.
•    It looks great on your CV
•    Anyone can get involved – regardless of age.
•    Volunteering is really different to school, I got to pick what I wanted to be involved in – at school you don’t really get to choose the work you do. I feel like I was listened to with my ideas.  

A Message to those in charge of heritage sites
•    Young people have a lot to offer – they come with fresh ideas and are happy to be involved in decision making if given the chance.
•    Small projects are best – we need focus, and setting out a challenge / task for us that is time limited is more achievable with everything else we have going on.
•    I loved the idea of the stained glass workshop but I would like to see these especially for young people.
 

So what’s next for me?  

I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved to date, I’m also excited to know that my work is helping in some small way to save this building and help the team shout about what they are doing here – it’s going to be an amazing place to be when it is finished and I would love to be involved still in some way here. I think the volunteering here has also given me the confidence to volunteer in other places too. 

Comment