The charity works towards promoting better outcomes for young black people. Photograph: Voyage Youth Hackney-based charity Voyage Youth has spoken to the Citizen about an innovative and dynamic new pilot project, Operation Smiles, that it is spearheading in collaboration with florist Arena Flowers.

During the conversation, Voyage Youth also discusses how the pandemic and the widespread surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement has impacted on its work.

Operation Smiles will see young people across the borough distributing flowers to individuals and groups who have played an instrumental role in their lives as a means of thanking them.

The project will also feature a critical educational dimension as young people will have the opportunity to gain a greater insight into some of the most critical global challenges of our age, which continue to confound and divide political actors, academics and Non-Governmental Organisations alike.

Through Operation Smiles, young people will learn about environmentalism and sustainability, in addition to how they can play leadership roles in grassroots community activism addressing these issues.

Voyage Youth’s CEO, Paul Anderson said: “The project operates on many levels but is essentially an upcycling volunteering project designed to redistribute unsold flowers from Arena Flowers to individuals in need.”

The project will commence on Friday 10 July and flowers will be distributed over the following six weeks.

Paul continued: “We wish to focus Operation Smiles on those recovering from the symptoms of the pandemic, those who have lost loved ones, unsupported carers in the community as well our Windrush elders.”

He added that he particularly wanted the young volunteers to “bring joy and smiles” to those people who have played an important role in enriching their own lives.

Paul said there has been a considerable outpouring of enthusiasm for the project, and that the young people he works with have a keen interest in using their additional time constructively to engage in meaningful activities that positively impact their communities.

This is a sentiment which flies in the face of stereotypical media portrayals of disengaged, self-centred young people cocooned in a bubble of social media and frivolous gossip.

Voyage Youth is a social justice charity which specifically works towards promoting better outcomes for young black people experiencing marginalisation and disadvantage.

The charity runs a diverse range of activities designed to enhance educational attainment, emotional wellbeing and employment skills.Its aim is to address social exclusion by instilling a sense of purpose, focus and resilience into each young person using the service.In April, Voyage Youth, along with other charities, spoke to the Citizen about fears the coronavirus pandemic would intensify child criminal exploitation and that young people’s experiences would go unseen and unnoticed by wider society.They warned that if the plights of affected children and young people were not placed high on the agenda by policy-makers, they would be rendered the invisible, hidden victims of the pandemic.Though these conversations took place only a few short months ago, in some ways, as a society it feels we are universes away from where we were at the beginning of lockdown.We have all […]