MANY newspaper headlines are devoted to young people and their alleged anti-social behaviour – very few to the sterling work being done by more idealistic young members of organisations like the Woodcraft Folk.
For many years, the Co-op Movement has offered strong support to this broadly socialist movement for children and young people, which works toward building a world based on equality, friendship, peace and co-operation.
Project Director Julie Thorpe is currently planning a camp for 5,000 people in the heart of Kent – on the North Downs in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Global Village 2006, from July 29th to August 9th, will aim to build, for a fortnight in southern England, a community of young people and adults working together with real optimism and a determination to change the world for the better.
It will also aim to raise awareness of what needs to be done if future generations of our children are to grow up ‘free from want' and ‘free from fear' – and try and empower young people to pursue this goal. Julie, who lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, was a volunteer for many years before becoming Project Director.
She says: "We are attracting increasing numbers of young people all the time. A lot of them have been involved in the anti-war campaigns and projects like Make Poverty History. Our approach is to find new ways of empowering them."
Across the UK, there are about 500 Woodcraft branches and Julie is delighted the Global Village has received backing from the Department for International Development.
There has also been a lot of support from the Co-op Movement, especially Co-op Party Chair Gareth Thomas MP, who is now a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Internatonal Development.
So far, there are plans for all kinds of workshops on co-operative themes, from banner making, to internet exploration and Fairtrade.
Says Julie: "Fairtrade is exactly the sort of area where young people feel they can really do something and education is absolutely vital to change the attitudes of their peer groups."
Co-operative suppliers like Suma are helping with the belt and braces tasks like providing food and drink – The Global Village will have at least three cafes – one highlight will be a "chocolate summit" (Fairtrade of course).
In all, there will be 5,000 delegates (4,000 of them young people) attending from 49 different countries, including South America, Asia, and South Africa, with many young delegates from all over Europe, particularly the former Eastern European countries.
The Global Village also has the backing of the International Falcon Movement, a worldwide socialist youth organisation founded just after the Second World War, which brings together very diverse organisations.
Aside from the ethics of it all, the practical logistics of the camp are pretty awesome. Julie is currently working with the appropriate authorities on the nuts and bolts of how to house 5,000 people – and provide essential site services like washing and toilet facilities.
"We have a large team and they are doing a wonderful job. It should be fantastic."
During the two weeks of the Global Village programme, the young people and adults attending will explore ways in which a democratic approach to future peace, development, and justice can be developed by children and young people.
A highlight for many will be a promenade performance of The Fear Brigade, a new work by Adrian Mitchell, a writer and poet who for many years has been associated with the peace and internationalist movement.
Says Julie: "It will be huge, with various parts of the show in different parts of the campsite. It is about a runaway girl who meets up with an old tramp and lost dog, and they band together to fight a fear of everything from spiders to school bullies."
The event also marks an important anniversary – and a reminder of why it's vital that groups like this continue their excellent work. In 1946, in the immediate aftermath of global war, Woodcraft hosted an international camp in Brighton. It brought together children and young people from previously warring countries, to create, for a fortnight, a community of hope for a better future and a better world.
The event was instrumental in helping restore the shattered international links between children's and youth organisations dedicated to peace and social justice.
Some 60 years on, Woodcraft is still working hard for social justice across the world.
Julie says: "Conflict, imperialism, racism, underdevelopment and exploitation are not problems that have disappeared with increasing globalisation – they have worsened.
"The impact of these evils on the future for young people around the globe is devastating. Millions of children suffer horror as labourers, prostitutes, soldiers and refugees.
"But it's inspirational working with a team of young people who have a real commitment to what their partner organisations are doing globally to create a better world.