The young change makers tackling everything from Islamophobia to mental health

Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 18 August 2022

In December 2020, I wrote about the Virgin Money Foundation’s amazing six-month Young Change Makers Fellowship Programme, which empowers young people to scale their social impact and tackle big issues head on. 

Fast-forward to 2022, and the cohort of changemakers have received funding, mentorship, leadership growth, travelled the globe, and developed incredible solutions. Virgin Money Foundation is now looking for more applicants to join its 2022/20023 fellowship. The first cohort was so amazing and I wanted to share some of their stories and inspire more wonderful changemakers to apply for the programme.

Virgin Money Foundation's first Young Change Makers cohort
Virgin Money Foundation

Savannah – making mental health a military priority

Savannah is a 26-year-old veteran from Teeside in North England who is determined to fill the gaps in the military’s mental health support system. During the programme, Savannah launched a charity, started a podcast (called Through Veterans Thoughts) and designed an app that supports service personnel, veterans and can be used by the military itself as well as supporting charities, and organisations. In Savannah’s own words:  

“I’m a mother, a daughter, a veteran and a survivor of bad mental health in a severely lacking support system. I’m now working on changing the ever-increasing issues around veteran mental health. 

I’ve developed an app, I’ve launched a podcast and put together an all-veteran Board of Directors for my new charitable company, CIC, URBackUp. Most importantly, I’ve met an amazing group of Change Makers who understand the need for change in our communities. 

My vision is a system where organisations work together to make access to support easier for veterans and serving personnel, so no one’s cry for help goes unnoticed. I’m looking forward to working with the charities already signed up to the app and my travels to the USA in September 2022 to meet organisations working to support our allied veteran.” 

Savannah from the Virgin Money Foundation's Young Change Makers Programme
Virgin Money Foundation

Jaiden – creating opportunities and access in underserved communities

Jaiden is an incredible individual who we’ve worked with at Big Change for several years now. I’ve shared his efforts to create education equality in the pastand now Jaiden is going even further to inspire new models of youth leadership, improve mental wellbeing and provide more opportunity, access, and support for working-class young people to thrive.

Holly Branson takes a selfie with Jaiden Corfield at a Big Change and 5x15 virtual event
Holly Branson

After completing the Young Change Makers Fellowship Programme, he’s increased his funding ten-fold, and is ready to turn his plan into action:  

“I’ve created an organisation called Outliers, which helps boys aged 10-18 to explore emotional literacy, masculinity and leadership. In my area we often get told ‘you belong to the gun and gang capital of the UK’ and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to create a space where young boys can bond and form positive brotherhood. 

A massive shoutout to my method group. I joined Virgin Money Foundation a visionary but with their support we’ve turned my ideas into a plan and now an organisation that launches in August in three locations, fully funded. We turned £10k into £102k and made sure we could bring on staff and provide the best possible space for young boys as we could.” 

Truly incredible.  

Roukagia – Tackling Islamophobia

Roukagia speaking at an event with the Virgin Money Foundation
Virgin Money Foundation

Roukagia is a law student in the UK with Syrian and Ukrainian heritage. She is passionate about tackling Islamophobia and giving a voice to women from ethnic minority backgrounds. Over the last few years, Roukagia has been pursuing her passion of social justice and change with youth and women’s organisations around the country, but this fellowship has really brought her ideas to scale: 

“The change I want to create is to make Muslim women feel like they are more included in society. A lot of the time we experience stigmas. I started this Fellowship with an idea but not a strategic plan, I knew I had to do something to make Muslim women feel more included and to raise more awareness of what we face when it comes to Islamophobia. 

Thanks to the Fellowship and my incredible method group I was able to develop myself as a leader and strategic thinker and get to a stage where I will be creating my own social enterprise, which works to challenge and dismantle systemic Islamophobic towards Muslim woman in the UK.” 

Virgin Money Foundation young change maker looking upwards with a green background
Virgin Money Foundation

It is so incredibly inspiring to hear about the huge steps these young people have taken in a matter of six months. It goes to show what can happen when we give young people with a passion for change the tools to make it happen. 

If you’re a young person with an idea to create positive change, apply for Virgin Money Foundation’s second Young Change Mangers Fellowship programme before 5pm, August 22.