A purple hoodie with the word Team written on it in white letters

On the 20th March, the International Day of Happiness, the UN recognises “the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world, and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives. It also identified the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.”

It feels appropriate, then, to write about happiness this week. The fact that happiness is a golden thread running through the UN’s Global Goals feels like a particularly powerful way to make them relevant for young people of every age; the right to a sense of wellbeing as a universal aspiration for all of us.

However, we all know the reality is that life is far from happy, for far too many young people. And the proportion of young people who don’t feel happy is growing; the UN’s World Happiness Report this year found that in the West, the average happiness of young people is declining. It echoes some of the themes of recent research supported by The Hive as part of the OnSide network of youth zones: almost one in five young people (18%) said they didn’t feel able to manage their health and wellbeing. Almost a quarter (24%) said they didn’t have a safe space where they felt like they belonged. And half (50%) reported high or very high feelings of anxiety. For every one of the UN’s 17 huge, macro challenges for the global community, you can find a local, very real connection with the lives of young people across the Wirral, and for members who come through The Hive’s doors every night.

As youth workers, we’re in the privileged position of being able to see the green shoots; because when you work with young people, their perspectives on the future often teach us more than we knew we needed to learn. Our Hive Ambassadors group – young people who are passionate about helping to shape The Hive’s work on social challenges within the building, but also out in our community – have worked on a range of issues which they’ve looked at through the lens of the UN Global Goals: experiences of and support for refugees and asylum seekers, setting up a special day of support for people who were newly-arrived on the Wirral. The cost of living crisis, exploring help for our young members such as creating period poverty packs to be available across The Hive. Micro projects supporting our environment, planting in local green spaces.

The global goals flags which sit on The Hive’s walls are a great reminder of why we’re here and why The Hive exists; a reminder of the future we’re all striving for, for every young person we serve – and that it’s the skills, talents and perspectives of young people that will continue driving the world towards achieving those huge international ambitions. What happens here at The Hive is part of the ripple effect.

In our recent ‘Have Your Say’ project for 2024, we asked every young member to tell us what feeling they most associated with being here at The Hive. The overwhelming answer? ‘Happy’.

More than half of young people who responded used the word ‘happy’ to describe how they feel when they’re here, and many more used a synonym. Our youth zone is – quite literally – their happy place. I’m not sure feedback gets better than that – and if young people tell us that happiness is their yard stick, that’s where our focus must be.

Could there be a better lesson for the International Day of Happiness?

Jayne Wilson is our CEO

Click to read blogs in our Inside the Purple Hoodie  series.

© 2022 The Hive, Wirral Youth Zone | Registered Charity Number: 1163183

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