Improving the community

Changing people's attitudes to their community   -  By Emma Bird

By Patrick Pritty

"I think people really like the idea of having a clean neighbourhood, but they never get involved in making it happen. Kings Heath is quite a nice area, but there’s a lot of litter and we noticed that as we walk every day to go to lunch. 

It was probably an unusual sight, seeing 7 boys cleaning litter. We got a few comments like ‘have you seen any money?’ which is funny because we actually did find a wallet and handed it in to the police station.

People were in their cars watching us and some people were encouraging us. A couple of people were really nice and we explained what we were doing. Some people just looked at us weird. I think they thought we were on community service or something. Anyway, we knew what we were doing and when we told them we were from Camp Hill School and they said that was really good, so it boosted the Camp Hill rep a bit.

Creating a lasting legacy

But we didn’t just want to do litter picking. We wanted to do something that would leave a lasting legacy, something that would make people think about their environment and change their attitudes. So, we decided to turn the litter we collected into some sculptures and collages.

Getting people to do the litter picks was really hard. They don’t really want to spend their Saturday doing it. Motivating them to keep coming each week was hard – we realised that different people needed different things - but it was definitely worth it. Now it makes me feel good walking past these places, knowing that this place used to look horrible.

Patrick at the start of the Kings Heath Floral TrailWe made 2 or 3 sculptures from cans and other rubbish. At first we wanted to put them in school, but when we couldn’t get permission we approached this community centre who introduced us to Bob. It was Bob who told us about the Kings Heath Floral Trail and that they were applying for this award called Britain in Bloom. Part of their application was about the floral trail and being environmental and asked if we wanted to be involved – which was great as that was how we could really leave something behind when we finished the project.

Love Where You Live’

I think the best bit was when we went to the sustainability fair at Victoria Square and we could show everybody everything we’d done. People were telling us that ‘it’s really cool’ and they were all really impressed with the artwork and they were surprised again to see that young people were doing something really good and that felt good.

At the fair we were handing out these posters for Love Where You Live. They’re like, a campaign who like to encourage people to look after their area, recycle and reduce the amount of litter and that sort of thing. They were so impressed with what we were doing they asked one of us to be the face of their campaign. I wasn’t actually going to do it, but I did in the end. The poster campaign went up on billboards and on the buses around the city. It’s crazy walking past a billboard and seeing me. I’m totally gonna make it my profile picture.

Learning skills for life

Through this project we’ve become so much more aware of what our area is actually like. We probably didn’t take so much notice before. Like the floral trail, I never really knew about it before and that was really good to get into. And talking to Bob at the community centre, I never really thought that would be possible at the start.

I also learned that things can be done. That you can actually go and do stuff, you can approach someone in charge like the headmaster and ask for things. I don’t think I would ever have gone to the headmaster and proposed an idea. Now I feel that approaching people higher up – people with more power - it’s quite an easy thing to do, to go ask for something or suggest something. It just shows that if you have the motivation you can do anything. You can make positive changes.

My advice to other young people is ‘always persevere’. Never give up on your task. Even if it might seem that no one else is motivated, you can still get things going. Our project would have gone downhill if I hadn’t stayed on it. 

Envision is a great opportunity to help, to do something you’re passionate about. I don’t think you get many opportunities like that. It can really help to not only do something you’re really passionate about, but help you understand what you’re passionate about."