“I don’t know about you – but this is one of my worst nightmares. Being put in a room with a bunch of strangers and having to make conversation. Networking - meeting parents at the school gate – a first day on a new job. It’s hard to make chat with people you don’t know.

“This week I was invited along to take pictures of a new YG project working with young people from Milestone School. The project worked with a group of young people with special educational needs and disabilities. We took them away on residential, gave them new and different experiences that would encourage confidence and independence, ending with a community project; baking cakes and delivering them to a local care home; Sceats Memorial Home.

“It was at the care home that I felt really inspired by both the young people and the residents. As the group entered the building there was a definite hesitancy and a nervousness about ‘what do we do? What do we say?’ And you know what it wasn’t just from the young people. I also felt slightly out of my depth in what is unfamiliar territory for me. And I asked myself the question ‘why?’”

“As both groups warmed up and cake was handed out, conversation started to flow and residents and young people alike began to chat and swap stories. It was a little tricky with some hearing issues but the sentiment was received loud and clear. I spoke with one young person who was still a little hesitant and we discussed how hard it can feel to start a conversation with a stranger who you think you may have nothing in common with.

“The visit was so valuable for both the residents of the care home and the visiting young people. These two vulnerable and marginalised groups came together to brighten one another’s day. Learning secret handshakes from the war, discussing cake recipes, sharing time together and contemplating where life can take us.

“It made me question why we don’t generally do this more in life. Take time to stop and talk to people we don’t know, visit those in care homes or hospitals, stop to learn about one another’s lives. If we could encourage more groups to mix and share their experiences then maybe we wouldn’t be so shy or nervous to make friends with people we might otherwise have not met. It can be a lonely world and it’s only really when people come together that we start to understand what life is all about.

“Young Gloucestershire regularly creates opportunities for young people to mix with different communities through community projects, work placements and workshops. It is these experiences that build confidence, self-esteem and empathy, improve mental health and ultimately I think, make the world a nicer place.

“So next time that nagging anxiety creeps in when I have to talk to people I don’t know, I will remember how great this experience was and all the good that can come from saying hi and opening up a conversation.”

If you have a work placement opportunity, a community project or just believe in the idea of bringing people together then please get in touch with YG and let’s see what we can make happen. #bringingcommunitiestogether #newexperiences #makingtheworlldanicerplace

This was part of a project for The Milestone School funded by Tesco Gloucester.