Sullen. Uncommunicative. Unhelpful. Three words commonly used to describe The Teenager. Parents would all agree the years between 12 to 19 are best gotten over with as quickly as possible, before The Teenager emerges, butterfly-like, as a smiling, pleasant, young adult. Right? Wrong.
As our partnership with WE has shown time and time again, today’s teens are anything but. Instead of sullen, they’re cheerfully engaging with their peers and communities. Instead of uncommunicative, they’re coherently telling us how they’re changing the world. And instead of unhelpful, they want to make our planet a better place, for everyone.
Nowhere is this more evident than on the annual Virgin Atlantic Scholarship Trip. Thirty young people from across the UK go on a WE volunteer trip to our partner communities in India. These teenagers are carefully selected from a pool of hundreds of applications, each showing their commitment to taking action for a cause they care about. The result: a group of passionate, like-minded kids sharing in new experiences, learning together, and creating friendships that last a lifetime.
More info on the Scholarship trip and how to apply
Thanks to Virgin Atlantic, 30 young people aged 12-18 travel to one of the WE Villages communities every summer in Rajasthan, India. On these trips, you can:
- Experience the culture, history and way of life in a vibrant and dynamic country
- Volunteer in a rural village, helping build a school or a well
- Participate in interactive workshops to explore global issues
Applications for the 2018 trip in August are open now and close on 25 March 2018. Applicants will be asked to submit a personal statement about themselves and a creative piece which could be anything from artwork to a vlog.
Hearing from 2017 Scholar
It’s a once in a lifetime trip – but don’t just take our word for it. Sixteen-year-old Allyshia was on last summer’s scholarship trip. After visiting the Scholarship trip in India and reading Allyshia’s own blog post about the trip, Laura and Maja from Virgin Atlantic’s communications team invited her to the office for a chat to ask for some advice for anyone thinking of applying for the trip.
How Allyshia got involved with WE
Allyshia: WE sent a speaker to my secondary school. This was actually quite a few years ago, before the first ever WE Day in 2014. I was really inspired in that moment by Craig and Marc’s story (WE co-founders) and I just wanted to get involved. When I went to the first ever WE Day, I was so inspired that I went home and tried to start a charity exactly like Marc and Craig! Not to literally replicate WE but I took inspiration from them at such a young age – and I was exactly the same age they were when they started (12 years old). But since then every year, it’s become my favourite charity. I know you shouldn’t have favourites but everything about WE is so inclusive of everybody. It gives you so many opportunities with all the different pillars, everything they offer, so the different campaigns, the different trips, the different fundraisers… it’s just the best charity out there.
Maja: That’s how I felt when I first went to WE Day too. You look around and there are so many people from different schools and different backgrounds, from all around the country, and you’re all being told the same thing; that you can make a change and you can make a difference. I’d never been in a room where everybody was being told that message and it was so powerful to see young people being told that.
Your school doesn’t need to be involved with WE for you to apply for the Scholarship.
Advice on applying for the trip
A: When I was at the first WE Day and I heard about the trip I thought “Oh my god that’d be amazing”. I applied every single year for a few years and finally, this year I got it. Since the trip, something about actually seeing it for real changed something in me – it actually motivated me more. This is what I want to do as my job now. I want to pursue motivational speaking and go and help in different countries. It’s so fulfilling! You feel so complete once you’ve done something there in person instead of just donating your money.
M: What tips would you give to potential applicants?
A: Just be yourself, that’s what everybody wants to see. This trip’s about developing your character and who you are as a person. If you can show who you are, that shows how important things are to you. Don’t choose a random topic to write about in your application, choose something that’s really personal to you, that you know you have a connection with. Make sure you’re providing examples of the things that you’ve done, how you’re helping others and helping yourself. It’s important you’re showing yourself.
M: Were you nervous before you left?
A: I was really, really nervous, especially knowing that it’s so far from home. But the fact I was going to do something that I loved, really pushed me towards it. On the day of the trip when we were on the way to Heathrow, in the back of the car I was so anxious. But as soon as I saw everybody, I knew it was going to be the best time. I could just tell that we were all going to gradually become best friends. With anything in life, there’s always going to be nerves but eventually, they go.
Even though some of us get homesick on the trip, it actually strengthened our characters. We got the opportunity to travel and make amazing friendships out there.
All of the WE facilitators are very supportive with anyone feeling homesick. A lot of the group tackled homesickness by keeping diaries to share with their families on their return.
On life post the Scholarship
Laura: Do you feel like you’ve changed since you’ve got back from the trip?
A: I see life in a different way now. I know there are people suffering a lot more, and I don’t compare myself to them, but now I think: if I don’t sort myself out, how can I help these people? I want to motivate, inspire and uplift, help people discover their own purpose in life. I feel like I’ve become a lot more involved personally. I didn’t really want to do anything at home and since coming back from trip, I’ve managed to just do things.
L: Do you have any words of advice for anyone who wants to make a difference?
A: Do it. Go out and do whatever you want to make change. Make sure you’re happy with what you’re doing and that you speak to an adult to make sure it’s safe. It’s so important to people out there – just giving someone a smile can make such a difference to someone’s day. Do whatever you can and make your life better and other people’s lives better in the process.
And on those inspiring words, we said our goodbyes. We couldn’t have been more impressed by Allyshia’s eloquence and passion. And we couldn’t be prouder to work for a company that provides these opportunities to young people like Allyshia and her peers.
Anyone can make a change
Allyshia is a brilliant example of how being involved with WE can make a positive impact on a young person’s life. Allyshia hasn’t let the momentum for change stop since visiting India – she’s organised a women’s empowerment gig in Brighton for 150 people next April to raise awareness of gender inequality around the world and ‘help have a positive impact on the world’. You can buy tickets for the event here.