Hello! My name is Emily Lanham, I am the new Project Coordinator responsible for delivering and coordinating IARS' youth stream. I started this week and am incredibly excited to jump in to this role at such a critical time for IARS' projects, young people and the world as a whole. I hope we can help make a positive impact on our local and international communities. I just wanted to put up this brief blog to tell you about myself and why I came to IARS. 

If you had asked me where I wanted to be when I was aged 16, it would be a million miles away from my reality. My vow as a teenager was that I never wanted to work with children and never in the charity sector. Fast-forward just over 4 years and I was running my own youth charity (and loving it!). I always believed in young people, but at 16 I didn't know that other young people had the same ideas, the same values that I had; in part due to my limited, rural education and lack of aspiration that was instilled in my peers and me. I made the decision to study law at university because I wanted to understand society; what I could and couldn't do, where young people fit in and whether we could be heard. 

Although I later went on to be called to the Bar, most of my working life I have spent in the third sector, working with young people and vulnerable adults. I started out as Director of Big Voice London, a social empowerment charity for disadvantaged young people, supported by the UK Supreme Court. Despite my limited experience at the time I went on to get our official charity status and expanded our impact from 30 young people to around 250 per year, entirely led by young volunteers. I am very pleased to say that the charity is still going strong and offering young people a chance to engage with the world of law and policy making that is, now more than ever, so in need of their input. Since then, amongst other projects, I spent time managing an advocacy service in West London which offered support to those in secure units with mental health issues, and in the wider community with the implementation of the Care Act 2014. I am particularly keen to explore how IARS can support young people with ever increasing awareness of mental health and opportunities for engagement.

I have also spent time volunteering on various projects which encompass social justice more broadly. I currently volunteer as a tribunal support worker, challenging local authorities on implementing care plans for children with SEN and am Vice-Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility Committee at Middle Temple. I am always seeking to give young people opportunities where there are none and ensure a fairer playing field for generations to come. Public legal education is something that really drives this vision forward and I am keen to work on new projects which will develop public legal education locally and internationally. Previously I spent time in India helping to develop the curriculum in a university to focus more on PLE and studying how it translates across our cultures, so I am hoping to build on that. 

Due to my experience working with young people and developing these initiatives with them, I have such a passion for debunking the negative stereotypes we insist on tarring young people with. Young people have a brilliant voice that represents our futures, we just need to hear it more. That is why the projects I will be coordinating, such as the 99% Campaign, hold such affinity with me and I am so thrilled to be able to take them further. I cannot wait to see what happens next.