Jackie Young first started Community Champions Middlesbrough volunteer group back in 2018, aiming for cleaner, litter free and greener Middlesbrough to make a difference to the town. Chloe Tempestoso caught up with Jackie recently and chatted about the great work and the story behind Community Champions Middlesbrough.

How did you come up with the name Community Champions?

Community… as that’s what we are, a community, a family. Champions… anyone who does something for the good of others selfishly is a champion. Middlesbrough… because that’s where we are based. Maybe we will expand, who knows. BORO CHAMPS is our nickname as it’s quicker to say than Community Champions Middlesbrough.

What’s the story behind the community champions? How did the group start?

We started litter picking in 2018 with other groups and really enjoyed cleaning up and making a difference. We met other people who said they would like to join us, therefore, in 2019 we decided to make it official and created a Facebook Group to see if other like-minded people would like to get involved.

Can you tell us a bit about what the Community Champions do and how you believe it benefits the local community?

The Community Champions are a community in themselves, bringing people together, tackling the litter problems we have in Middlesbrough and bringing life to dreary areas of town, such as the dinosaur park. The group works as a team, supports each other, and is a safe place to discuss problems and seek assistance. It certainly gives people a sense of pride and belonging. It’s good for volunteers’ health and well-being and is great exercise.

For young people carrying out their Duke of Edinburgh awards, there is an opportunity to tick off their voluntary activities to gain Bronze, Silver or Gold Awards whilst making friends.

Our activities are varied and gives volunteers a choice of activities to attend with different dates and times. There is no pressure to attend. There is a role within the group for all abilities, whether you take care of handing out equipment, making the teas and coffees, doing some admin or getting stuck in cleaning up our estates or even better, just popping along for a chat. What’s not to like?

How can new people get involved in volunteering with the group?

We recommend people follow our events page on Facebook, then come along and meet us. They can message or email the admin with any questions, and we will help them, give them the confidence to come along and do something great.

What are the main values and goals of the group? What do you hope to achieve long-term?

Long-term goals are just that, never ending, but the main goal I guess is to ensure everyone involved continues with their new friendships and never gets bored. Therefore, working with as many groups as possible, local authorities, business and schools is a good step in the right direction.

What are your views as a litter picking group on the issues regarding plastic waste?

Where do I begin, it’s sadly out of control. The good news is that we know this, and we can all play our part on reducing plastic waste. In the meantime, whilst solutions are found and implemented, we need to focus on recycling whatever we can, upcycle other people’s rubbish and bring back deposits on glass bottles and add plastic bottles to that list. I remember as a child returning the glass pop bottle for a few pence to buy a bag of sweets. Supermarkets are starting to make small changes but more can be done. As I said, we are more aware of this problem, and everyone needs to make changes.

What’s the response been from the local people in Middlesbrough since the group began?

It’s been fantastic, overwhelming in fact, we couldn’t have asked for better support. We receive messages and emails from people from all over Teesside and as far away as Germany and Australia. 

For more information in volunteering with Community Champions Middlesbrough, you can email Jackie at ccboro@outlook.com.

Interview by Chloe Tempestoso