In the small village of Tierp, about 45 km north of the city of Uppsala, there is a fitness centre where the area’s young people can meet up and train in boxing, dance, yoga and in the gym. The health and fitness centre is run almost entirely by enthusiastic young people.
– We do all the marketing, organise the finances, lead the training sessions and decide what should be available at the centre, says 19-year-old Rebecca Wesslén. The municipality ensures that we can hold our activities there and we have a couple of sensible adults who give us advice and tips, but they don’t make any decisions and they don’t affect what we decide to do.
Rebecca Wesslén found her way to the health and fitness centre a year ago, at a time when she wasn’t feeling too good. She started to do boxing, which quickly led her to feel better and she was soon not satisfied with just training.
– I realised that I wanted to help and motivate others to start training, says Rebecca.
No sooner said than done – Rebecca asked if she could start her own training session, which she could. With the help of the youth organisation Reacta, she formed an association and was given funding to buy the necessary equipment. She developed the content of her session, which she named “Extreme training”, together with a friend, and marketed it on Facebook and with posters that she produced herself.
– When it was time for the first training session, five people turned up, which is good for a place the size of Tierp, but by the end of term, there were almost 25 people at every session, says Rebecca. The first time so many people turned up I thought, “Blimey, is this really happening?” It was an incredibly energizing feeling!
Reacta is a national organisation that provides children and young people with knowledge about how our lifestyle affects our physical and mental health. This is achieved through a number of local associations spread across the country that are run by young people themselves. In addition to Rebecca’s fitness association, there are associations that provide everything from theatre and film courses to dance and group walks.
– We started our local association straight away when Reacta came and gave a talk in Tierp, says Rebecca. It was very easy. Starting your own association might sound difficult, but Reacta makes everything so incredibly simple.
What have you learned from starting and running your association?
– More than anything else I’ve learned a great deal about myself and what I’m capable of. Before this, I didn’t like standing up in front of people and talking, and having the courage to lead a training session myself was a big step to take. But I’ve really developed, and it has empowered me as an individual. I’ve also learned how an organisation functions, how you organise work and how to prioritise different things, how to market yourself and how to apply for funding and sponsorship.
Since she started her association, Rebecca has also been elected to the board of the health and fitness centre and has been involved in arranging DJ-nights and the Lucia disco. As if that was not enough, she has also been given a place on Reacta’s district board, where she is currently working hard on the planning of Scandinavia’s biggest youth fair MY, which will take place in Stockholm at the beginning of January.
– We often hear politicians talk about wanting young people to do more to help themselves, but it is difficult if you’re not given any information about how you might do things. Reacta is therefore a very good thing. We want to get more young people to understand that they can start their own associations and that it is easier than you think.
Rebecca is now training to become a personal trainer and together with the others at the health and fitness centre she is working to attract even more young people to the centre and to get more to lead sessions of their own.
– I’d like to see more massage and yoga sessions, for example, says Rebecca. Everyday life involves a lot of stress and I think more people need to realise that yoga and meditation aren’t nerdy but are instead something that actually helps.
Do you have any advice for other young people who want to start their own associations but who don’t know how to do so?
– Start by checking what is already available where you live. There might be a good association or organisation that you can affiliate yourself with and then go on to start something of your own. And have the courage to get started! It’s easy to see yourself as a little person who can’t make a difference and to think that it’s adults who make all the important decisions, but it’s not like that at all. You can do a great deal even if you’re not big and grown up!
Would you also like to become involved in Reacta with something you are passionate about or something you think is missing in the place where you live? Reacta's website contains information on what to do! Check out the site by clicking the link below.
Text: André Vifot Haas