TeenVGN are an online social network that brings teenage vegans together to make friends. Now they are doing all kind of things like summer camps and fundraising! Grow Up Vegan have had the privilege to speak directly to Laura from the TeenVGN team and find out exactly what they are all about! Read on for the exclusive interview...
What was the light bulb moment, that lead to TeenVGN?
In 2013 I (Laura) was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and had to leave my job as a Youth Worker. I had been vegan for around 6 months and was fairly informed and active in the vegan community. I knew that there were so many great campaigning groups out there but nothing really specifically for young people and as I’d studied coaching, and working with teens is what I always wanted to do, I kind of mashed my compassionate lifestyle and education together and came up with the idea TeenVGN!
It seems like TeenVGN does a bit of everything which is great! But what is its main focus?
When we started out we were just a social network, all online. We were then given the fantastic opportunity by VegfestUK to attend their festivals around the UK and host a TeenZone, which was great for young people getting together and meeting friends. It was that platform that got our name out there and since a Summer Camp was really my dream for TeenVGN, we were able to set that up in our second year and now our main focus is VGN Summer Camp and our TeenZones. Getting kids together to generate creative ideas of how they can be active for the animals and the planet.
Wow that’s really incredible and exactly what Grow Up Vegan loves about TeenVGN – it seems like an amazing teen vegan community! So, everyone involved in working for TeenVGN are all volunteers! How do you find your trusty and compassionate helpers?
It was just myself and Kylie (the other co-founder) for a long time until we started doing our camp. We then asked Anna (who was responsible for converting me to veganism) if she’d like to help us out and her expertise with working with vulnerable young adults and her creative nature really clicked well with what we needed to make TeenVGN grow. Being a part of the vegan community before TeenVGN started was a big help too as we already knew a few people and I think that since we are the only group to do what we do, we had a lot of interest from people who wanted to get involved and help this young network develop.
Good job! – The vegan community needed a teenage network system desperately! Let`s talk summer camp – How did this all come about? I wish I was a teenage vegan again so I could join in the fun!
As I mentioned earlier, a Summer Camp was one of my dreams, but at first it seemed unattainable and we weren’t very confident in ourselves. We weren’t really sure if it was the right thing to do, and it was a scary kind of dream as it seemed so big at the time. However, I always went to camps when I was younger and I know how much it helped me grow as a person and the experience shaped me into who I am today. So I knew it was important for us to do something like that. I managed to talk Kylie into it and Anna was on board from the start and once we got into the swing of it, it turned out to be a stressful, but incredibly rewarding experience. We couldn’t help but want to make it bigger and better, so here we are 2 years on!
So you really all pulled together to make this work! I have seen on your site that you are in need of some funds for an office! What are your plans for when you have your new space?
We actually have our space already which is super! But before now our small terraced home was full to the brim with camp and TeenZone equipment, fridge freezers and a LOT of merchandise so it was really something that we needed to do for our wellbeing. It was a top priority even above paying someone a wage to work for TeenVGN, which we are still yet to do ha-ha. But the space we have is a nice little area now which we can keep all of our things, go for camp meetings and send out our merchandise. It works out around £300 a month and as we are constantly using money for our TeenZones, travel expenses for events and camp, it’s important for us to raise as many funds as possible. Also, our website is completely free for teens and unlike other vegan groups, we don’t ask for money for membership so it’s not really a profitable thing for us. The office is really our little luxury which helps us and TeenVGN.
It sounds like you’re growing amazingly well and I’m so pleased you are! What are your future plans? Anything exciting and exclusive you can tell our Grow up Vegan visitors?
Mainly our camp is getting bigger and better! We’re excited to see where that goes but at the moment just taking it one year at a time. We’d love to host a few camps around the country throughout the summer holidays and who knows; maybe we’ll go international one of these days ;) That’s what TeenVGN is all about really, equipping teens with the knowledge and skills to make a change in the world.
That’s like music to my ears. You do a lot towards raising awareness and funding for vegan related charities, what has been your most favored fundraiser you have been involved in?
Oh we love promoting what others are doing, for animals especially! We often tweet about smaller sanctuaries such as All Creatures Great and Small in South Wales, or Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary in Spain. It’s just important for us to show our followers and members that being charitable is a form of activism too, kind of like being a light in a world that is often so dark. Another of our favourite projects which we set up was the VGN Youth for the Homeless and Food Banks. We want to show people that being compassionate is something that goes beyond what’s on our plate and out to people less fortunate than us. Being kind doesn’t cost a thing and our aim in life is to show love to every person, every animal and our planet, and spread happiness and hope.
I couldn’t agree with you more! TeenVGN have achieved such a lot in quite a short amount of time – what is your biggest achievement?
I think our VGN Summer Camp is probably our biggest achievement. It’s certainly the most rewarding, intrinsically. We’ve been in magazines and on the radio a few times, but there’s just something about knowing that we are educating and guiding so many young people through a vital part of their life. I mean, who knows what effect VGN Summer Camp will have on even just one of our teens in the future. We could be spending time with the future Prime Minister, or the next Steve Jobs! I don’t know ha-ha, but I sort of like that kind of mystery and the ‘not knowing’. It keeps us driven to do our best and teach these amazing people to be the best version of themselves. The feeling of “what if…” is both scary and exciting!
I love knock on effect that the summer camps will have! I know you’re based in the UK but do you see TeenVGN going global? Or has it in fact already done so?
I think at the moment we run the UK’s, and possible Europe’s, first ever vegan summer camp for teens. We’ve already had many campers come from overseas just to come to camp (which is super cool!) I’d like to think that we’ll physically reach Europe with our camps one day, possible Canada and Toronto if we get lucky. I think at this point it’ll take a nice vegan celebrity to invest in us before that kind of big thing happens ha-ha. But dreaming never disappointed us before so fingers crossed! Until then we’d love to have what we do really absorbed by the whole of the UK, camps everywhere, meet ups everywhere and then we will see…
Well – I am crossing my fingers for you TeenVGN!
THANK YOU for featuring us!
TeenVGN really are making a difference and they have my full support and admiration for what they have achieved in such a short time! I cant wait to watch them grow! Head over to TeenVGN's website to get planning your camp visit or maybe you want to be a camp leader! If you cant give up your time but you love what TeenVGN are all about, support them by donating, and be sure to visit them on Facebook, Instagram, and Tweet them too!