Hi, my name is Gemma and my journey with GLOW NI began back in 2012. I had been working for a bank for 10 years, I had worked hard to gain a role as a facilitator in 2005 and loved my role facilitating training programmes for new staff. I had my first child in 2007 and wanted to reduce my hours to part time but couldn’t continue as a facilitator as it was a full time role. My only part time option was to move to a call centre within the bank which I did for 4 years. I was so unhappy and unfulfilled in this new role, I became so stressed and unhappy that I was physically ill and off on long term sick leave by late 2012.
I knew Chara (CEO of Glow) and she had told me about the personal development programme (The Real Me) that had just completed a pilot class and offered me a place on the second programme. I had nothing to lose, I was off work and really had no idea how I was going to get better and the thought of returning to a job I hated was terrifying. We had a lovely big house with an even bigger mortgage and I felt financially trapped.
The programme really made me strip everything back and start to question what really mattered to me and my family. I had a nice house and financial security but was unhappy, surely that’s what everyone aims for? Shouldn’t these things make me happy?
Completing the tasks every week helped me to see that what mattered most to me was happiness, peace of mind, time with my family and a job that was fulfilling. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband, who when I dropped the “im going to resign” bombshell, didn’t panic! We made the decision to down size and move home and I got a part time admin job. We had a smaller house, less money but I was happy! I had more time with my 2 sons and felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Chara knew that I had experience as a facilitator and asked if I’d like to volunteer for GLOW, and as they say the rest is history! I have been facilitating the real me programme for 8 years now and have loved every minute of it.
The biggest privilege is seeing women literally grow (and GLOW) in front of my eyes. Each week I witness women start to believe in themselves and make real and lasting changes to their lives. I love to see the women support and inspire each other and I learn something new from each group.
Recently the biggest challenge has obviously been the pandemic and the impact of lockdowns and further isolation. I found myself struggling with fear and anxiety at the beginning of lockdown and had to draw on everything I have learned to help me. I stopped watching the news and spent time walking and playing board games with my family-doing things everyday that made me feel relaxed really helped.
The women on our programmes have faced so many additional challenges during the pandemic, being cut off from support services and trying to manage home schooling and additional financial pressures. We were thankfully able to run programmes via zoom during lockdown but nothing beats having a group of women around a table with a cup of tea in hand!
I never take my role for granted, I am in such a privileged position to be part of a woman’s journey. I love meeting participants months and even years after their programme and seeing them continue to thrive.
GLOW changed my life and is continuing to change lives everyday. I am very proud to work with GLOW!
You can find out more about our personal development programme ‘The Real Me’ here.