Facilitator Focus: Natasha

It’s time to focus on another one of our incredible facilitators and this week we are finding out more about the lovely Natasha! 

1. Tell me a bit about yourself, where are you from?

I’m 32 and from West Belfast. I’m married and have a three year old girl. We moved home from Australia four years ago and bought a house – crazy busy time back then!

2. We had been talking about school earlier, how was it for you growing up?

Honestly? I was just there for a good time! I’m still friends with the same group of girls and we always say we were useless together when it came to academics but one of us went to Uni and the rest went to tech. A few of us have gone back into education now and we’re trying to undo all the madness from when we were young! I don’t regret anything though!

3. How did you find out about and connect with GLOW?

So when I was 21 I moved to Australia and I was a retail manager there. My husband was an electrician but his dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. It just frightened the life out of him so we made the decision to come home again. 

When we got home my husband then set up his own business but all of the work was in England so he was flying back and forward every two weeks. That was for about two years, and in that period I was looking after the baby by myself and it was very stressful.

It was my granny that organised for me to attend The Real Me programme at Glow. I didn’t know anything about it and I didn’t even think I really needed to go because I was so busy, completely on autopilot with the baby who wasn’t sleeping at night. Granny said she would look after the baby while I attended the course and she really wanted me to take a bit of time for myself.

It was Maxine and Gemma who took the programme I was on and it was actually Maxine’s first time delivering it back then! 

4. So what did you get out of The Real Me programme?

I got so much out of it, but what it really did was remind me how much I enjoyed being around other people and how much I needed to get back into work. When I look through my workbook from the programme it’s all about how much I wanted to work again. I also discovered how much I enjoyed working with other women who were dealing with their own problems. 

One of the things I actually discovered about myself when I was on the course was that I was eating 80 Ripples a week, yes 80! Chocolate was the only thing I was eating, and I had put on about two stone. Everyone but me recognised that I wasn’t looking after myself and that’s when it was time for me to take a step back and realise that I needed to jump off this hamster wheel, take a break and start looking after me. I thought I could do it all and I felt a degree of pressure to do it all but when I started The Real Me it helped me to see that I could leave the baby in the day care downstairs and she would be fine. After The Real Me I felt more confident to put her into a creche too. 5.

5. When you finished The Real Me programme, what came next?

There was a facilitators course being delivered in Lisburn so not long after I finished The Real Me, they asked me if I wanted to go and train to actually deliver the programme myself. I must have done that much talking the whole way through but I think they saw how much I enjoyed it. So Maxine and Chara organised that training for me. 

6. How long have you been facilitating now?

I think I finished the training at the end of 2019 and I had started off co facilitating with Maxine. Then lockdown happened! When lockdown lifted I took my own programme in Rathcoole but then we went into the second lockdown! During that one I facilitated two programmes on Zoom so it’s been all go!

7. You’ve got first hand experience of The Real Me programme but What do you see other women getting from it?

I think the biggest thing women get out of it is the friendships and connections they make with other women in the group. From one group, there were four ladies that already knew each other but there were another four that didn’t know anyone and individually they were all either isolated at home, suffering from depression or going through menopause and at the first session they were very quiet. By the next session they had all connected and opened up and I think that it helps to feel understood by other women and that you’re not alone.

The programme gives them responsibility as we do check in to see where they are and to make sure they coming in. A lot of the women don’t have that in their lives and it’s good for them to belong and be a part of something as well as recognising that you can make new friends at any age!

8. You’ve talked about possibly becoming a counsellor, tell me a bit more about that?

So I met another facilitator Lisa and we were both very interested in Psychology. We had always talked about doing a counselling course. I still have to have a think about it a bit more but I love facilitating and ultimately I would love to be based in West Belfast where the help is needed the most. Especially post troubles, there are so many people suffering with mental health problems. Growing up in the West, I’ve seen it all and it’s the same here in the Shankill. So the ultimate goal would be to be a counsellor but I’d also like to keep facilitating for the same purpose. Being able to help others will make me happy.

9. Did you encounter any challenges over lockdown? If so, how did you manage/overcome them?

Oh I hated it! I realised how much I loved being around people and I definitely didn’t like being told I couldn’t see my mummy or my granny. 

We also bought a house and we were renovating it so when everything locked down we just got stuck into that and then moved in shortly after

10. Do you have any advice for anyone out there who would like to become a facilitator?

Just go for it! Maybe volunteer to do it before you actually get into it so you feel confident delivering the course by yourself. Being able to adapt is key too as you could be delivering a programme like The Real Me or you could be delivering a soft course or information session.

11. Lastly, bit of a fun question – What makes you GLOW? 

My wee family and my friends, definitely. They make me so happy!