1st – 7th June is volunteer week and we had a quick chat with our wonderful volunteer Emma to find out why she volunteers and how COVID-19 affected her volunteer work.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself! Where are you from?
My name is Emma and I’m from the Woodvale area in Belfast. I’m a mother to my 13 year old daughter.
2. How did you find out about and connect with GLOW?
I heard about GLOW on Facebook and then I started to go to the keep fit classes with a few of the girls . I then stayed on to do a few courses such as personal development, mentoring and sewing. Last year I took part in the GLOW Academy programme and learnt from Paula how to operate the machines and help with jumpers etc.
3. Why did you want to volunteer for GLOW and what does it involve?
I have always had an interest in youth and community work, particularly good relations work which I am currently involved in outside of GLOW. My daughter attended Glow-Getters and I saw how she and the other girls grew and took part in different opportunities. In today’s society, it is rare that young girls are given opportunities to gain confidence and awareness, and I saw that the programme helped them see their value and identify who they are and what they can achieve.
4. What do you think the young people you work with get out of the programmes?
I loved that the GLOW programmes worked on a cross community basis and I started to help out with the girls programmes as I saw through my own daughter the benefits for the young girls. It’s great to watch them on their journey and they can teach us workers as much as we teach them. Our girls are amazing and talented, each in their own individual way. As a woman, it is inspiring to get the chance to see the change in them and to know that they always have someone they can trust and talk to.
The girls get a lot out of the programmes. Many of the young girls have gained respect for each other, built their confidence and become more social. GLOW is somewhere they can go and know that they matter. The programmes teach them who they are as young ladies and shows them they are individual people but are just as important as every one else. Some girls are shy and some have different backgrounds. Some have had experiences that affect them personally and mentally, but the programmes cater for all their needs and help them realise they are not alone. The programmes also help the girls make new friends who have had similar experiences to them.
5. How was your volunteer work impacted by COVID-19?
Covid was hard going! I am not a sit in person as I enjoy connecting with other people and I know some of the young people feel similarly. Knowing Zoom was being used was great. At the beginning it was very hard to adapt but we worked at it together. Over the year everyone was feeling very up and down. I found it extremely tough at one point and hated the world but I had to remember the rest of the world was having the same experience and feeling the same things I was. On a positive note Covid-19 set us back to basics of youth work which saw us put the needs of young people at the forefront of everything we do for them. It was tough at times but I think we did an amazing job and the girls should be so proud of all that they achieved. With that being said I was still delighted to get back to face to face work haha.
6. What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I enjoy getting to learn what different opportunities the youth and community sector have to offer for our young people. North Belfast offers so many different services and programmes so I find it interesting to learn different ways to best support and help young people. I’ve had kids in other programmes from age 5 to 16 and have got to see them grow, learn and just develop into amazing young people. They go from knowing nothing to trying new things and coming out of their shell, knowing we are there to help and be there in any way we can. We try to help them and guide them down a better path to show them there are opportunities out there no matter where they are from or what their background is. I enjoy showing young people they are all individuals who can make their own decisions and take control of their futures.