Abigail went from student volunteer to leader of a new peer support project for young people with additional learning needs, with the support of Youth Led Grants. Read her story.
Abigail, a student studying youth work, started as a student volunteer on the Mind Matters project run by Volunteering Matters which aimed to raise mental health awareness throughout Gwent. Even after completing her 200 fieldwork hours, Abigail remained a committed volunteer and with the help of the Youth Led Grants, funded her own youth led initiative called My Mental Health. She won the Youth Work Excellence Award 2020 for her participation in this project.
MY MENTAL HEALTH
Abigail identified that some of the participants that she worked with on Mind Matters struggled to understand the information and material used. She made it her mission to ensure that accessible resources were created so that everyone, regardless of learning ability, is empowered to discuss their feelings with their peers.
My Mental Health project is a youth led initiative that delivers peer-led workshops around mental health and the importance of positive well-being to those who have additional learning needs (ALN).
The workshop covers a range of topics including a better understanding of what mental health is, coping strategies that anyone can do for themselves or to help their peers and the importance of positive well-being to our mental health.
IMPACT OF YOUTH PARTICIPATION
From writing a compelling application to Torfaen Voluntary Alliance Youth Led Grants, to facilitating educative sessions, Abigail played a big part in every step of the process. She highlighted her commitment to true youth-led participation by rejecting the title Volunteer Lead and instead presented herself as a Champion like everyone else to avoid any hierarchy.
Abigail used the project as a learning opportunity to gain an insight into working with those who have additional learning needs. When delivering her sessions, she valued the contributions and impact of the volunteers, often commenting ’they’re teaching me!’
Rather than focussing on traditional written-based comprehension tasks, Abigail catered to the Champions’ interests by involving crafts. She supported young people with additional learning needs to develop an accessible toolkit that raises awareness of mental health and the importance of well-being for other young people with ALN.
Abigail encouraged her Champions to deliver their toolkit to other young people and empower them to explain what they created and how it can help improve a person’s well-being. In total, she and the other Champions delivered to over 50 young people in youth centres and secondary schools with additional learning needs who provided feedback on the toolkit that was created.
’Abigail was keen to develop herself and learn more about youth work practice – and was overjoyed to present to me a 49% increase in mental health awareness from her participants; an increase she directly helped to actuate!’ said Ryan Crewe-Rees, Young People’s Project Manager.
‘Abigail’s delivery style embodies the true nature of a grass-roots approach, in my opinion’ he added.
YOUTH LED GRANTS
Distributed by CVCs across Wales, the Youth Led Grants support a range of small volunteering projects and activities led and carried out by young people. In 2020/21 the projects were funded to address six priority areas identified by the Welsh Government which have the potential to make the greatest contribution to long-term prosperity and well-being.
To learn more about youth volunteering in Wales, please register for ‘Making youth volunteering awesome in Wales!‘ where we’ll be exploring best practice and how we can ensure positive experiences for youth volunteers.