YMCA WiSE Ambassador navigates life in lockdown

Emma Tasko, YMCA WiSE Ambassador, tells us about the work she’s been doing and how COVID-19 and lockdown has impacted her work with YMCA WiSE.

Can you tell us what your role as a YMCA WiSE Ambassador involves?

This role is about raising awareness, educating, and empowering young people when thinking about relationships, sex, consent, and exploitation. We have regular meetings to discuss ideas and create content, this ranges from workshops and online resources to social media content.

During this role, myself and other youth ambassadors have had various opportunities to learn and engage in a range of different areas. We have had guests in our meetings to talk to us about their work within the YMCA and their areas of expertise such as trauma and LGBTQ+ issues. In addition to this, we have had feedback from the safeguarding lead teacher at a local school in our area to get to grips with what methods best suit a range of learning styles and ages. This has been incredibly valuable to our project and has allowed us to create more rounded and informed resources.

Using this wealth of knowledge and experience we have created a workshop comprised of various activities to be run in schools and an activity pack about staying safe online, which has been sent out to local schools.

In addition to this, we have gained some traction on our Instagram page by creating a variety of posts and engaging through ‘Instagram takeovers’, these takeovers have allowed me and other ambassadors an opportunity for creative freedom and a chance to share useful posts and information.

Here are some stories I created recently on self-care.

What have been the highlights of your role so far?

Being able to engage with a range of people with different knowledge, experience, interests, and backgrounds has been one of the highlights of this role. I really enjoy learning from everyone I get to interact with, whether its fellow ambassadors, guest speakers, or young people we are creating the work for. We wouldn’t have been able to create the work that we have without each and every one of us bringing something to the table and having a mutual passion for educating and empowering others on important topics.

Another highlight of this role has been taking a lead in the creation of a workbook during the Covid-19 pandemic that has been sent out to local schools. Knowing that our workbook will make an impact on young people in our community and that the work we have produced is new, fresh, and unique to what is already in the current education system. In addition to this, it allowed me to gain valuable teamwork skills as well using my own initiative to push the work further.

How has the work of the YMCA WiSE Ambassador’s changed during the Covid-19 pandemic?

The current Covid-19 crisis has come with a range of demands and pressures and the ability to overcome these and adapt the way we work has been part of this. Initially, we had bi-weekly meetings where we were creating a workshop comprised of various activities to be run in schools. This was just weeks away from a trial run in a local school.

During these circumstances, we quickly adapted to a new way of working and began having our meetings and discussing our ideas via Zoom, emails, and WhatsApp. We also saw this as a great opportunity to work on our social media presence and began making posts for Instagram.

Having spent a few weeks working on our Instagram we then decided to create something more formal as life wasn’t looking as though it was going back to normal any time soon… We came up with the idea of a workbook filled with lots of activities, information, and opportunities that could be completed at home by young people. This has recently been distributed to local schools and we are looking to create further workbooks going forward as well as various other content.

Overall, we have adapted well during this time, and going forward we would like to continue to engage in both physical and online mediums as it means we can reach a wider range of people with our work.

What difference has volunteering with YMCA made to you?

Volunteering with the YMCA has allowed me to put my passions into practice and to make an impact on young people on such important issues. I feel as though it has helped me grow as a person and has given me a better insight into what I want to do going forward and the type of work I want to continue to do. It has also allowed me to use my experience, knowledge, and compassion to make an impact and to give young people a toolbox that myself and many others may not have had growing up. In addition to this, it has helped me to expand my own skill set and toolbox to be better equipped for not only further work with the YMCA but future endeavours.

What are you most looking forward to doing after lockdown?

I am looking forward to spending time with my family. Although we have been incredibly fortunate to have various technology at our fingertips nothing beats being with them in person.

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