Stevie Atkins is a volunteer at YMCA Youth Advice Centre (YAC) in Brighton & Hove.
YMCA Youth Advice Centre is a drop-in service that provides advice and support to young people (aged 13-25) on a range of issues. This is likely to include topics such as work and learning, substance misuse, money management and welfare, wellbeing, relationships and sexual health, and accessing accommodation in the private rented sector. The time, commitment and dedication we receive from volunteers like Stevie enable us to serve the young people within the Brighton & Hove Community. Meanwhile our volunteers are able to learn new skills, develop understanding and increase their knowledge of working with young people in our current socio-economic climate.
Stevie has grown and developed so much in the role that we wanted to find out more from him about his journey volunteering with YMCA YAC so we asked him some questions…
Stevie, when did you start volunteering with YMCA YAC?
What attracted you to volunteer with us?
I had just finished studying part-time for a Master of Business Administration alongside work, so I had some free time. Having put full focus on corporate life for a few years I wanted to do some volunteering in the community. I was looking for some experience working with young people. I was particularly interested in supporting them with the challenges of modern life. This position looked perfect for this, and the YMCA brand was definitely a plus.
What skills and knowledge do you feel like you’ve obtained since being in the role?
I definitely understand young people much better. When I first started I was observing drop-in sessions. I had no idea how to respond to some of what clients were telling us. Since then I’ve done a great deal of training: motivational interviewing, behavioural change, anxiety and depression, self-harm, the adolescent mind, substance abuse, safeguarding. I’ve learnt so much about what life is like for young people, and what we can do to support them.
What has been the most significant thing you’ve learnt in the process?
Overall I’ve gained a much broader understanding of wellbeing – what it takes to achieve it and maintain it – through all the different challenges that life throws at us. I can apply this to older adults and to myself, as well as to young people.
How has this supported your own personal development?
I feel that I have a deeper understanding of wellbeing, and I use this to help support everyone in my life to varying degrees. Volunteer Advice Worker is now part of who I am, so I take the perspective this gives me wherever I go, including my day job.
Has there been anything that has surprised you in your YMCA YAC journey?
How much I’ve learnt. Since joining, the first session I sat in on is still one of the most challenging safeguarding cases I’ve seen. I remember thinking that I would never feel confident with this kind of work… but now I do.
What other hobbies do you have outside of your volunteering role?
I’m also a school governor, which I love. In my free time I really enjoy travelling, hiking and wild camping in the mountains, and I often go on yoga and meditation retreats.
How would you encourage other people to volunteer?
Just reinforcing how rewarding it can be. The team at YMCA YAC have been absolutely awesome. I love coming in here each week and seeing everyone. And it helps mix things up having a completely different focus for three hours a week.
If there was one piece of advice that you would give future volunteers at YMCA YAC what would it be?
Some of the work is challenging. Be open and transparent and talk about what’s going on for you. The paid workers are great and if they know what’s going on for you then they can help.
Stevie, we are grateful to you for giving your time and expertise for our young people. It’s great that you find it rewarding too.