Sam first encountered the YMCA when as a student she needed housing advice herself. Later her volunteering experiences led to her working in a role where she now offers housing advice to young people! Sam says, “I had such a brilliant experience volunteering that it gave me the motivation and confidence to move into my current paid role within YMCA DownsLink Group.”
“I first accessed the YMCA as service user in 2010, for support with housing. I was looking for accommodation in Brighton as I was studying here. I wanted advice on deposits and benefits and a friend told me about the housing drop-in at the Youth Advice Centre (YAC). The workers there gave me clear advice and supported me to make the relevant applications and I left feeling positive about my situation and reassured; as a result I found private rented accommodation in Brighton.
“In 2012, I came into contact with YMCA again but this time as a volunteer for the Right Here project. I joined the Activities Team which helped to research, organise and facilitate activities for young people aged 16-25 who were experiencing emotional and mental health issues as well as social anxiety and/or isolation.
“During my time in this role I helped to facilitate anger management courses as well as outdoor ‘walk and talk’ counselling groups. I also had the opportunity to organise social events for young people with games, art, music, cooking and the chance to meet other young people in similar situations. After some changes to Right Here at the end of 2013, unfortunately the activities team could no longer continue and it wasn’t until 2015 that I again became involved with the YMCA.
“Last year (2015) I started volunteering at YAC working with the Support and Advice team. They offer young people a space to talk about emotional well-being, get advice about education, work or training and general guidance. During this time I developed my skills in working directly with young people, learning how to ascertain their needs and what possible solutions there are or how best I could help them.
“One client I worked with briefly needed someone talk to about their emotional well-being and also identified issues with drugs. It was one of the most difficult sessions I had co-worked and after asking questions and listening carefully to their story I wasn’t sure what to do next. With the support of the Advice Coordinator, it was arranged that the client would come back for further support. Following on from this initial session they felt listened to in a way which other professional support unfortunately hadn’t offered and they independently made a plan of what the issues were and how best to find a resolution.
“Through these voluntary roles I had the opportunity to integrate with the team at YAC and across other parts of YMCA DLG. Overall I had such a brilliant experience volunteering that it gave me the motivation and confidence to move into my current paid role as both a Receptionist and Housing Advisor for YAC. I now offer housing advice to 18-25 year olds, which is the same service that was provided to me once upon a time ago!
“My favourite part of this role is interacting with young people and it is really satisfying to see that young people leave the service with all the information they need to move forward with their situation. What I have found most challenging in my role as a housing advisor is managing the expectations of young people and helping them to understand the options open to them, when often these can be limited. I aim to try and empower young people to make the decision that is best for them.
“I can’t express enough how important volunteers are to the organisation and as a young person I feel very empowered by my own progress, and I hope volunteers future and current see the value of this. I hope my story is a good example of how a journey can progress over time and can lead to great opportunities. I am very grateful for YMCA as a service that is open to young people both to support them and also allow them to be involved with how the organisation works.”
We’re delighted to have Sam as a colleague!