MYMY applied to the Elevate programme to focus on building capacity in their volunteer base on understanding and identifying health inequalities in their work. The project focused on exploring the health inequalities context of their volunteer work by bringing the stories of lived experiences to life through facilitated workshops, and then sharing the learning with the wider MYMY team and management committee.
The organisation facilitated face-to-face workshops where they mapped how people had connected with the charity, their experience of living with inequality and the role that MYMY has in using community development to raise awareness and focus on areas of greatest need. Working with Daniella from County Down Rural Community Network as a mentor, MYMY connected with those doing similar work and shared and learnt from these other organisations.
As mentor, Daniella also helped grow the group’s confidence in using community development approaches and created a space to reflect on their practice and improve their knowledge of community development. After using CDHN’s Reflective Practice tool, the group was able to recognise good community development practice and areas where they needed to improve.
The Elevate project made a difference for the organisation and its volunteers. For MYMY, they have much greater confidence talking about, and using the language of, health inequalities. Before the Elevate project, they would have described health inequalities very medically through a services lens. While they always knew how issues such as education and housing impacted a young person’s health, they never connected that to health inequalities. However, through the Elevate project, they have come to understand health inequalities much more through a social lens and have used this learning to secure funding for a rural engagement post that will help support community development and reach more beneficiaries.
They have also discovered new opportunities to develop their community development approach. Working with their volunteers and giving them the space to share their lived experience has ignited new ideas for them as an organisation. The voice of the volunteers has been central to the development of MYMY’s new strategy and are currently looking for ways to more actively include the volunteers in their decision-making processes.
For the volunteers, there have been many positive outcomes from being involved in the Elevate project. The volunteers are more aware of the impact they are making. It had been easy for this to be assumed but taking the time to reflect on this as a volunteer team has allowed them to appreciate and celebrate the incredible difference they are making. Through the project, MYMY’s mental health and wellbeing offer has been enhanced to focus more on need i.e. ‘what’s coming through the door.’
‘The Elevate programme helped us to improve skills and confidence, to meet others and to provide a platform for the lived experience of our amazing volunteers to share their stories and amplify their voices.’