We applied to Elevate as we wanted to build on the invaluable learning from having previously taking part in the 21/22 Programme. We wanted to provide comprehensive and regular support to Polish women and their families and address the needs we identified thanks to the previous grant, in particular the needs related to mental health and wellbeing.
We had also benefited greatly from mentoring support, self-reflective practice and the training sessions provided to the mentees last year and wanted to extend that to more members to develop their knowledge and skills and hence increase our organisational capacity. In addition, we believed Elevate would help us to build connections with other groups and organisations in Northern Ireland and open opportunities for collaborative work in the future.
Polish Sisterhood organised 5 sessions with a Polish psychotherapist (with topics around family relationships, loneliness, sense of fulfillment, identity) and one self-care session. In addition, there were meetings of support groups every month, one for women only (5 in total) and one open to both women and their families (3 in total). There were between 8 and 16 people taking part in every session. A mixture of more formal workshops and informal support meetings enabled us to reach a wider range of women and their families, providing safe and friendly space for learning as well as socialising and making friends. We also held a meeting for networking and cooperation building with other Polish groups to discuss and plan a solution to an issue affecting the Polish community in Northern Ireland.
Thanks to the Elevate project we were able to offer support to Polish women and their families by organising a series of meetings and workshops. Participants were able to learn and discuss various factors affecting their mental and emotional health and gained knowledge of how to build resilience and when and how to seek help. Such knowledge builds our confidence as we understand how to approach health and social care professionals. Running a programme of regular meetings also improved our group’s strategic planning skills and encouraged ongoing self-reflective practice. The pool of volunteers has increased as more women get interested in our work and want to be involved. Our board membership has increased recently from 5 to a maximum 7 allowed by our constitution. Moreover, our organisation feels empowered and more confident in building relationships with other organisations and groups. We find it easier to partner and cooperate with other charities as we recognise similarities in ours aims. We gained many new contacts and their names are no longer just names, but we know specific people associated with concrete work. We can see how these useful contacts can further our mission in the future.
WOMEN’STEC mentoring was an invaluable opportunity to avail of knowledge and experience of an established organisation. We benefited from training sessions on sustainability and impact measurement and from seeing other mentees’ projects. We have also appreciated the one to one support of our mentor Helen Kerr who gave us tailored guidance on how to prepare good applications for grants. We feel our capacity has increased as we have more members better equipped to run projects tackling health inequalities. The involvement in Elevate has had a very positive effect on our board members’ confidence and development of strategic thinking.
Elevate training helped our group to identify factors contributing to health inequality within our community and to understand how we can plan actions to address them. This knowledge can be brought to table when we meet with our members and discuss our needs.
Having completed the Elevate Programme this year, our future plans include identifying who would benefit from what training, e.g. volunteer management, financial reporting, fundraising, event planning, etc. We recognise the benefits of specific training for our needs and now we will be able to provide some training in Polish for our members. We are going to apply for a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund in the near future, which will include dedicated days for training, strategic planning and building leadership skills. Polish Sisterhood is planning to cooperate closer with other charities. We will use new contacts to run joint projects.
Individual impact: “I am happy that I was able to take part in the Elevate events, especially in the workshops with a Polish counsellor. Thanks to them I was able to make an informed decision to seek therapy.”
Group impact: Our group’s mindset changed from: “The grant is great, but what do we need this mentoring bit for?” to “We don’t want a grant unless mentoring and training is included in it"