Polish Sisterhood’s Elevate project aimed to enable women to talk about their lived experience of inequalities and support them to develop skills and confidence to access opportunities for employment. Adopting a community development approach, Polish Sisterhood worked with the group to identify which issues were most relevant to them and topics were chosen collectively. Eight workshops were delivered and many focused on social issues that impact health including employment and self-employment, mental health issues in the face of the war in Ukraine, managing stress, housing and homelessness.
Barbara from Polish Sisterhood took part in Community Development & Health Inequalities training as part of the Elevate programme and shared how she had gained an increased understanding of the many social factors which impact on health.
As a result of the project, Polish Sisterhood were able to reach more women in their community who had not been in contact with the group before. They were able to strengthen community spirit and remove some of the barriers to engagement by providing childcare and translation.
Those who took part in the Elevate programme felt more connected and it helped to combat isolation and a feeling ‘that you don’t belong’ that some can experience when moving to a new country. The workshops gave the group an opportunity to explore topics they identified as most important to them including employment, housing and mental health. Taking part in sessions on CV writing, job searches etc, enabled the women to recognise their strengths and value their own skills, knowledge and experience. These sessions helped to build their confidence to apply for jobs and attend interviews, often for the first time since moving to Northern Ireland.
Another aspect of Elevate was the opportunity to complete the Reflective Practice Tool. Barbara described it as ‘a very necessary and positive experience’ that helped them identify areas for improvement but also encouraged them by highlighting areas that were working well.
The support provided by mentor Helen from Women’s Tec to develop an action plan based on the results of the tool was invaluable and this was done in the spirit of partnership between the mentor and mentee. Having the action plan allowed Polish Sisterhood to better see how they could take their work forward in a more planned and structured way.
We have really enjoyed our experience in the Elevate Mentoring and Grants Programme. Having a mentor was very useful for reflecting on our practice and plan activities for the future and we enjoyed learning from people more experienced in community development work. Talking to other mentees during groups meetings was also useful as we learned how they operate, what issues they face and how they solve problems.
Barbara Snowarska, Polish Sisterhood