NewLink Wales: Awarding Students

Last year, one of our students completed a volunteering placement with NewLink Wales. We have been delighted to learn that she has won the “ Working With Diverse Communities Award“ which was received at a ceremony earlier last month

Alison Walker, module leader for Work, Volunteering and Applied Psychology, heard from NewLink Wales, who described the award as being important as it “highlights the achievements that we have made through our positive work conducted with diverse communities. We wanted to acknowledge the impact that volunteers have made with being part of this work.

The winner of this award has used her initiative and skill set to strengthen her confidence in facilitating a female only youth dance group with our Czech 1-2 group, working closely with our Axis Young Person CEP Worker. The feedback has been wonderful and we want to thank her for all her achievements.”

We are very proud Akhil’s achievement, and knowing how well she had done, we had to ask her about her experience with NewLink:

After getting the news of being offered a volunteering placement at NewLink Wales, I felt very motivated but at the same time scared to jump into a totally new experience. At the beginning, I worked in several roles in order to have an overall view of the opportunities at NewLink. Eventually, I decided to volunteer for the NEW STEPS and the AXIS teams.

The NewSteps project (run with Recovery Cymru) is about building a community for adults in recovery of drug and/or alcohol problems. I mainly supported the art and craft group, which consisted in interacting with adults in a positive manner and giving them creative things to do and meaningful ways to spend their time. The group engaged in activities such as gardening in the allotments and DIY craft, including the mosaic project.

My role in this placement was to welcome new members, to make them feel at ease, and to explain the current projects that were running (like making a personal mosaic board) as well as to support them in general through listening to them and giving bits of advice.

As I am a crafty person this placement appealed to me straight away, but at the beginning I found it hard to initiate a conversation as most of clients were very shy and seemed barely approachable. Being aware of some of their problems made it even tougher as I was nervous to say anything that might trigger a negative reaction. I did gradually learn how to approach people and learned how to handle and support vulnerable people in an empathetic way.

The other project I volunteered with was the Axis project, which is about supporting vulnerable ethnic minority youth groups, such as Roma and Czech communities. Having no experience in working with young people before this role seemed quite appealing, as well as challenging, and therefore I opted for the placement.

The first sessions consisted of familiarizing myself with the youth club and the people going to it. This was a very challenging hurdle to overcome due to what I found to be rude and strange behaviours. I did feel very uncomfortable and so thoughts of quitting crossed my mind. However, I realised my fear of the unfamiliar environment and behaviours and decided to approach this with more confidence and patience. Progressively, I familiarized myself with the people there and helped them to understand that my role was to support them, and so I gradually built a certain status with them. My role in the placement was to offer support with any issues they were facing and to occupy them with fun and challenging activities, like helping them with English and English grammar.

My main objective of the placement was to create a dance group for girls only and to lead it on my own. In the youth club, girls are a minority and dominated by boys. The girls group allowed them to take part and to express themselves through dancing and gave us the opportunity to talk about things important to them, like about sexual health and drugs.

Akhil and the Award

Throughout both placements, I have improved very useful personal skills (e.g responsibility, leadership, authority) but had to also help make sense of the professional context to the groups I worked with. Both placements were challenging, but provided me with insight and made me realize that I am capable of working in these sectors, which I would now consider in the future.

I am extremely overwhelmed for winning the award and would like to thank all the NewLink Wales staff for all the support and the very pleasant experience.