Volunteering with Growing Points has been a growing opportunity for me, and has been a defining part of my second year in Leeds. From meeting the Growing Points Director and hearing him explain Growing Points’ aims back in November 2018, I was instantly inspired. I knew I wanted to be involved, to learn more and to use the skills I was honing at university to support the charity.
I have learnt important life skills from being volunteering with Growing Points, and they have supported me throughout the year. On a personal level, volunteering for Growing Points has allowed me to build my confidence in a multitude of different scenarios. For instance, I have been introduced to service users and trustees alike, which has allowed me to break out of the student bubble and meet new inspiring people. This has offered me insight into issues facing marginalized groups, including refugees and other migrants, and reinforced to me the importance of social mobility. I put this realization into action through using my creative skills to create a short documentary for Growing Points, showing the firsthand impact of their ‘Hidden Talents’ programme: https://youtu.be/ln7xN4yiT8M. Creating the film strengthened my communication skills as I had to organize locations and timings and liaise with St. James’ hospital, trustees and service users.
The Growing Points team organized a launch event for the film, inviting all those involved, service users and outside contacts. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback for the film and, more importantly, it has inspired potential service users and Guardians to contact Growing Points asking for help or to help. This has demonstrated to me the power of film in transferring complex messages and insight, inspiring me to continue using creativity for social change. As well as the film, my social media work has grown Growing Points’ audience from the low hundreds to a few of my Facebook posts reaching over 1.5k viewers.
These skills have also helped me in a university group project ‘Refugees’ Voices: Past and Present’, giving me the confidence and knowledge to effectively liaise with another refugee charity, RETAS, and to organize free creative workshops there for refugees, in which they could express themselves through art, drama or language. As a group, we then organized an exhibition at Leeds Central Library, to platform the creative work from the workshops, to amplify refugees’ voices and self-expression. A defining moment for me was the exhibition launch where all of the inspiring people I have met over the last year through Growing Points and RETAS came together. There was so much hope and love in one room.
Volunteering with Growing Points has stimulated my passion to be involved in charity work in the future, starting with OCD Action this summer. I am truly honored that I have been a part of a charity which supports “people from excluded communities to do great things”, and I am excited to continue to be involved and to see the social impact that Growing Points will continue to achieve.
by Mairead Ruane