by Nichola Dixon, volunteer on our Department of Health volunteering project
I wanted to be part of this volunteering project at the Trust for Developing Communities (TDC) because I was interested in working with the black and minority ethnic (BME) communities with the purpose of increasing awareness about mental health and wellbeing. I am a student at University of Sussex and I saw this project as an opportunity to engage with the local communities while I studied. I understand that the topic of mental health and wellbeing is a stigmatised issue within the BME communities due to lack of knowledge surrounding it. I was glad that projects such as this existed so we could collectively educate residents about the services available. This has also helped me expand my knowledge on the topic and be introduced to different organisations as well.
As a TDC volunteer my role consisted of attending meetings on Wednesday morning to work on the project as a team with other volunteers. To understand what the local community wanted to know more about, we did door knocking which gave me the experience of engaging with the general public. I also helped at BME fairs put on by TDC which helped me engage with attendees and understand what their primary concerns were. At the fairs I was also able to speak to the organisations I was interested in working with for the Tarner Multicultural Group project.
I had decided that my topic was on mental health and wellbeing, after talking to MIND at the BME Wellbeing Fair.
Meeting with the worker, I was able to educate myself on the services MIND provided and to discuss the Tarner Multicultural Group project. During the meeting we were able to plan the session which was delivered on 29th May.
I had to balance my time between University and volunteering at TDC therefore the flexibility of the project was much welcomed and appreciated because I was able to get my work done in my own time and kept up to date with the TDC project manager.
Overall I was really happy with being a part of this project as there is a gap in mental health awareness for local communities that this project helps to fulfil. Despite at times the preparation being quite hands on, with the support of the project managers and fellow volunteers I was able to complete my role. This project has helped me understand the availability of different organisations as well as the need for mass intervention to help locals gain more access to services to take ownership of their health and wellbeing.