Spending time at LGBT Youth Scotland has shifted Janice Stevenson’s focus to equalities and anti-discrimination
I first came to LGBT Youth Scotland's Glasgow service on a student placement in early 2013. I enjoyed my experience on placement as I was made to feel like a valued member of the team, and I learned so much from both my colleagues and the young people I worked with that when my placement finished I stayed on as a volunteer. I've volunteered for over a year now and have no intentions of stopping!
It's difficult to pinpoint the singular best thing about being a volunteer. I guess for me, on an individual level, just spending time with the young people and watching them develop is the greatest thing. As a youth worker, I feel that I am always learning from the young people and they challenge me to see the world differently and have greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding of the world around me.
I also feel that my work is appreciated and that I am a valued member of the Glasgow team and of the wider organisation. I have volunteered in many organisations in a variety of different roles but have always had the sense that my being there was complimentary to the service rather than being integral to the organisation. It's different at LGBTYS – here I feel like I make a real difference.
Volunteering has increased my social circle and I spend time with staff and other volunteers outside of work quite regularly. I work closely with three other volunteers in the Rainbow Sisters group and have developed lasting friendships. We support each other as volunteers and on a personal level.
I have volunteered in many organisations but have always had the sense that my being there was complimentary to the service rather than being integral to the organisation – it's different at LGBTYS
As a community education undergraduate student, I was already on a career path to working in community learning and development. However, prior to completing my student placement at LGBTYS and subsequent volunteering, I was primarily focused on working within criminal justice with a focus on education as a tool for rehabilitation of young offenders. Volunteering with LGBTYS has changed my career direction and I now find that my focus is on equalities and anti-discrimination, with a particular desire to improve services and access to opportunities for transgender people.
My dissertation research has a trans focus and now intend to continue my studies to masters and possibly PHD level in order to further develop my research on how community learning and development practice can contribute to improving trans inclusion in Scotland and reducing barriers to participation in wider society.
I have been given more responsibility in my role at LGBTYS than any other place I have volunteered. Knowing that I can do my work well, that I am appreciated and that I can manage the day to day tasks of organising and leading a group has definitely increased my confidence in my own ability.
I have spent a long period of time raising my daughter and being a student and have therefore not been in paid employment for some time. Volunteering has given me the confidence to now go on and find work after my studies are complete knowing that I have the skills and experience to be an effective community worker.
I am definitely a better youth worker now having been given more responsibility and feel that being a volunteer group leader has enabled me to develop skills in planning and organising, developing resources, problem solving, verbal and written communication, professional reflection, working in a team, managing self and others and time management.
I love to tell everyone about the organisation and the amazing work we do. Volunteering at LGBTYS is fun, challenging, inspiring, worthwhile and life changing. If you can do it… you should do it.
Janice Stevenson discrimination is a youth work volunteer at LGBT Youth Scotland