Reflection: Supporting young people – Young Champion leads in discussion with School and Street Pastors, 27th November 2019

MWH Admin Team Reflection

Leading on work around young people, our Moray Wellbeing Hub Champions Becky and Donna had a lovely meeting with Anne Priest, the Co-Ordinator for Forres School Pastors, on Weds 27 Nov 19 at the Lossiemouth Community Centre. They were both very interested to hear about the work that is being done in Moray by trained volunteers from local churches who care about their community.

Whilst Elgin School and Street Pastors has been running for several years, Forres School Pastors is a ‘start up’. Becky and Donna were keen to reflect upon the meeting, a chance to hear about what they do and share what we do too. Thanks to them both for sharing this reflection and agreeing to have this edit shared on the website as a great overview of all the young people’s work we at Moray Wellbeing Hub are doing and that of the Street/School Pastors:

Having this sit down chat with Anne we believe was a great opportunity to learn more about role of both a Street and School Pastor; to find out what do they do, what draws these people to undertake this volunteering role, and can we together make the connections with other organisations/people in the area doing similar work so we can join the dots giving communities a better and supportive service.

There was no set structure for today’s meeting, as Donna shared, “life’s like a river and the way of life is to flow with the current and I like to adopt the same principle in meetups like this. When conservations flow, it can unleash creative energy and relish the possibilities like total collaboration.”

The meeting started with introductions, Becky chatted about her different roles within the Moray Wellbeing Hub (MWH), the Young Person Champion, a Peer-Trainer and within Collective Voice project. She explained outline of her work in coordinating and connecting young champions across Moray. Then went onto explain the focus of the project and how long it will run for. She also indicated some of the challenges that she has faced so far with connecting the young champions and building up her network in Moray. Next Becky went on to discuss her work with the Collective Voice project and how that links in with the work she is doing around Young Champions but indicating the different areas of work this also encompasses. Finally Becky talked about her role as a peer trainer and peer facilitator and other training that she has completed.

Donna talked about her experiences in working within different youth work settings including the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  Whereby she supports the Young People completing this DofE award at both Lossiemouth High and Forres Academy.  She also shared about participating in a Training for Trainers Young People course in partnership with Dublin North East Recovery College (DNNERC). This was in August 2018. This Organisation is leading European Recovery College working in partnership to pilot a new Project to empower young people as Mental Health Champions.

From finishing this course, Donna wanted to go on and look at opportunities of setting up a Peer Support scheme within the Schools, thinking about the different ways of delivering this project whilst covering key areas and resources. To provide them with a ‘toolbox’ to understand, protect and sustain their own mental health and that of their peers throughout their school years and continuing onto college or university.

We were also able to confirm that in December 2018 the Moray Wellbeing Hub was successful in securing funding from YOUCHOOSE3 – a participatory budget which is managed by TSI Moray.  This funding was to help support the Young People Champion project.

In July 2019 Becky was appointed as Young Champion Peer mentor and a ‘voice for young people’ taking on the Young People Champion project.  She went onto explain her work to date, including Active Schools. She explained the partnership that had been formed to support a project for young people at Milne’s High school. She also mentioned another project in the work around young people reflecting and gathering information about their experiences of using services in Moray. This also led to discussions about the student peer support group and the community sessions that the hub run at Moray College.

Anne, then shared background on Street Pastors and School Pastors,  “it was great listening to the stories, and having clearer understanding what work these amazing people do”, shared Donna.  Street pastors are trained volunteers from local churches who care about their community. Their motto is ‘We care, we listen, we help’.

On Friday and Saturday night, 10pm until 3am they would be walking length and breadth of Elgin High St looking out for welfare of those that are intoxicated. If they had no footwear on, the Street Pastors would offer them a pair of flip flops, this is so they prevent their feet being cut on broken glass bottles.  They also help those who are alone, maybe been separated from their friends and thus ensure they get home safe and sound. The Street and School Pastors do wear uniform, so easily identified, and they all carry a backpack which includes first aid kit, space blankets, tissues, shower ponchos, bottles of water and flip flops.

As for the School Pastors, this scheme started back in 2008 in South London, since then this initiative has now grown.   They provide a reassuring and friendly presence to young people during school lunchtimes, and for those who may not feel comfortable talking to teachers or even their parents. Primarily they offer a listening ear, supporting young people’s emotional wellbeing and if there are any major welfare concerns, they highlight this through the School’s chain of command.

We asked if there was an opportunity for Champions to shadow the School Pastors, to gain insight into the work they do, but to also seek new ways of fostering the Young People Champion project – collaborative working with others who also wish to improve the mental wellbeing of young people. Anne did say there was scope for this to happen and in January she would be back in touch to confirm how this could best work for everyone.

Anne mentioned that supply of all their uniforms and their training programmes are through supportive work of Ascension Trust, a Christian organisation with a passion to empower individuals to work together within their local community, improving lives of those vulnerable and disadvantaged.  But the Elgin Street Pastors also look to local funding including YOUCHOOSE funding through TSI Moray and organising and promoting their own Fundraising events.

Anne also spoke about their Community Drop In, which is held every Friday based inside Forres Town Hall.  Anyone and everyone are welcomed.  There is tea, coffee, and cake and of course and the chance to have a good chat with people who you may not have met before.  Donna aims to attend at least one of these Drop In sessions.

This then led into a discussion about the MWH Community Connector role.  We briefly took turns in explaining what this was about, underlying that it is not a befriending service, or counselling service. Instead it is a human resource where one human supports, another to engage and connect in their local community. In return they are also helped to connect.

Anne valued and supported this project idea, stating that it was like a non-medical solution to social and emotional issues that may be hampering a person’s health and wellbeing, and helping that person to be part of their Community. But to also establish positive relationships, feel confident and linking you with new friends and like-minded individuals.

Throughout the meeting there was a strong sense of connection – we feel that we share the same peer values such as avoiding judgment, work with boundaries that are responsive and flexible, and respect rights and confidentiality.

“I have come to appreciate that volunteering connects us to other people, and it can give us a sense of purpose. Todays meeting with Anne Priest did exactly that.  It was great to listen and hear from Anne about the volunteering work these amazing Street Pastors do”, summarised Donna.

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