When you volunteer with us, you'll join a 75+ strong team of people from across Scotland; a group creating positive change for LGBT Young people, inspiring them, encouraging them and helping them to develop. This series of Volunteer Voices profiles will give you an insight into some of the wonderful people who donate their time to our organisation.
Volunteer Area/Type: Ayrshire – Youth Groups
Volunteer Anniversary: October 2014
Emma started volunteering with us in 2014 because she “had so many lovely LGBT+ friends who have always been so supportive”. She felt it was time for me to give something back to the community.
Her first night volunteering was also the first night of our youth group in Ayrshire, SAY: South Ayrshire Youth. Our Youth Worker, Stuart, was there from the beginning with Emma. “She has been the rock with which we have built the foundations of the first LGBT youth group in South Ayrshire.”
Emma recalls that first night well. “We had one young person turn up and they didn’t want to speak. But [six years later] the group is still going with a lot more than one young person, and that very quiet young person from the first night actually found me at Glasgow Pride last year to introduce me to his new partner and give me a giant hug. So, I’d say that was successful!”
Our local Youth Worker, Steven, has worked with Emma for two years and says, “I could not have asked for a better volunteer youth worker. Her ongoing support to the group, and myself, has been invaluable. We are really lucky to have someone so passionate and dedicated”.
“Emma’s ability to empathise with young people, and her knowledge of the challenges LGBTI young people often face, allows her respond appropriately based on the individual’s experiences. Her open and honest approach, with a little witty banter thrown in, allows her to provide engaging support to them. If that wasn’t enough, Emma is always willing to help at events, whether it’s our pool party, bowling trips or Pride events. Because of this, we have been able to offer opportunities to more young people.”
Emma often takes the lead in group and has led workshops around feminist issues, International Women’s Day and sexual health. She works hard to keep her sessions funny and inclusive while including elements that may take some people out of their comfort zone, to further their learning.
Our Youth Work Manager, Kerry, has worked with Emma for many years. “Emma is an absolute treasure – she is the kind of volunteer that every youth group should have. She adapts her approach carefully so that she’s able to establish a rapport with each young person, and her careful support has been particularly helpful for some of the most vulnerable young people who attend SAY. Emma’s a great team member to work alongside in a group setting, supportive, sensitive, knowledgeable, and able to facilitate productive conversation with young people.”
Emma told us, “it sounds so cheesy, but I love seeing the progress each young person makes and seeing them come out of their shell bit by bit. We have young people come along who won’t speak or engage with anyone, and by the end of the first night you can see them starting to warm to others. Also, seeing the progress they make outside of group is wonderful, for example, one young person I’ve worked with quite closely has recently been accepted to their dream college course.”
One attendee of SAY had this to say about her: “I honestly don’t know where I'd be without Emma. She's helped me learn to take pride in myself and my achievements, and she's done it all with her typical, big-sister, now-see-here way, her sense of humour never failing to make me and the other young people smile.”
Another young person said: “without sounding dramatic, Emma has saved my life. She has helped me so much with coming out as trans; helped me with my family and friends. She has helped with everything. It just wouldn’t be the same without her.”
Emma keeps busy with her day jobs in the charity sector in Ayrshire. This includes a sports charity and the local YMCA where she is a senior assistant. In her spare time, she is normally arguing with her cat Boo, watching movies, reading comics and running her own small business.
Don’t let the “mad pink hair and giant combat boots” fool you, inside she is a massive Dolly Parton fan who says her volunteering has “exceeded [her] expectations by 1000%. It’s honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
“It seems like a scary thing to do, and your first group will probably be mad, but you’ll ease into it really quickly. I genuinely don’t know what I’d do on Thursday nights now without group! Also if you’re old like me, you get to keep up on all the latest young person music/tv/words so you can still seem cool to younger relatives when you know what “yeet” means.”
After a short break from volunteering due to the pandemic, Emma was our first volunteer to join us on our digital community platform, Pride & Pixels. Stuart told us: “The young people were ecstatic when Emma arrived on Pride & Pixels, making it the best-attended online youth group we have had since lockdown began.”
For more information on volunteering at LGBT Youth Scotland, check out the Volunteering section of this website.