For Volunteers Week Scotland 2021, we're featuring profiles of our diverse and talented volunteer team.
When Neal started volunteering with us in 2015 it was because they wanted to “help people and I had time to spare.” Six years later and they are still here supporting young LGBT+ people “to relax and be themselves”.
As with all volunteers, Neal first had to complete their training which they found “fun and interesting” and also comforting, “as I knew there was always someone nearby who I can ask for help.”
For Neal, the first night in group (ShhOut Glasgow) was an experience they won't forget: “I was overwhelmed by the number of young people who were able to be who they are and to come along to this group with 25 other young people.” Neal continues, “I also really enjoyed getting to meet my fellow volunteers and the staff member who runs the group, and see how they supported the group, which helped me learn my role.”
For the first few months, Neal got used to the group by “talking to the young people and getting to know them and building a friendly relationship with them.”
This led to being a part of several residential trips, including a five day trip aboard Ocean Youth Trust’s Alba Explorer, an around the world race yacht. Neal, along with another volunteer and a staff member took 6 young people on an adventure around the Scottish Isles. Neal recalls from their week on the high seas, “I could see the growth in the young people every day. I could see their confidence increasing at each of the tasks. And although I see this weekly in youth groups, the whole experience of being out at sea (in 45mph gusts of winds at times) and seeing this massive improvement in everybody’s confidence was something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Our youth worker Nikki recently joined our Glasgow team from Inverness and started working with Neal in our Trans Youth Glasgow (TYG) Group. “Personally, Neal has been instrumental in making my move over to the West an easy one. They have welcomed me in to TYG and supported me in carrying out sessions like an old friend. I feel that they have a good rapport with the young people and they are the perfect fit for TYG. I'm aware that they have volunteered with some of our other youth groups too and I imagine that they have been equally awesome there too!”
Our volunteers often lead sessions as part of their role and Neal is no different, working with another volunteer to lead a session on “LGBT+ rights around Europe and Eurovision”. Young people in the group had to not only research their chosen country but also present their findings back to the group. “We would all talk about our chosen countries and then vote on who we think have the best rights. We had a great range of countries involved and very interesting discussions.”
Neal currently works part-time in a supermarket, is finishing up a degree in Maths and Physics and is also a volunteer with the Volunteer Tutor Organisation helping young people have access to a tutor when they may not be able to afford to.
Their final advice for potential volunteers is: “Enjoy yourself! I never expected myself to enjoy volunteering at LGBTYS as much as I have. It is an amazing experience working within the community and with LGBTYS and you will enjoy your time there. It is only 3 hours a week of your time, but sometimes it will be the best 3 hours of the week. I never expected to make as many friends within the organisation either.”
If you're interested in volunteering with LGBT Youth Scotland, sign up here.