Pride at Recovery Focus

“No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us” – Micah Bazant

Katie Howlen, HR Shared Services Coordinator in People & Organisation Development, gives a short history on the background of Pride month and why it is still important today.

June marks Pride Month, usually, a cause for celebration but circumstances feel very different this year. Pride month is a joyous month where people come together to celebrate the amazing achievements of the LGBTQ+ community, raise political awareness of current issues, and show unity and solidarity.

The Covid-19 pandemic already meant that Pride this year was going to feel different. Now even more so as the Black Lives Matter movement sees people globally taking action to protest racial inequality.  While it may be hard to feel the same sense of joy and unity while so many are in pain it is important to remember that the gay rights movements started with protests led by black members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride has been an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York with the first UK Pride Rally in London 1972. The Stonewall uprising took place in the wider context of the civil rights movement. After a decade of raids, arrests, police brutality and oppression faced by the LGBTQ+ community, the Stonewall raid was the catalyst for riots and protests. Led by black trans women, drag queens, gay men & women as a collective these protests and riots lasted several days and marked the start of the gay rights movement we know today. Courageous individuals such as Marsh P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin- Gracey lead the fight against brutality and injustice towards the gay community in America which then spread globally.

Although this Pride month may not be what we usually know it is still so important to celebrate the achievements that have been made over the past decades and are being made right now. We should use the current climate to provide context and steer for the work that still needs to be done.

So this Pride I am happy that our organisation shows unity with and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and is committing to that work ahead. However, it is imperative that as a national charity, we maintain this support all year round and not just for Pride month. We must ensure that all voices within the LGBTQ+ community are heard especially those who may be less visible and marginalised. As a national charity with equality and inclusion at the heart of what we do we should and must ensure all our employees are heard, and that they can challenge and provide input into how we can make our organisation more inclusive and diverse. With the Black Lives Matter movement taking place globally, there is an opportunity to address inequality and create a society better for everyone. It’s been over 50 years since the Stonewall Riots. Now more than ever we must all come together and push to create changes that will continue to shape a better future for all!

Now more than ever we must all come together and push to create changes that will continue to shape a better future for all!

What do our volunteers do? The day in the life of a Peer Mentor

Our volunteers cover a range of vital roles in Richmond Fellowship. Georgia, a Peer Mentor, tells us a little bit about her time as a volunteer.

A day in the life of a Peer Mentor at Richmond Fellowship

Hi I’m Georgie and I’m a Peer Mentor for Richmond Fellowship at our Hammersmith and Fulham Employment and Wellbeing Service. There is a team of Peer Mentors all running different types of groups. I was offered the opportunity to facilitate group sessions for two hours on Wednesdays.  Just like the people in the group, I have been through mental health challenges of my own and this experience helps me to connect with the people we support. The others run a Mindfulness group and another does Yoga; we hold groups in pairs or as a team.

I have been through mental health challenges of my own and this experience helps me to connect with the people we support.

On the weekend, I like to think about the next session and research the topic. For each one I like to have a topic which sparks conversation and reflection in the group.  I’ll find handouts and make notes. On my journey to White City I read my notes and get my thoughts in order. Then when I arrive, I set out chairs in a circle and prepare my notes. The group arrives in dribs and drabs and I’m always so pleased to see everyone. I’m delighted that they keep showing up.

I start each session with some games. Then we chat about our week and I’ll outline the session plan. Sometimes the group wants to focus on something different or one topic takes up the whole time as we get very deep into a discussion. I have to be flexible and sensitive to both the group dynamic and individuals to make sure everyone has the opportunity to contribute. I also lookout for anyone who is getting uncomfortable; it can be challenging but I always have some games on standby to lighten the mood. The goal of these games is always to promote group cohesion and fun. We all get to have a bit of a giggle!

Sometimes I may self-disclose about the topic we are discussing but this is not necessary for Peer Mentors. For example, if we are discussing responses to anxiety I will share with the group my challenges and what I did to manage them. This encourages others to feel comfortable sharing their own successes or difficulties with the group.

Time is always up far too soon. I give out proactive tasks each week. It can be anything, from observing negative thoughts for the week to sourcing a positive affirmation that they can share with the group next time. They don’t always do it, but I keep on trying!

I get plenty of support from the Wellbeing team and the Peer Mentor Coordinator. They look after my wellbeing and make sure I’m comfortable running my group. I can raise any concerns I have and the team are always available to help me.

When the people we support tell me that what we are doing has really helped or that they really enjoyed the session, it absolutely makes my day.

When the people we support tell me that what we are doing has really helped or that they really enjoyed the session, it absolutely makes my day. There is no doubt that this is the highlight of my week and I have grown so much from this experience. Through my efforts to aid others in their self-awareness, self-empowerment and routes to recovery, I have been encouraged to also focus on my own growth. Every person we support is wonderful in their own way and the care they give each other, despite the challenges they face, is truly inspiring!

Find out more about volunteering including how to apply here.

What do our volunteers do? Be-friender

Hi I’m Robin and I’m a befriender at Richmond Fellowship’s Hammersmith and Fulham Employment and Wellbeing service. To be a befriender you need four things: empathy, charisma, commitment and passion. Oh and you have to be a good listener!

Most befrienders will spend 1-2 hours a week volunteering, but this can increase as you become more comfortable and confident with talking to people.  You may eventually be matched with several people to provide companionship.

On any given day you could be talking, providing one to one support, going for walks together, exploring new places like parks and museums, meeting for coffee or accompanying your befriendee to appointments or a social group. I enjoy hearing positive feedback and about personal growth. Many of the people I speak with are very grateful for the service, which makes me proud to be a part of it. Befriending has helped me learn the value of silence in conversation, not rushing to fill gaps, but using the time to think. I have learnt that I am a good listener.

Befriending has helped me learn the value of silence in conversation, not rushing to fill gaps, but using the time to think. I have learnt that I am a good listener.

As a befriending volunteer you will also need to attend group supervision once a quarter with the option of individual support. Group support is an opportunity to meet with other volunteers at Richmond Fellowship and reflect on how your volunteering is going, what you’ve found challenging, what you’ve enjoyed and what you’ve learnt. Hearing that people are going through difficult times in their lives can be challenging, but being there to offer companionship and signpost to services that can help is a positive side.

Hearing that people are going through difficult times in their lives can be challenging, but being there to offer companionship and signpost to services that can help is a positive side.

Volunteering with Richmond Fellowship Hammersmith and Fulham Employment and Wellbeing Service will also provide you with the opportunity for training. On top of your induction training, we offer Open College Network (OCN) training which covers what it is to be a volunteer, essential skills that you need and understanding recovery, as well as the option of a ‘Tell your story’ module. But best of all befriending has helped me develop my interpersonal skills, giving me valuable experience working with people.

Click here for more information on volunteering with Richmond Fellowship.