Kay-Leigh Sussman (MSc in Global Health Policy, 2022) took part in the Community Engagement Programme 2022, in this blog Kay-Leigh discusses how the programme taught her the true meaning of community.
Social connection and a sense of belonging are essential ingredients to enjoying a fulfilling life. The 2022 Community Engagement Programme emphasized these themes, highlighting the true meaning of ‘community’.
Our work with a charity, which offers an anonymous listening and information service for young people, connected us to different communities in various ways. Firstly, the charity expressed their concern that their reach was limited, and they wanted to widen their community to reach a broader demographic. In the context of mental health, a highly stigmatized and often unaccepted topic, this is imperative. Reaching out is a crucial, but notoriously neglected, step on the journey to improved mental health. People need to feel that they are welcome in a community that is willing to help in a non-judgemental and kind manner. This is the charity’s goal: to widen their reach to include more individuals in their community, so that everyone has someone they can connect to and somewhere they belong.
The second facet of community shone through in the teamwork aspect of this project. The groupwork element of this project was multifaceted: we were assigned to a group of fellow students from vastly different backgrounds, we were connected with an incredible mentor who was able to guide and support us, and we were able to communicate with the charity representative. The groupwork element was challenging for various reasons. Our vastly different backgrounds resulted in many of us holding contrasting expectations, and the different levels of commitment made it difficult to hold individuals accountable. Overall, the group showed immense resilience and in the face of numerous obstacles, we came together to produce the most optimal outcome for the cause. Despite this being a steep learning curve, it was an incredible journey with these individuals.
Our experiences with our mentor, Alex, were immensely positive. Alex explained the many nuances of consulting and assisted us at every stage and through all the obstacles. Moreover, Alex has offered to expose us to the consulting community and the various networking opportunities beyond this project. I appreciated his input and insight into this project and into the consulting world. Similarly, working with our charity contact was an incredible learning experience. They are extremely dedicated and hardworking, something that shines through in the charity’s development. Our charity contact represented and conveyed the goals of their organisation effectively, guiding us in our final recommendations. In a sense, we created our own community, connected by our common goals, finding a sense of belonging in this new world as a united team.
Ultimately, this project has exemplified the meaning of community – one does not have to be brought up in a place to belong, but rather a welcoming community should accept individuals and work together towards a happier future for all. I aspire to continue working in this field and engaging with various individuals from different communities.
If Kay-Leigh has inspired you to volunteer, check out one of our other ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. And why not follow us on Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.