“While I was anxious, I’m really glad I got involved”

Blog by 23year old Ieuan

I’m Ieuan, a 23-year-old young person from the Bridgend area. I’ve been involved with Youth Cymru since last summer. I work in marketing, have an interest in politics and policy work and in my spare time I chill by watching shows or working out.

I started by getting involved in Llais Ifanc – a young leaders group run by Youth Cymru. I was looking to gain experience and find a way to give back. Lacking in confidence when I started and not knowing that much about the organisation, I was hesitant at first, passing up the first opportunity to put myself forward as a young trustee.

The group was very friendly and welcoming, and I soon got comfortable and down to earth with members from a variety of backgrounds bringing different skill sets. We meet usually for one afternoon a month and have a fun team building activity after. The group is very diverse with members of the LGBT+ and BAME communities as well as those with mental health conditions.

I went on a retreat with Llais Ifanc members and Kirstie, Anna and Julia from Youth Cymru. What we planned to be an exciting retreat did not exactly turn out as planned as they say the best laid plans often go awry.

Departing on a cold, wet and windy day saw lots of people drop out last minute. When we got to the camp, in the middle of the Ceredigion countryside, near New Quay, it was a lot more basic, muddier and colder than we were expecting with no food waiting for us on the first night. The night got better though, when we layered up and got together to play games and trivia with some Papa John’s pizzas. It gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and find out things about each other and turned out to be a worthwhile experience.

That weekend the idea for our toolkit was formed, given the working name Mindstyle, with the theme of mental health criss-crossing it features elements on the transition to adulthood, dealing with finances and the environment.

After finding out about the Reach Out project during the retreat, I instantly wanted to become involved. I started sitting on the Reach Out steering group, alongside people who are interested and have experienced in working with young people and delivering youth services or are young people themselves. We meet monthly as a group at a time and place suitable for young people and are looking to host our meetings virtually moving forward.

Reach Out is our project to address youth loneliness, we support different hubs throughout Wales that run their own projects to bring young people together, so they have opportunities to get involved and expand their social circle. Reach Out is part of the Co-op Foundation’s Belong project to address youth loneliness in different parts of the UK.

Throughout these opportunities I have been able to build my confidence being around decision makers and a variety of people. I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Youth Work in Wales conference in Cardiff hosted by the Welsh Government and host a table with Kirstie that asked ‘How can Youth Work tackle Youth Loneliness?’ and promote the Reach Out project. This event reminded me of the power and importance of working together with similar and different organisations.

By being involved in Youth Cymru I’ve had the opportunities to get heavily involved in the workings of a national charity who’s affect can be felt by young people throughout Wales and build working relationship with the Youth Cymru staff which is really valuable experience and personally rewarding. I enjoy the fact that I get to be part of something bigger and to represent the views of other young people.

While I was anxious at first, I’m really glad I got involved and met the great people I’ve have and experienced a wealth of new experiences. I am now the vice chair of the Llais Ifanc group, I remain on the Reach Out steering group and am looking to become a young trustee of the charity when the opportunity next arises.

We’re looking for more young people throughout Wales to get involved in our work. There are opportunities for 11-25 year olds to join our Llais Ifanc’s youth advocacy panel or for 14-25 year olds to join the Reach Out steering group. Youth Cymru are committed to an inclusive practice, if you think you have any barriers to getting involved have a chat with the team and they’ll help the best they can. If you want to know more about the Reach Out or Llais Ifanc, get in touch with Kirstie (kirstie@youthcymru.org.uk) and she’ll be happy to tell you more.