Mirry De La Haye – “Everybody deserves a chance to be involved with projects like this”

Mirry joined Youth Focus North East as a volunteer in September 2017. We asked Mirry how her first year at Youth Focus North East had gone, and found out about how her life had changed.

How did you get involved with Youth Focus North East? I first heard about Talent Match from a friend who was already a member and attending sessions. Just after I had signed onto Universal Credit at the job centre – I was told about a residential in Hexham. I attended this and fell in love with the atmosphere, and the other young people who attended. It felt so great to be in a space where my views were not only asked for, but heard and acknowledged by others. I made some great friends that I absolutely adore.

What has your experience been like? My experience has been fantastic. Even at my low points, I’ve always felt welcome and included here at Youth Focus. I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong here since making friends and getting involved. Every single person I’ve met has been lovely – the other young people are fantastic and the staff are so supportive. I wish I had signed on sooner after graduation so that I could have had more time with everybody. This is honestly a group I will miss and I hope I still have the opportunity to work with Youth Focus and the other young people in the future. Life has it’s ups and downs – health wise, financially, life dramas – and I think everybody needs a place to come and feel safe, to be able to relax and just enjoy themselves while learning and making friends. I think the effect Youth Focus has had on all of us as a whole will never truly be understood by people who haven’t been here and experience it, because I’ve watched people become better versions of themselves and I’ve only been here a year. Everybody deserves a chance to be involved in projects like this; with groups of people like this because it’s life changing – and everyone deserves the opportunity and space to be safe, happy and heard.

What have you been involved with, what kinds of things have you done? Since joining, I’ve attended a residential; attended recruitment days for Ladders; I’ve written articles and had them published online via TICE (This is Creative Enterprise). I’ve planned day events; attended training; engaged with so many different people from many walks of life. I’ve grown confidence wise, I’ve developed lots of skills and made so many amazing friends. Highlights – Residential, Crafts (making a Christmas themed tower; problem solving/team work), and the Alternative Prom.

Best and worst bits about coming to Youth Focus North East? Best bits; there have been so many. I think training-wise, it’s all been a highlight – I’ve loved spending time with the other Talent Match Leaders and learning new skills. There have been so many more opportunities since joining this group and I’ve loved every minute of it. Worst bits – (hasn’t happened yet but) Talent Match finishing. I’ll miss seeing everybody and being able to take breaks from life to come along and just be a young person.

Has anything significant happened that has made any changes to you personally? Definitely. Since joining Youth Focus North East, I’ve been enrolled on online classes to get more qualifications via NewSkillsAcademy. I have done various training. I’ve been involved with recruitment, I’ve attended board meetings and event days. Every single one of these has been a positive experience that has given me experience and boosted my confidence. I was personally challenged by the resilience training (Young Researches) and felt as though I wasn’t able to be a strong support for other young people due to where I was with my own mental health. Though this wasn’t a very positive experience for me, it did make me realise that I still had to take care of myself; mentally and physically and the support I received when voicing my feelings was incredible. I’ve never been able to talk much about how I feel, especially when I’m upset, and I felt genuinely listened to and understood when I decided to take a step back from work around mental health. I do, however, now know how to spot signs for when my mental health is spiralling which has helped me and will help me for the rest of my life in day-to-day life managing GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder).

How did you feel when you first started/how do you feel now? When I first began, I was eager to prove myself – and my skills – as I had been unemployed for a while due to mental health. I struggle with an anxiety disorder which greatly effects my self-esteem and confidence so talking with new people made me very nervous. I was afraid that the other young people/youth workers wouldn’t like me or that maybe I was in the wrong place because I had a very different “before Youth Focus life” to others. Now that I’ve been here for nearly a year, I adore being here. Before volunteering with Oasis Aquila Housing, I jumped at the chance to be involved in everything I could. I love the people (young people and staff) and I feel so much more confident. Since then I’ve been temporarily employed, and I’ve gained so many more skills.