Finding a community on the YWT Advisory Panel

By Maria • 2 July 2019

Being out of work through a bit of a disastrous encounter had left me quite isolated and the thought of spending 48+ hours with a group of unfamiliar women who were all already acquainted for the Advisory Panel residential weekend was nerve wracking. Luckily, Mattea (an existing panel member) was on the train with me and set me at ease explaining the things she had done with Young Women’s Trust at previous residentials.

After dumping our stuff in our rooms on arrival we headed down for dinner. It was a small group the first night which was a nice opportunity to break the ice with people and get to know each other.

Welcome workshop

On the first day there was a ‘Welcome Workshop’ which was divided into the newbies and leavers. The leavers were leading the workshop and explaining about what our roles would become when we were fully interacting members of the panel. Lauren really knew her stuff, and it was encouraging to see and hear what we could potentially do (like talking on the radio about issues close to us, to television, to addressing members of parliament).

Later in the day once all panel members had arrived we had discussions about our attitudes and opinions towards fundraising and the different roles we could fulfill in order to give back what we had got out.

We discussed the upcoming Young Women’s Trust Manifesto, which is designed to set out the issues that matter the most to young women. There were other discussions about the service provided by Young Women’s Trust which is called Work It Out and is designed to provide coaching and advice for women aged 18 to 30 looking to get into work.

Getting creative

I really enjoyed the badge-making workshop in the evening because getting crafty and making something for yourself is a meaningful way to remember an experience. I’ve worn the badge I made like a good luck talisman (it’s a bee with a flower and says ‘feminist’ in cut up newsprint, a really #basic way to be edgy).

There were two workshops run on the Sunday, one was called ‘Failing Big and Networking’ and the other was the ‘Public Speaking Workshop’ which, for me at least, was definitely a lot more than just a take away about how to have a conversation. Abby who ran the workshop helped us get into all corners of how we express ourselves in front of other people (and to ourselves) and tried to teach us some mindfulness-inspired techniques for putting ourselves out there when we speak. I’ve been using the technique of grounding myself literally to stop myself stumbling over my words, and listening to Brene Brown: so far, so good!

Finding a community

I’d joined the panel after seeing a post on Instagram at a time when I was feeling extremely disaffected and was looking for something to be involved with. Seeing how emotional the leavers were on the Sunday, I was struck by how much it means to people – on multiple levels. It’s not just an opportunity to meet and connect with people who you never would in any other circumstance and finding commonality although you’ve all got such unique lived experiences. It felt like a proper sisterhood – getting texts making sure we all got home okay and making assurances to stay in touch and meet up soon in each other’s cities. It’s a community, as much as anything else, and something I feel very privileged to be a part of.

Are you looking for a community? Join our Facebook group, The Lounge for women aged 18 to 30 to take part in discussions, opportunities and competitions.