Helen Azar, is a Director for LGBT+ Service Nottinghamshire, formally known as The Centre Place. Helen has worked there for 14 years and here she shares a Day in her Life.

After doing A Level Health and Social Care at college I went on study Youth and Community Work and started to volunteer in the third sector to gain experience. I have, A level Health and Social Care Double Award. Diploma in Youth and Community Work. BSc hons Degree in Social Work. NVQ in Leadership and Management. Social Work Practice teaching award Stage 1&2.

Working for LGBT+ Nottinghamshire, there’s never a typical day, particularly when working with children and young people within a busy and vibrant centre! Two days per week we run evening groups so have long days starting at 9.30am and finishing at 10pm. The day starts with some office time, responding to emails, taking new referrals, booking in new appointments, completing data for monitoring reports. We have weekly staff meetings to plan direct work with children and young people, analysing and discussing their needs and developing plans of work to meet these. We then have one-to-one work taking place within schools focusing on supporting trans and gender diverse children and young people. After these sessions, it would be back to office to document the work done and monitor the progress and outcomes. We will usually have at least one phone call or online message from a young person in crisis that needs to be dealt with immediately. We will factor this in and work as a team to manage this around other planned work.

Then the evening sessions need to be prepared for. We run an 11-16 and 16-25 LGBT group one after the other. We have allocated time within the groups for one-to-one work. We then deliver an interactive LGBT+ focused structured activity with the group. We also make snacks with that group and allow time for them to build relationships with their peers. Following the first session we document the number of those attending, any interventions, observations, concerns and outcomes. We then repeat this process for the second group. At the end of a very long, yet very rewarding day, we finally get to go home ready to start again the following day.

I love being part of a team that has a lasting positive impact on the lives of incredibly vulnerable children and young people, it’s this that makes the long hours, late nights and weekends all worth it. You get to see the difference we as a team make to children and young people. Seeing them grow and develop, overcome the challenges they face and reach their full potential, knowing that without our service their lives would be very different. This is something that I am extremely proud to be part of on a weekly basis.

In addition to this I developed the idea to establish our LGBT+ support services 10 years ago and worked tirelessly to ensure it was effective in meeting the needs of the young LGBT+ community. This has gone from strength to strength over the last 10 years and the staff team and I have continued to dedicate endless amounts of our personal time to expand our work, increase our knowledge, reach more children and young people ensure this service is meeting the needs of the community. We have made huge changes to the organisation to continue to expand this work. We have been successful in making changes within our local community and breakdown some of the negative attitudes towards the LGBT+ community.

We were successful in campaigning to have the rainbow flag flown at the local town hall for to celebrate LGBT+ history month in 2012 and raise awareness of the LGBT+ community. We were successful in doing this and worked alongside elected members and the general public to raise their awareness, as a result the rainbow flag has been flown each year since 2012 to mark history month. The work led to establishing a local LGBT+ Forum and celebrating LGBT+ events locally.

In addition to this we successfully organised the first ever Equality Parade within North Nottinghamshire, which marched through the town centre of Worksop along the main high street and up to the main event stage officially opening the 2nd Worksop Pride event to take place in the area. The parade was a huge success that brought together thousands of local residents and people from outside of the area to show their support to the LGBT+ community and celebrate all differences.

Over 1,500 people joined in with the parade to celebrate community cohesion, diversity and equality. The parade was an iconic moment for the area and the local LGBT+ community and something that few people believed would happen through the centre of such a small ex mining town with high levels of deprivation.

If someone was interested in getting involved with this kind of work, I’d suggestvolunteering at different settings to find an area of work that you feel you can thrive in and make a real difference. Try different age ranges and see what you feel more confident with. Volunteering is extremely rewarding and will support with developing a range of new skills and increasing knowledge of different sectors.

Before I took on this job, I wish someone had talked to me about the challenges faced with the third sector and pressures of constantly fighting to secure funding to keep services running.

If you’d like to know more about the work LGBT+ Service Nottinghamshire do, or you think you might benefit from their help, then please visit their website.

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