The NHS London Violence Reduction Programme is supporting YourStance to recruit a volunteer network of healthcare professionals to teach haemorrhage control and basic life support skills to young Londoners to help tackle serious youth violence in local communities. We have supported Yourstance with their expansion across London boroughs from 2021. Yourstance is just one of the organisations we hope to work with in 2023 to support impact across communities in London. Here we interview YourStance Co-Director Helen Ormrod.
Tell us about YourStance
YourStance is run by healthcare professionals, and we bring health professionals as volunteers, and young people together in an educational project which empowers young people to make informed decisions when faced with an emergency, by teaching lifesaving skills. Our Goals? To eradicate needless deaths in our communities by having open conversations, empowering, and sharing knowledge and skills between experienced healthcare professionals and young people at risk of serious youth violence.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt as both a volunteer and co-founder?
I’ve learnt to listen to young people and incorporate their feedback. Not to go in with preconceived ideas about what they need. Instead, listen to what they say they need and try to meet that need. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt.
Covid was hard as our sessions stopped in the way we’d like to run them, so we had to be innovative and think of different ways to connect with young people. That was tough but once again it taught us a lot about working with young vulnerable people.
Why is working in communities so important for YourStance?
Community is everything for YourStance, it’s how we engage with young people. We’re privileged to enter community settings, to be invited in to teach. We go to young people where they are, for example, pupil referral units, young offenders intuitions and youth centres, this makes it more likely that they will engage with us.
Can you give us an insight into a session at YourStance?
YourStance offers lots of different sessions. A typical main session would be a two-hour session that teaches young people all the tools they need to save a life. This includes CPR, basic life support (recovery position) and bleed control. We start with ice-breaking exercises and end with a grounding exercise.
It’s interesting for new volunteers. They come along and they don’t expect to learn from or be taught by young people, but they soon discover that young people are full of knowledge and wisdom, and they learn so much from them. We will all be teaching each other more than just life-saving skills, I find this interaction so inspiring. You see the equilibrium balance out, experiencing the communication between volunteers and young people is just great.
In your words, what is it like to work with volunteers?
They’re amazing. There are volunteers giving their time on a Friday night and then go and do their ‘day job’ the NHS. Even when it’s all weekend. When I heard about that, I was amazed by the dedication. Volunteers are the backbone of everything we do, we couldn’t exist without them.
We have volunteers from a range of health professionals – doctors, nurses, paramedics, GPs and surgeons – lots of variety. That wealth and depth of knowledge gives young people so much out of sessions because of the different ways and settings which our volunteers work.
We like to think we have a flat hierarchy so if someone has a great idea, we encourage them to shout from the roof tops. Lots of ideas come from our health professional volunteers who suggest ways of doing things, but our young people have great ideas as well. Put them together and see how everyone learns. It’s so good for everyone.
What is the impact on your work from your volunteers?
I work in an emergency department at the moment and YourStance has really impacted the way I work with young people. Ana Waddington, my Co-Director always said to me that you meet with these young people for a moment and you have no idea what happened in their past, no idea what is in their future – you just meet them in the moment. You don’t judge them or project onto them anything they may have done or not done, or anything you think they should or should not have done.
This has affected my work and ability to engage with young people. And I know that most of our volunteers feel the same way now. Young people need to be engaged with not judged.
What do young people get from your volunteers?
YourStance is unique in that we have trained medical professionals who have professional experience with traumatic injuries and are able to offer a unique insight into how you can treat traumatic injuries from serious interpersonal violence.
I have witnessed many conversations that have started in a session and gone into the specific circumstances of a person and because our volunteers are so highly trained, they’re able to have that conversation, engage with them about that specific situation and then lead it back to the session again.
Trust building is important as a lot of young people we work with have been left out by many agencies for many different reasons. They can be rightfully untrusting of professionals. A group of volunteers giving up their time and coming in does start to build that trust back up and start to slightly change the young person’s perspective.
What do you say to people thinking about volunteering?
I would say to just go and do it. Not only are you going to be helping young people, but you’d be amazed at how much it will help you too. It isn’t just about improving your skills or communication abilities but so many volunteers come to us who have started to lose their compassion for young people. However, so many volunteers, after doing sessions with us realise how much more compassion they build for young people and particularly those impacted by serious youth violence.
The sessions with young people have made them think again, to see young people as people trying to change their lives. Their empathy has returned and grown in leaps and bounds, they learn to be unafraid of engaging with young people at work and they’ve re-discovered why they entered healthcare in the first place. It’s incredible, and it’s only two hours and we’re in lots of different locations across London now.
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What do you think you have achieved in 2022?
So much! 2022 has been a year of growth for YourStance. We taught over 820 young people in 2022, have increased our volunteer base, expanded to running regular sessions in 10 boroughs and have used our research collected from feedback to present our learning in various professional forums.
We partnered with Charlton Football Club, so we are teaching football coaches as well as children and youth workers with kids. We taught Sheffield residents how to set up a YourStance programme – they’ve done that now and it’s working well.
All of this takes money to run. Behind the scenes, we were lucky to get Lottery Funding so we now employ a couple of members of staff which has helped with the sustainability and longevity of the project. Bart’s Charity has allowed us to buy equipment which meant we were able to run more and better equipped sessions. We’re so grateful to all our funders who make this work possible.
We expanded into six different London boroughs, and this was the result of hard work often in people’s own time. We now have a database of over 300 volunteers in and around London, which is amazing.
What are your wishes for 2023?
For 2023 we would like to continue on the sustainable growth that we have achieved, establishing a presence in even more areas of need within London.
We have now successfully launched our Advanced Zero Responder Workshops which trains professionals who will be supporting young people at risk. We have successfully completed training for 50 professionals in Charlton F.C. For such training, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also proud of the YourStance Supports Program, which is a two-day training event aimed at NHS trusts outside of London looking to start a similar project. YourStance Supports was trialled in 2022 with further plans for more YourStance Supports events in the future. Sheffield’s Children’s hospital has successfully started delivering workshops and feel empowered to do more.
There are lots more exciting developments in YourStance for 2023, head to our socials on twitter or instagram to keep up to date with our latest news. @yourstance_cic