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Tessa’s story

Tessa’s story

I come from the Gallatown in Kirkcaldy. Poverty, deprivation, social exclusion and lack of opportunities have had a massively detrimental impact in the Gallatown and it has been in serious decline for years. I spent most of my life thinking this is how life is – but why should it be? We are not statistics; we are people and deserve to give ourselves the best possible chance at anything we choose and want to be and how we want to live. I want a better place for my family and friends to live, better prospects, a safe and secure community we’re proud of – not just my community, but the whole of Scotland.

Around 2 and a half years ago I lost my job and had to give up volunteering with Rotaract because of my financial situation, dealing with my health issues and the mental health situation of someone close to me. This led to me becoming really socially isolated compounding my problems.  Luckily for me, 2 years ago I met the Gallatown Link Up Worker and got involved in some local activities. This took away some of the stress and allowed me to get back into volunteering locally – knowing that I could help out at an activity, in my own community and also benefit by getting a bite to eat and making new friends, was a huge benefit. I began to realise I had something to offer and by having access to a variety of opportunities in my own community, I started to build on my skills which also helped me regain some of the confidence and self-belief I had lost.

I have been involved in Link Up almost from day one, starting from the Great Gallatown Scone-Off which developed into the Gallatown Hot Pots cooking club and has now been running for almost 2 years, the Family Fun Days and Soggy Sports – now the Gallatown Youth Club.  Getting involved in these projects and helping out made me feel good about myself as well as giving me something productive and fun to do, instead of the usual normal day-to-day activities of vegetating in front of the T.V. or going on benders for days on end. Being involved in the Link Up projects gave me something to get up for in the morning.

Most of my family have been involved in one if not all of the projects and I have seen the difference it has made, not just to them or me, but all the people in the community that have got involved so far. Before Link Up, everyone was sceptical of local services, outside organisations, groups and even each other – I’m not saying that’s not the case anymore, but we are supporting each other in and out of groups now and work with local services and organisations.

The differences that being involved in community projects range from things like: my mum was having a down day not too long ago and one of the girls came round with a bar of chocolate to cheer her up. I got home and my mum told me what had happened – the fact she had given her a bar of chocolate was nice, but what meant more was that she had thought of her, this would never have happened before.

The cooking group, Gallatown Hot Pots, started off as healthy eating initiative which developed into a cooking group where they used to come in and cook – everything was set up and organised, the dish was decided and  then everything was put away again by a few of us.  Now the group decide what they want to cook, work within a budget for ingredients and manage their equipment.  As well, they are now beginning to discuss opening a community café and are making a recipe book.

One of the most important projects for me was Soggy Sports – which started with a couple of us taking a group of bairns up to the local park and having a kick about and play rounders.  This developed into the Gallatown Youth Club, where I was really lucky to get a Youth Work position. The Youth Club is run in 1 room in the local Bowling Club.  We have a room, tiny bit of storage and access to an even smaller kitchen, but with help from the young people and local volunteers, we have come up with creative ideas, utilised the space we have and have a really successful youth club with around 20 young people attending every Tuesday night.  I really enjoy being a Youth Worker and it never feels like I’m ‘working’.

Around the same time I started my Youth Work post, I got an opportunity to apply for a youth work apprenticeship with Kirkcaldy YMCA and was successful in getting a place.  Part of the apprenticeship is studying for HNC Working with Communities at Fife College. I didn’t even know what a Youth Worker or Community Worker was until I started volunteering through Link Up and now I’m an apprentice youth worker.  I work another 16 hours per week on top of this as a paid youth worker.  I complete my HNC in June and I’ve applied to University to study Community Learning and Development.  I left school with almost no qualifications and to be on the verge of going to Uni is still hard to believe.

For me, Link Up has been life changing and I’ve seen a huge change in a lot of people I know around the community.  Seeing so many people get involved in organising things like the local Gala and toddler groups, play groups, out cycling and doing pottery!! It’s inspiring and is why I want to go to University and help bring about the same kind of change in other communities. People matter and people care. They just need somebody to care about what they care about!

 

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