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Finding ‘my people’ as a volunteer at Brook

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2023, Rachael Fitzpatrick talks about how her experience volunteering at Brook led her to her current role as an Education and Wellbeing Coordinator.

When I was growing up I lived in an environment where talking about relationships, especially sex, just didn’t happen.

To be totally honest I was frightened that I was doing something wrong and I didn’t want to get into trouble. My parents were scary! But I was a teenager, I was exploring my identity, developing attractions for people and I wanted to be able to talk about that. Relationships were the hot topic in my friendship group and it seemed liked everyone was having sex, there was a pressure that was almost palpable. 

It was once I had started my first relationship that I came into contact with a lovely lady who worked within the sexual health sector. She came to the youth group I attended and did drop-ins, very similarly to the work that Brook does. She was so kind and welcoming that I’d pop in and see her just to say hello. She made talking about relationships easy and I never felt judged. It was in those moments that I knew this was what I wanted to do. To let people be themselves, and talk freely about what they were experiencing. 

Fast forward a fair few years, I was at a point where I wanted a career change and this role was still in the back of my mind. I decided to attend university and I graduated with a BSc Public Health and Wellbeing degree. Whilst I was studying I needed to get some experience so I contacted Brook Wirral to see if I could volunteer.

On my first phone call I knew I had found “my people”.

We talked for ages and the person on the phone said “You sound like the perfect fit for Brook”. I was welcomed into Brook as a volunteer and I absolutely loved my time with the facilitators in the classrooms.

In my role as a volunteer, I spent time in the classrooms and sat with students as they completed their work, or listened in on their smaller group discussions, encouraging them to develop their thoughts and understanding of the topic. I really loved being a part of all of the activities that Brook delivered and it was exciting to see the young people engaging and really wanting to learn about these topics. It highlighted to me the lack education we had around sex and relationships at school – not only do Brook deliver insightful sessions, they make them fun too and I could see how much the students took away from the lessons. 

After a while the branch coordinator talked with me about becoming a bank member of staff. She told me she could really see potential in me and wanted me to be able to do more than what I could do as a volunteer. I applied straight away and was keen to get into the classrooms to facilitate. The support at Brook was amazing. Lots of training and shadowing but it was exciting and it was a real buzz to actually be delivering. I can remember my first day delivering on my own like it was yesterday. 

Within the past few years I have progressed onto a full-time Specialist, and then onto Education and Wellbeing Coordinator. Brook really does encourage you to develop yourself and apply for roles that further your career. I received so much support from the team around me and my manager. Working in Brook does cause you to self-reflect a LOT and I have found myself becoming a more assertive and confident person. 

My experiences with young people have without doubt changed me.

I have been opened up to seeing their world, which looks so different to the one I was in as a teen. The pressures of social media now are something else. I love connecting with young people and helping them make the right decisions for them, their health and wellbeing and their relationships. It has given me a different perspective to view the world and I am as passionate now, about creating safe spaces for young people, as I ever was. 

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