Interview with Mel, a Night Light Café Volunteer

by Pam Jenkinson – Night Light Café Project Worker

Mel, has been volunteering at one of our Night Light cafes since 2021. She shares with us the passion and vision of what Night Light stands for and we so appreciate the commitment and enthusiasm she gives to the café she volunteers at. I asked Mel about why she has chosen to volunteer with us at Night Light and why she feel there is a necessity for this project.

Mel – Night Light Volunteer
  1. Where did you first hear about Night Light Café? 

I contacted the Volunteer Centre Services as I was looking for volunteering with an organisation on the mental health field and they told me about this project and how brilliant it was.

Team interview

I caught up with Alanna, who’s recently joined the Acts Team on a six month placement as a ‘Projects Assistant’ through Kickstart. Alanna is working across the charity helping out with most of our projects each week, including with young people at Energize holiday clubs and schemes, Restore courses and our Community Grocery.

Alanna had a brilliant interview with us and has made a strong start. I caught up with her last week to see how she’s getting on.

Tell us a bit about yourself; what’s led you up to this point in life, what are your hobbies and passions?

I’m Alanna, I have been working with Acts for just over a month now! In 2020, I graduated form the University of Bristol in Psychology and since then have worked as an Inclusivity Project Researcher supporting young LGTBQ+ young people and their families. I love to travel and previously I have worked in Paris and Barcelona as an Au Pair and worked as a waitress in the French Alps for a season, all of which were great experiences that introduced me to new cultures and opportunities! I am really passionate about creating equal opportunities and supporting individuals and communities to be able to access the support they need, particularly when it comes to mental health.

What is Kickstart, and what drew you to come and work with Acts?

Kickstart is a government funded scheme offering six-month work placements to 16-24 year olds to get back into work and gain the work experience they require. I was drawn to work with Acts as I felt they offered the perfect opportunity for me to gain the skills, training and experience I would need to develop as a community and mental health support worker in the future. I also felt they were really committed to offering and ensuring my time with them was enriching, varied and positive.

What does your role with Acts entail?

My role as Community Projects Assistant enables me to work across Acts on a diverse range of projects delivering support to so many different people and communities. So far, this has involved supporting the delivery of the Restore courses, such as the Life Ready course which supports people to build strong foundations for life. I will also soon be involved in the Restore coaching support which I am very excited for.

I also support the Energize team working to deliver evening youth clubs and holiday schemes across the city. This has been a great opportunity to get to know some great kids and offer arts and crafts activities, organize sports activities and more.

Finally, I also have the opportunity to support the Community Grocery which has been such a rewarding experience and a great learning opportunity to understand how I can support the worsening living crisis in Lincoln and tackle food waste whilst meeting lots of friendly faces.

What are you hoping to get out of working for Acts, and conversely, what impact do you hope to have? 

By working for Acts, I am hoping to support and empower individuals and communities and make a positive impact on hopefully at least one person’s life, if not more! I am hoping to gain a whole host of transferable skills that will help me to deliver impactful, empathetic support going forward and I look forward to contributing to great projects in the community that I grew up in.

We always need enthusiastic team members, like Alanna, joining our staff team. You can keep an eye out for job opportunities here, or click here to join our volunteer team.

You’ve been working with us for about a month now. What have been some of your highlights so far?

My highlights so far have been meeting so many people from different backgrounds and having some insightful and empowering conversations. I have also appreciated the opportunity to further my understanding of the challenges that people in my community face and learning how I can contribute to creating positive outcomes. Working with the kids through the Energize schemes has been so much fun and given me a great refresher on timeless games such as stuck in the mud and dodgeball!

I also love the community grocery! It’s such a great initiative and lovely space where everyone that works to make it happen are so positive.

Check out what’s on here if you’d like to get some help with us, or book your children into some activities with Energize.

How about the biggest challenges? 

I think the biggest challenge so far has been having some difficult conversations with Acts service users who are in challenging situations or struggling and understanding and realising the lack of opportunities they are often faced with. It has also given me the chance to check my privilege and realise how different the experience of living in Lincoln can be.

You can support local people facing these challenges by giving to us financially.

What are your own hopes for after your placement with us?

After my placement, my hope is to continue to support under-served communities however I can. I am passionate about pursuing a career that creates accessible mental health support and services for communities that find it difficult to access this based on a number of factors. I would like to explore possible interventions and policies that work towards challenging mental health stigma and stereotypes enabling easily accessible, judgement-free services for all communities. I would also like to do some more travelling if possible, potentially combining my passion for research and academia.

If you’re involved with any of our projects, you’ll likely meet Alanna in the coming weeks. Do say hello and help her continue to feel welcome!

What’s going on at Lincoln Foodbank…

I wanted to use my opportunity this month to highlight the need and demand for Foodbank and to try and raise awareness. In the month of March Lincoln Foodbank fed 692 people of which 265 were children.

What impact does detached youth work have?

Youth work can be interesting sometimes because we can often think that ‘surely if we put out some games and snacks, young people will almost certainly attend and join in with the activities we put on’, but this doesn’t happen as much as we’d hope it would.

Read more.

I remember being a teenager, and every week I and my youth group would go to the local park, hand out hot chocolates and play football with the other teenagers there. A few of those young people then asked questions about what we were doing and why we were doing it, and one or two of them came to our church youth group after a while, but a lot of them didn’t. I think a lot of them found security in being outside, in an open space, that was free and accessible to everyone. Sometimes walking into a closed space, which isn’t as open to the public as a park is, can feel intimidating or awkward.

At Energize we recognise this, and so around the school holidays we will sometimes do some detached work, which means we go to local parks, and hangout places where young people tend to gather, get to know them and speak to them about what we do and how we would love to see them at our activities. As we go into their spaces, we take the reins and responsibility of potentially feeling like the vulnerable ones. But in doing so, we have often started new connections with young people or strengthened old ones, whilst playing football or riding in the skatepark.

Studies and statistics from across the country including youth groups and local councils have found that detached youth work is one of the most effective ways to reach young people where they are at. The Centre for Youth Impact, based in London, conducted a study in their study of eight youth work settings around England (though both detached work and youth clubs). They found that young people started to really value youth workers, as they felt they were understanding, non-judgemental and safe people to speak to who weren’t parents or teachers.

We have planned to include detached youth work in all of our holiday schemes throughout the year, as we recognise that young people need people who will reach out to them, wherever they are; whilst also be invited to a place where they know will be safe, where they can have fun, and where they can meet new people their age, and positive role models.

If you would like to or know a young person who would like to sign up for our Easter Holiday Scheme Programme, please use the links below:

Mental Health and Sleep

By Pam Jenkinson – Night Light Café Project Worker 

I Can’t Get No Sleep ……

Have you ever lay awake at night unable to sleep? What keeps you awake? What goes through your mind? How does lack of sleep impact your following day? 

We all need to sleep! According to the Sleep foundation, ‘sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly’.  

So, it is no surprise then that lack of sleep can be detrimental to our mental health. If you have a mental health problem it can affect how well you sleep, but likewise poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. It’s a vicious cycle, one of which can be difficult to break

Do Numbers Tell Stories?

By Gill Simpson, Finance Manager, Acts Trust

What image does ‘Story Telling’ conjure up for you? ‘Once upon a time’ ….. ‘They lived happily ever after’ maybe. Perhaps it has taken you back to school, to that end of day story read to you before heading home. A story just before bedtime is a fond childhood memory for many people. In Britain most stories told are those read from a book brought alive with facial expressions, tone and pace of voice and a little embellishment from the reader. Some people are amazing at improvising stories they tell and in many cultures stories are used as a way of passing on traditions and history.

How do you pray during difficult times?

By Simon Hawking

When my eldest son was a baby, my wife and I visited an NCT sale. This is where parents can bring all their unused ‘nearly new’ baby things for a ‘bring and buy’ style sale.

What is it like to volunteer at the Lincoln Community Grocery?

Kerry Werling interviews Sue Brier

Tell me a little about yourself ….
I’m 72 years old, have been retired for a number of years and just love volunteering!

An Interview with a Night Light Café Guest

by Stacey Marriott – Night Light Café Coordinator

We value all our guests who come to our Night Light cafes, whether this is for a one off visit or to come to find a weekly safe haven. I recently met up with one of our guests, Anastasia for a chat and this is what she had to tell me:

Q What’s your favourite animal and why?

I love cows, I really love a big ginger cow! I also love sloths because they are sleepy and slow like me.

Q I notice you have blue hair, tell us about that?

I thought that everyone was staring at me, so I thought I would make them stare! I dyed my hair blue and got lots of piercings.

Time for a good news story

Yes, it’s been a very difficult and dark week. You could have been excused for turning off your social media feeds altogether but, even if it’s just a welcome distraction, we have some good, local news to share.

Is it Acceptable to use a Foodbank?

I started working for Lincoln Foodbank in 2015 and during that year we helped 2185 people with emergency food parcels. Last year Lincoln Foodbank helped 4524 people in crisis with emergency food parcels, 1600 of those people were children. That’s a massive 107% increase in people needing support.

Situations like ill health, job loss or a global pandemic can happen to any of us, however, if you are living on or below the poverty line (like 1/4 children in Lincoln are) it’s going to start that spiral into crisis meaning you can’t afford the essentials like gas, electricity or food.


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