A story by Multi Cultural Family Base
Yolo Sistas provided a regular break from domestic caring responsibilities for girls age 12-18 who come from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The group is delivered in weekly afterschool groups and offers emotional support, positive relationships and social development.
What YOLO Sistas did
In the last year (Sept 2020 to September 2021) we delivered upward of 40 weekly term time sessions, as well as two outdoor activities during the Summer holidays 2021.
YOLO was one of the first groups at MCFB to transition online during Covid 19 with the young women meeting weekly over Zoom. This was a core group of young women who found value in being able to access this space and time for themselves within their own home environments despite the space not always being private, and on occasion, needing to leave the call to attend to family requests.
For some of the girls in the group attendance over Zoom was sporadic due to a number of issues including having English as an additional language, and finding it difficult to understand what is being said in digital environment where many of the other signals that help with communication and understanding are not present. In May 2020, due to restrictions being lifted, the group began to meet in person again, and the girls for whom online attendance was a challenge, began to take part once again.
Visits were discussed collaboratively, and choices made by the young carers. We visted Gorgie City Farm, followed by subsequent visits to the Royal Botanic Gardens, City Art Centre, Holyrood Park, Crolla’s Ice Cream, and and end of term treat to Coro’s for lots of ice cream and waffles. Since the group has returned from the summer break, we have had a wonderful trip tp Camera Obscura, and which was also a final goodbye for one of our members who is now at University.
What Multi Cultural Family Base has learned
We have learned that BAME Young Carers particular needs continue to be under represented in Scottish society, in schools in universal youth provision and in may services such as CAMHS. We learned that we need to continue to bring this to the attention of policy makers and funders in order to ensure that the needs of this group continue to be taken into account.
We have learned that we need to continue to be particularly sensitive and culturally informed when working with young women from backgrounds where the role of young carer may not be regarded as an additional role or potential source of stress or pressure by their families. Our expertise in this area is an asset when undertaking work with communities and individuals that are underrepresented in many services. We are careful not to generate a view that the young women are being disadvantaged by meeting the needs of their families as this would be culturally insensitive to norms in many of their families/communities and could lead to the young women being discouraged from attending.
Covid presented a number of challenges that we needed to address and digital poverty was a resulting issue. We quickly learned, through our cultural awareness/competence, that we needed to ensure that YOLO families, who needed technology, also had access to appropriate language supports (interpreted technical support and devices with appropriate keyboards) as an essential service/support.
How Multi Cultural Family Base has benefitted from the funding
We were able to forge connections that led to Young Carers Festival funding that provided support to the group in the Summer holiday period. The funding allowed us to continue to connect with communities that find many services hard to reach/access. This strengthens our reputation in those communities, schools and with other referer's such as health and social work.
The young women will have knowledge of supports available to them if they wish including apps and other organisations. A range of healthy options for activity and wellbeing will be offered. Cared for family members will benefit from direct support, and their daughters will benefit from the respite
The young women continue to tell us in discussions, and by their commitment to the group how important this group is to them. Each week, there are opportunities to share food, and always encouragement to have some that are healthy, as well as the food that brings them comfort. Discussions are had about mental health, and discussions had to build a range of coping strategies, including breath work and gratitude awareness. In thinking about situations that have made them happy, all the girls have included the weekly YOLO gathering as integral to feelings of wellbeing and happiness. The families of the young women have continued to be supportive of their daughter’s attendance at the group, and there is ongoing work with one of the families where there are ongoing challenges faced by parent and sibling of one of our YOLO girls due to domestic violence and trauma. We make use of the YOLO WhatsApp group to make plans and share resources, share pictures and offer support.
RA submitted this quote "I have been going to Yolo for about 4 years maybe more and I can say it’s been the best experience of my life as we get to do activities that we may not get to do otherwise, it’s a group filled with other girls whom I have made life long friendships with, girls from all walks of life. It makes me broad minded and makes me feel safe, the group is leaving a positive impact on us as during the lockdown the only support from outside was the Regular Zoom calls every Friday and it kept us going, looking forward to it every week even if we didn’t meet in person. But now that we can go outside it’s crucial that the group gets recognition for doing so much for us. Yolo is extremely beneficial for those who go and the society around us as it creates confident individuals bringing their own experiences and skills to our society helping build it up. Yolo sistas has been running for years and hopefully will be for the foreseeable future"
3 young women will have graduated from the group. 4-10 Young women will have experience of new activities. 10 Young Women will have access to digital devices that will allow them access to the group if Covid 19 continues to impact in the longer term
Three young women have now moved on from YOLO and are in Higher Education. There are plans underway for a reunion, where they can come back to see us, and we can hear how they are experiencing this chapter of their lives. In May 2020, due to restrictions being lifted, the group began to meet in person again starting with 6 girls. For those where online attendance was a challenge, began to take part once again. Our initial visit was to Gorgie City Farm, followed by subsequent visits to the Royal Botanic Gardens, City Art Centre, Holyrood Park, as well as going out for delicious treats! Since the group has returned from the summer break, we have had a trip to a show in Edinburgh Festival and to Camera Obscura, which was also a final goodbye for one of our members who is now at University. Over the summer holidays some of the YOLO girls went Kayaking with Bridge 8 Hub, and had a day of outdoor activities at Broomlee. The outings gave the girls a chance to meet other young people.
SH is 14 years old, she was sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle in Scotland. Originally from Sudan, she was perceived by her mother to be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Her mother gave very little notice of SH's arrival and her Aunt and Uncle took her in. SH is expected to support her Aunt with the care of her 3 younger cousins and often adopts the role of second mother in the family dynamic. She was very disorientated and sad to have been removed form her family and placed in Scotland with family that she hardly knew. We knew the family as we supported her Aunt who has experienced poor mental health, low mood and depression and has sought support to combat this. When SH arrived we supported the young woman to become settled at school and she immediately identified as a potential YOLO Group candidate. SH loves the group and is a regular and enthusiastic attender. She embraces all of the activities, discussions and online sessions. She has made a close friend in the group and they spend time together out with the group which is clearly very important to them both. The YOLO Sista's have offered a space that is both exciting and familiar to SH at a stage when social isolation and emotional turmoil could very easily have overwhelmed her completely. Her favourite activity so far has been bowling!
Additional project outcome
Challenge of digital Poverty will be addressed. They will have devices and data available to them to stay connected to the group and for them to be able to participate an other aspects of their lives ie on-line support, libraries, and homework, if needs be,
Family P were offered laptops and tablets to assist them to be connected to their extended family outside the UK. For the children to be able to participate in school lessons and assist them with English tuition and support. The agency that supplied the family with the equipment were unaware that the family needed to be familiarised with the technology supplied - Laptop and two tablets. The family had the technology but not the means to use it. The family struggled to participate in school meetings for two younger children and needed to be assisted in such meetings by attending the school premises and have a teaching assistant log them on to the meeting from her own device. We were able to assist by working with an interpreter for the parents to learn the basics of logging on and the use of platforms such as Teams and Zoom. The Mother of the family was also supplied with a phone that allowed her to seek confidential support in relation to domestic abuse that she was experiencing. Her mental health had deteriorated further during Lockdown and this was a concern to the group workers and to the staff supporting the family. This impacted the children of the family all of whom found it difficult to leave their mother on her own for fear that she would be harmed when they were outside the home (at school, at groups or other activities). When such difficulties are present group members can find it difficult to attend online groups if the home environment does not support this use of space. The technology itself, can be in high demand or not supported within the household (connected to WiFi/Internet). We supported the provision of technology to close the digital poverty divide and to offer culturally aware and sensitive interventions by Groupwork staff and students to allow the whole family to receive services and seek support when necessary. We encouraged participation in group activities both in person and on line at a level that felt comfortable and safe. The family continue to receive support.