The Empathy Project

Young people in Hertfordshire can now take part in an innovative project to give emotional support to other young people in times of difficulty, thanks to the Empathy Project.

Young people in Hertfordshire are able to volunteer in an innovative and unique project that allows them to support their peers in hospital settings and in the community.

Launched in October 2017, the Empathy Project enables young people in Hertfordshire to act as community navigators, administer social prescriptions and give emotional support to other young people attending A&E. This YC Hertfordshire initiative is delivered in collaboration with the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the East and North Herts NHS Trust.

 

Over 70 volunteers, aged 16 to 21, have now applied to be Empathy Project Volunteers but we need more! Our goal for 2018, the year the NHS turns 70, is to ensure we have 70 active volunteers in each A&E unit in Herts and a further 70 working across four community projects across the county.     

Volunteers will be given extensive training before being deployed to support their peers, providing emotional support to young people in care, in youth projects as well as to their peers (and their families where appropriate) attending children’s A&Es in Watford General Hospital and Lister Hospital, Stevenage.

Empathy Project Volunteers aim to provide practical and emotional support to patients whilst in A&E, and ensure they leave with a clearer idea of the range of support and activities available to them in their community. One such activity will be our new Wellbeing Groups, which will launch this September.

The project continues to welcome applications from young people. The only criteria is that applicants must be 16 years of age or older and want to help others. Those who are considering a career in health or social care would be particularly suitable for this project. Please note that all applicants must attend an interview and will undergo a DBS (police) check.

Once selected, volunteers will be invited to complete training, receiving certificates in:

  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Royal Society for Public Health Emotional Wellbeing
  • Safeguarding
  • SafeTalk (suicide prevention) training


Volunteers will work in small groups of up to four in A&E and up to six in Wellbeing Groups and will be supervised and chaperoned at all times by an experienced YC Hertfordshire youth worker.

This is a unique volunteering opportunity for young people who will develop a wide range of transferable skills as a result.

To apply, or if you have any further questions or would like to know more about this project, please get in touch with Project Co-ordinator, Debi Roberts at debi.roberts@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Read the full report of about the work of the Empathy Project so far.


Some feedback from young people:

“It has allowed my confidence in my own abilities to develop, allowing me to put my interpersonal skills to use and teaching me vital knowledge of how to deal with mental health and how to share this.”    

 

“So I’ve gained so much knowledge from the Empathy Project already despite only having done two shifts under my belt. I’ve learnt that sometimes you have to ask uncomfortable questions in order to help people and also just how valuable a mere smile and sticker can be to not only the children but also the parents/ carers in a waiting room. But I think above all, I’ve come to realise the importance and power of listening and not always trying to fill silence with my usual go-to small talk. That wasn’t an easy observation for me, a self proclaimed chatterbox, but the project has definitely opened my eyes up to the concept of listening in order to understand as opposed to listening in order to reply and giving people the time and space to speak if they wish. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in the future!   Thanks.”

 

“The empathy project has developed me as an individual having a particular impact on my confidence which I am grateful for. I have also been able to enhance my communication and listening skills which is essential for my future aspirations. Finally, it has helped solidify my commitment to a career in psychology and made me more determined to pursue this.”