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Promoting Inclusion
Start date: 01 Aug 2016, End date: 31 Oct 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Cork Simon provided care and support to those who are homeless or who have experienced homelessness. As an organisation we support over 1000 people annually. This number increases with each year. The people we work with are some of the most marginalised and stigmatised people in modern society. Often the people we work with have many issues such as mental health and addiction issues as well as physical health problems. As a community we operate to our 6 core valyues: Community, Diversity, Inclusion, Commitment to Care, Social Justice, Voluntarism. Voluntarism has a special place in our organisation given that we were founded by volunteers 45 years ago. Our commitment to the volunteer experience led us to develop our project with the aim of engaging young people with regards to the issue of homelessness and the various topics that surround it. The young volunteers that work with us come from many diverse cultures and backgrounds and bring with them a dynamism and enthuusiasm that is invaluabl to our work. Our volunteers work alongside our residents in an empowering and non-judgemenayl way. They work hard to build trusting professional relationships with the people in our services helping them with daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning as well as engaging in leisure activities with them. The spirit of inclusion that permeates our project is very special to us and it fuels our volunteering project. The purpose of this project is to build our previous experience and foster a spirit of inclusion. Our project hopes to instill in our volunteers a passion for, and understanding of, social justice and inclusion through non-formal learning methods and intercultural learning. Our participants will get hands-on experience of working in an empowering way with our residents. This has such a positive impact on both our residents and our volunteers. Our 5 EVS participants work across our 5 residential houses and carry out a range of tasks from practical things like helping with cooking and cleaning to spending time doing activities with our residents and developing activities and projects based on their own skills and interests. Our volunteers undergo a high level of personal development during their time with us and they are supported through this through regular supervision, monthly mentoring sessions and training. At all times the emphasis is on reflective practice and volunteers are given the space to reflect on what they are learning and how it is impacting on them. The nature of our work means that it is very 'hands-on' and the learning that occurs is mostly experiential. This also means that at times it can be challenging. Our volunteers are supported in many different ways throughout their placement with us such as supervision, training, team-meetings and mentoring. At all stages in our project our volunteers are learning. and it is often in dealing with the challenges that they are learning the most. Our volunteers develop a range of skills during their time with us. Formally they receive training in topics such as First Aid, Manual Handling, Cardiac First-Responder etc. But they are also learning active listening skills, communication skills, and the importance of professional boundaries. We see our volunteers grow in confidence and maturity. We see them explore their own value systems, prejudices and attitudes towards homelessness. They gain a greater insight into social justice issues and we see from their Youthpass and other evaluation materials that this personal development is something that is an often unexpected but always very welcome aspect to the volunteer experience. In practical terms the skills they learn here are things that they will take with them as they move forwward in their chosen field of work or study. The influence of the experience can often be seen in the areas that many of our former volunteers choose to study - Medicine, Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy are popular choices for our former volunteers.
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