[Editor’s note: Guest post written by: Jo Hoyer, whose work for Northamptonshire Libraries Service includes delivering a number of successful projects including “I’m The Girl I Want To Be”.]
Northamptonshire Libraries Service is constantly looking at ways it can help to improve the wellbeing of its community. In 2014, it became aware of a course called “I’m The Girl I Want To Be” being delivered by local company, Pacesetter Wellbeing.
The acclaimed 8 session course takes girls aged 11 – 18 years old on a journey through issues of self-esteem, body image, sex and relationships, dreams and aspirations and much more. The course was written and developed by Golddigger Trust, an award winning youth work charity who has been successfully delivering the course with hundreds of young women across the UK since 2006.
Wellbeing Instructors from Pacesetter Wellbeing also deliver this course in school settings but have received feedback that students find it difficult to talk openly in front of their immediate peers, as they’re concerned about confidentiality. By delivering the courses in libraries, the girls are in mixed groups from different schools so they can talk more openly, plus it is a great opportunity to develop new friendships. It also increases their awareness of what is available in libraries, such as volunteering opportunities, and helps them to feel comfortable to visit outside of the sessions.
Northamptonshire Libraries applied, through their charitable trust, to Big Lottery England for just under £10,000 to fund a pilot of 4 courses to run throughout 2015. The pilot was successful and we received great feedback from participating girls and the referrers and there was a demand for these courses to continue to run. Through the pilot, we established an operating model which worked well and we were confident that we could increase the amount of courses on offer to 6, across the county, in the next academic year.
Since the pilot, we sought funding from Aspire Northamptonshire to continue the delivery of this project. The Aspire Network was formed in 2015 to work collaboratively to raise aspiration amongst young people across Northamptonshire so they agreed to fund the delivery of 8 courses in libraries across the county. This academic year, we have also asked referrers to provide updates on the participants 3 months following the conclusion of the course to provide longitudinal tracking of its impact.
The girls are asked to complete a questionnaire at the start and end of the course which records their opinions on statements regarding self-esteem, attitudes towards how they present themselves and their body image and healthy relationships and sexual activity. At the end of each course, Pacesetter Wellbeing put together an evaluation which has shown that the courses delivered have generally had a positive impact on the girls’ attending. Some comments received from participants in previous years include:
“I have learnt that it is ok to be me so, from now on, I’ll stop trying to be someone else.”
“The hardest thing about the course has been looking at myself and saying that I am worth it and I am a good person.”
“The best thing about the course has been to meet new people who can relate to me.”
A parent of one of the girls gave the following feedback:
“Thank you for everything you have done – my daughter has really blossomed from the course and her self-confidence is improving. She has never once complained about going and has learnt a lot about herself. Thank you so much”
Kate Houghton, Wellbeing Training Manager at Pacesetter Wellbeing Limited, talking about the partnership with Northamptonshire Libraries, said:
“It has been fantastic to work with the Library Service on the “I’m the girl I want to be” project over recent years. Due to their dedication and passion for the project from the outset, the outcomes have been really positive and the project has gone from strength to strength. Our work is usually in schools, so it has been refreshing and enjoyable for us to deliver our courses in libraries. Giving the girls the opportunity to attend the course in their local library has been so beneficial in many ways. We sincerely hope this can be a long-term partnership between ourselves and the Library Service”
To find out more about the “I’m the girl I want to be” project, contact Jo Hoyer, Health and Wellbeing Programme Co-ordinator for Northamptonshire Libraries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce