Life as a volunteer
When I first heard about StreetDoctors during a lecture shout-out in the beginning of the year, I was really intrigued. So I went back home and looked the charity up, watched the YouTube video and thought wow this sounds amazing! I was immediately captured by the project. Given that teaching is something I really enjoy and wanted to get better at, I thought what better cause could there be to improve my skill-set.
It was only when I attended the annual StreetDoctors Conference in October 2014 that I realised what StreetDoctors was really all about. One story in particular resonated with me. Someone described the terribly sad experience of having to tell a mother that her son had been stabbed to death. For him, this concretised the fact that he needed to do everything he could to end youth violence, so no mother ever had to go through something like that again. Likewise, this showed me that StreetDoctors was so much more than just medical students improving their teaching skills. This was serious. Our teaching was needed. Our teaching would save lives.
Incredibly motivated by these stories, I became Team Coordinator in my first year and worked hard to get our teaching out to as many young people as possible. When the first session came, we were all nervous and wondered whether we’d be able to provide these kids with the quality of teaching they deserved. Thankfully we needn’t have worried as once we got them off their seats, they really got involved in the demonstrations. And so after 6 months of hard work to get to this point we’d finally taught a session! Since that first session, our team has gone from strength to strength and we’ve taught over 350 people.
Being a StreetDoctor also involves doing a lot of fundraising! Last year alone our Newcastle team blitzed its target of £1000 thanks to some amazing events and most importantly, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. You might have seen us walking the half marathon distance from Wylam to Newcastle… if you were up at 1 in the morning that night! Or you may have seen us do bucket collections in Newcastle city centre in the freezing cold whilst also teaching CPR to passers-by.
These large team events are definitely one of the best bits of being a volunteer. They allow the whole group to come together at once and really help the team bond as we get to know each other better which has a definite impact upon the quality of our teaching.
Fundraising events also enable our team members to show some real innovation and to develop new skills. Being able to take ownership of these tasks not only improved their professional communication skills, financing and time management skills but has also helped increase their love for StreetDoctors.
So although StreetDoctors started out as an opportunity to improve my teaching it’s far more than that. It’s about working as a team to give power to young people to change their actions. It’s about giving them the confidence to save lives.
Lysander Gourbault (StreetDoctors Newcastle volunteer and medical student at University of Newcastle)