BeLonG To launch online group supporting young LGBT+ people to learn about their community

Along with launching a fantastic new youth group, BeLonG To have also reopened their frontline service for small gatherings to meet in person.

BeLonG To group

BeLonG To are launching a brand new online youth group to provide a space where LGBT+ people between the ages of 14 and 23 can become familiar with the service and learn about their community.

On July 20, BeLonG To launched a new project to support LGBT+ youth who may not have been in a youth group before. Over the course of four weeks, this online space offers young people a chance to engage with the support service and grow confidence through participation. 

Head of IndividualiTy and BeLonG To youth worker, Kate Cummins, shared, “When we went digital, all our groups were closed, they were only open to young people who have been in the service before. This new project is for young people who haven’t been to the service before, it’s basically to introduce them to BeLonG To, to introduce them to the history of Pride, as well as some fun and games. Hopefully it will make people feel more comfortable and confident coming into a group.” 

Taking place every Monday between 3-4pm, the online group will run over the course of four weeks. After which, LGBT+ young people who took part are invited to join in on BeLonG To’s other digital services, such as IndividualiTy, Over 18’s, and the Ladybirds. 

Speaking about BeLonG To’s move into online spaces, Cummins said, “When we digitised all our services, we felt really strongly about keeping our equal partnership value to the core of our work. All the workshops we are doing with young people in digital groups and face to face groups are picked by young people.”

“Young people have been informed every step we’ve made, all the updates, and that’s just been great,” Cummins continued. 

Since March 12, the BeLonG To youth workers have been working remotely while also developing a roadmap for reopening services in accordance with the Government’s five stages. Throughout lockdown, they showed a clear dedicatication to digitise this frontline service and launch fantastic online workshops as a way of maintaining engagement. 

BeLonG To have begun the road to reopening their in-person services for groups of five, which includes one youth worker and four young people. Cummins expressed, “They have all been really eager to come back. We are running now four groups each week online and three groups face to face. So it’s busy but it’s amazing.”

Face to face groups are aimed towards checking in on young people who may not feel comfortable being involved with online services. Cummins shared, “So a lot of young people wouldn’t have engaged in our digital services that would normally engage for many reasons, they wouldn’t have internet or a laptop at home, would be not out at home, they wouldn’t feel comfortable coming onto a Zoom call with BeLonG To from fear of being outed. And some young people just didn’t like the digital platform, they found the Zoom calls difficult. So we invited hard to reach young people just to get them back engaged, just to check in with them.”

Cummins further stated, “Young people have adapted really well, have been really understanding to giving priority for young people coming in who haven’t engaged.”

In speaking about the process behind BeLonG To’s reopening, Cummins outlined:

  • It’s invite only, you have to let the youth worker know you are coming.
  • When they arrive, we take their temperature, we ask them please to put hand sanitiser on their hands. 
  • We ask them to come wearing a mask. If they don’t have a mask, we give them a mask. 
  • We take their details, their names, the reason for being in the building, and their phone number. The reason we do this is for contact tracing. We keep that sign in sheet for two weeks and then we shred it.

In regards to how these changes have been met, Cummins expressed, “It’s all new, it’s all learning, and young people have reacted well to it.”

If you would like to take part in the new online youth group or want to know more about the services provided by BeLonG To, you can follow this link.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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