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Examples of Scheme Experiences

  • The Step Up Cymru Launch event in the Senedd, Cardiff Bay: it was a very exciting evening, with lots of opportunity to get to know the Coordinator, Mentor and my mentoring group. Inspiration came from a former AM mentee Liz Musa who demystified the mentoring process. I left feeling with a sense of belonging, and the inspiration to reach my full potential.

  • I previously lost heart in a career in politics as I felt that my sexual orientationwould count against me.  However, sitting in one of the large council rooms filled with people of all sorts of different backgrounds made me realise that I can achieve whatever I want to providing I put the effort in.

  • My mentor invited me along to a Diwali festival at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay.  This was a brilliant opportunity for me to attend a festival celebrated by a different culture and religion to my own.  I had the opportunity to meet a number of different people from the Hindu community and found them very welcoming and friendly to me.  I saw displays of Hindu dances, songs and prayers and found the ceremony to be a very warm, friendly and happy experience that was welcoming to all faiths.

  • I was invited to a talk given by the Assembly Minister for Social Justice, Carl Sergeant AM, where he talked about his pathway into political life. The talk was very interesting and focused on public office but also highlighted different areas of contribution that individuals can make outside of public office. Public figures are supported by teams of faceless workers and people who are in public appointments and it is here that I can see myself in the future. The speakers made me think about the ways in which individuals can make a difference and the responsibility we all have to try and make a positive contribution.

  • First task of the day is a press conference! How exciting! After making his statement my AM mentor and another AM open up the floor to questions from the awaiting journalists. It’s a strange atmosphere- there’s intense questioning one moment and laughter the next but it seems to go well and as everyone packs up I wonder how the different journalists will interpret the statements made to them. I then watched plenary. Each AM takes it in turn to ask their prepared question and they cover a whole range of issues from healthy school meals for children to community involvement in climate change. It’s a very lively question time and like the press conference earlier it has moments of confrontation and moments of humour.

  • I was very pleased at the interest that my Mentor showed in my work with the Romani Cultural and Arts Company. She has been very supportive and I am pleased that she has agreed to sponsor the launch of Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month at the Senedd on 27 May. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month among policy makers and the events that are planned throughout June to raise awareness of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller culture and to counter the negative stereotypes.

  • A pre-election party conference was an opportunity to see the politicians in action away from the Senedd. I’m not sure that I would have found this event interesting 6 months ago. I guess that I would not have understood much of it, but following so many discussions with my mentor I actually knew what was going on. I think that this event demonstrated to me just how far I have come through this programme and just how much I have learnt

  • Another new experience for me as part of the Step Up Cymru Scheme was the filmed interview with Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds in which I took the part of the interviewer. Rosie has recently published her autobiography that tells the story of growing up with a thalidomide disability in Cardiff and her achievements as a campaigner on disability issues. I found Rosie to be an incredibly strong, really lovely person. I hope that other mentees will watch the interview and be inspired and encouraged to continue fighting for people’s rights.

  • Plenary meeting at the Senedd. This was an exciting time to see the parties debate about how the budget should be spent as well as seeing Assembly Members stand up for issues they feel passionate about. My Mentor met up with me before and half way through to answer any questions I had and explain what was going on.

  • My mentor proudly introduced me to other Assembly Members and explained to them about Step Up Cymru. I felt so proud and privileged to have been chosen to take part in the Scheme. Before I went to the event I was really nervous and I wondered how I would fit in. My mentor put me completely at ease and made me very welcome. I gained a feeling of confidence from the experience. It was a wonderful experience which I wouldn’t have experienced if it were not for Step Up Cymru. I was so apprehensive before but my worries were groundless as everybody was so nice. I now feel more confident and feel at ease meeting people in the public eye.

  • First meeting with my Mentor and attendance at County Council Planning Committee meeting. Before the experience I was not feeling confident, that I might be ‘out of my depth’ and wondered whether I would understand the procedures at the meeting. I was worried that I might just say something completely stupid. My mentor met me at reception and accompanied me into the Council Chamber, and sat with me, which was good because he explained the procedures throughout the meeting and I was able to ask him questions as they came to mind. This also gave me a little bit more confidence about being in a venue where I felt out of place. I learned loads from the experience – about the procedures for planning applications to get as far as a Council Planning Committee, about the make-up of Council Committees  and the election of their chairperson, about the recording  of the decisions made  and how to find out when the committee meets  and what decisions are to be discussed.  I had never previously attended any Council committee meeting, so just watching the procedures was a learning experience in itself, but it was enhanced by having my mentor available to explain what was happening. I enjoyed the experience greatly, far more than I expected, and I believe I now have the confidence to attend other committee meetings open to the public, if I have an interest in the subject being debated. We then had a brief meeting to discuss the Scheme and for my mentor to discover what I hoped to get from the scheme; I had a chance to ask a few questions about his history and experience as a Councillor, and we discussed this all with another Councillor present… I was pleased to feel sufficiently confident to make conversation with a group of people I hadn’t previously spent much time with, and to spend the day out of my ‘comfort zone’ being in unfamiliar surroundings. This ‘day out’ was good for my confidence, for the reasons stated previously, and I felt I was amongst people who were prepared to listen to what I had to say.

  • After the council debate, I left the meeting feeling that my political understanding was developing rapidly. On my way home I reflected on how narrow and jaundiced my view of politicians was and how days like this have already started to change my opinion.

  • Education Scrutiny Meeting. This was the opportunity for councillors to ask  officers questions about the numerous reports that had been published. Councillors asked questions that officers would have preferred not to have answered, they queried explanations, and they debated statements and disagreed with procedures. A wonderful example of how politics is meant to wor:; elected officials taking to task paid officers. I left feeling that the good people of Carmarthenshire should be content that their scrutiny committees.

  • I researched and wrote an article on an issue that was going to be raised in a plenary. My synopsis was used to help my AM mentor develop his response to the issue should he decide to speak in the plenary session the following Tuesday. I gained insight into the procedures involved in a plenary – as well as the behind the scenes activity that AMs go through in preparation for a plenary.

  • National Learning Exchange Conference. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about attending this event. I thought it might be a bit out of my depth but I wanted to hear and observe what programmes different councils across Wales were using to support under represented socially excluded populations. The event was comprised of ‘taster sessions’ focused on the good practise examples of how local Authorities across Wales are tackling social exclusion and engaging with and supporting marginalised groups. I was able to meet and network with people involved in developing and implementing some of the programmes. I had the opportunity during tea and lunch breaks to ask questions and clarify my understanding of how some of the programmes were being implemented. The experience was much better than I had anticipated. The presenters of the different programmes were very friendly and accessible. I was able to ask questions and not feel as though I was asking silly, self-explanatory or obvious questions.

  • After the meeting I gained insight into the fact that the various Councils in Wales are tackling social exclusion and issues of deprivation in very different ways. There clearly isn’t a one-size fits all approach going on within the different Councils to support ‘marginalised groups’, which is good. Councils have identified different issues in their communities that they have set out to improve in their service areas.

  • I am so honoured to have had the opportunity to observe a party conference to get a perspective into how they are run – but more importantly to see what the Party stands for/believes in. I believe this is an experience that everyone should have – so that they can understand a party’s manifesto and also access information on issues key to their communities as well as to the politicians that that represent them. Attending the party conference gave me new insight into party make up as well as what the party stands for. I would love to have the same opportunity to observe the other three parties’ conferences to understand their policies/manifestos because this would allow me to have a better understanding of which party I would want to join/support. However some other parties require one to be a joined member of their party for one year before they can be invited to even observe a party conference. I do find this a bit elitist. How can one join a party without first observing it and understanding what it stands for?

  • Informal Cabinet Meeting. This was a very interesting meeting with my Mentor. I was introduced, welcomed and I took part in meeting. I felt very proud of myself, I know what is going on, I can take part in a group meeting without having any formal training, follow the agenda, and thoroughly enjoy myself. My confidence has definitely been given a boost.

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