Embracing life with a big smile!

Rhiannon is enjoying life again thanks to the support of an EYST project
Rhiannon is enjoying life again thanks to the support of an EYST project

Lacking in confidence with no hopes for the future, 17 year old Rhiannon Davies from Swansea, who has Cerebral Palsy, was finding her disability incredibly frustrating and considered herself to be a complete failure.

Turn the clock forward one year and Rhiannon is now full of hopes and aspirations for the future and feels like she can tackle any obstacle in her way thanks to support from a project run by Swansea’s Ethnic Youth Support Team (EYST). Rhiannon is amongst the numerous people from diverse community groups to benefit from their National Lottery Community Fund awarded ‘My Space’ project. ‘My Space’ has developed the successful Urban Youth Centre at EYST into a multi-functional community resource centre offering a range of services and facilities with the aim of arming people like Rhiannon with the skills, opportunities and confidence to be active and integrated members of their community. This is her story . . . .

My confidence was very low before I came to the project because I found my disability incredibly frustrating. I felt I had absolutely no hope for my future and considered myself a complete failure, even though my family could see that I had achieved more in my lifetime than they could only dream of – like gaining 9 GCSE qualifications, mostly B grades. They were always showering me with compliments but I self-doubted continuously.

To be honest, I saw my future as nothing but a long, dark tunnel with many challenges – in particular physical challenges. At the time, I never believed in myself, nor did I think I would have the confidence or the ability to work.

The daily challenges I face with having Cerebral Palsy are mainly physical, although I sometimes have difficulty controlling my emotions about the situation. For example, one day I’m joyful and positive and the next I’m really down. This is usually followed by screaming and crying all the time.

I’ve been volunteering for EYST since the summer of 2012. The project provides a safe, relaxed environment in which youngsters can enjoy a variety of activities, such as playing pool, table tennis, using computers in the IT suite, playing games and lots more.

When I started working here as a volunteer, I can honestly say I felt very overwhelmed by the challenge volunteering presented me. I had never volunteered anywhere apart from in a surgery for work experience before. I spent the days after my first few working hours here in a haze of uncertainty, shock and an awful lot of doubt.

Eventually, I settled into my new surroundings, formed close bonds with the staff (who never fail to bring a smile to my face) and started to love the work I was doing. Truthfully, I have now gained many skills such as computer and social skills. I’ve achieved all this in a caring and stimulating place. As a result I think I am now a much more of an outgoing, competent person.

The people at EYST have always treated me with respect, just see me as a normal person and are always there to help me if I need it. Also, many individuals I know always do their best to include me in most of the activities they do.

I now have many hopes and aspirations for the future. These include getting married, having children and helping British primary school children to learn Spanish. I am fully aware that I would have to have assistance to look after my own children if I decided to have any, but I believe that nothing can stop me from achieving all of these things.

The attitude I adopt now is, ‘Life may throw new obstacles at me repeatedly, although I will always find a way to overcome them and live a fulfilled, happy life. Remember to be positive as much as possible; always embracing life with a big smile!’

I strongly believe that EYST is an incredibly inspiring organisation. It’s helped me realise my strengths and weaknesses, aided me hugely in coming to terms with my difficulties and it has also assisted me enormously in valuing other disabled individuals like myself, no matter whom, or what their capabilities are.

I have no idea what my future holds, I’m just taking each day as it comes and hoping for the best. My aims in life are to do as much as I can for friends in need, be really kind and caring, and to inspire others to see life in the way I do now; as something worth living.

About the ‘My Space’ project
The Ethnic Youth Support Team were awarded nearly half a million pounds (£499,914) from the National Lottery Community Fund to run the ‘My Space’ project. ‘My Space’ is a community resource project which has enabled EYST to establish a youth drop-in centre in Swansea. The centre provides an accessible, flexible and multi-functional community space which offers a range of facilities to ethnic minority young people. The aim is to equip young people with the skills, opportunities and confidence to be active and integrated members of the community.

More on EYST and their ‘My Space’ project here

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