My Voluntary Activities
During the past decade, I routinely worked with and supported a number of charitable organisations that promote mental health, educate public, or assist people to overcome adversities and misfortunes. These include; the Stuart Low Trust, Community Options, Sova Support Link, and Debating Matters.
My voluntary engagements have help me reach out to the community, and make a small difference. As a result, I found good friends, learned new skills, and more importantly gained a warm sense of connection and belonging.
The Stuart Low Trust (SLT - established in 1999) is a health promotion charity based in Islington, north London. They run a variety of activities to help improve people’s well-being, especially those experiencing social isolation or mental distress.
Stuart Low was a young resident of Islington who killed himself in 1997 after failing to find the help he needed to cope with schizophrenia. His death prompted local people to form the Stuart Low Trust to create better services for other vulnerable people. The mission of the trust is to ensure that local people, especially those experiencing social isolation or mental distress, have access to the support they need to manage their lives more successfully in times of distress.
To achieve its objective, SLT runs a number projects and arranges various activities that include Friday Evening Events and Saturday Projects. These are the projects that I have been involved with, during the past few years.
Community Options (CO) is a mental health charity. From its roots in Registered Care Homes over 25 years ago, and in response to the changing needs of its clients, CO has grown considerably. Their mission is to inspire and enable people with mental health needs to lead valued and meaningful lives in the community.
I worked with CO for a period of about four years when I arranged training workshops for their staff, and recovery workshops for their service users. The topics of these workshops covered a wide range of subjects within the areas of interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and personal effectiveness.
"Our staff support people with complex mental health needs and so, their capacity to develop effective relationships and manage their own emotions is important. Reza delivered Emotional Intelligence training courses for our managers which enabled them to put new strategies in place and reflect on, interpret and manage their own reactions and those of others. This was important in helping them create a positive and motivating environment for themselves and the team. Reza is a real professional and dedicated to providing services of the highest quality."
Head of Training and Consultancy
Sova is a charity with over forty years of experience in helping people overcome life's adversities. Sova works in the heart of communities in England and Wales, supporting people steer clear of crime and live healthier lives. They do this by making sure that people have someone on their side to help them stay out of trouble and build a better life, when they find themselves in difficult situations.
Sova Support Link (SSL) is one of the big projects at Sova that is designed to support adults with complex needs and a history of offending behaviours in London, Leeds and Sheffield. SSL aims to improve people’s quality of life and enable them to live successfully as part of their local community.
SSL strives to end the cycle of offending behaviours, and facilitates social inclusion through recruiting, training and supervising local volunteer mentors. They work together in groups (known as ‘hubs’) to support their clients turn away from crime. Volunteer mentors not only support individuals change their lives for better, but also help the community build a safer and a more trusting environment.
I was a SSL volunteer mentor for over three years in London. This was a challenging but at the same time, a rewarding role. During my engagement with SSL, I learned a great deal and gained valuable experiences that would not have been possible in an ordinary working environment.
Debating, matters, because ideas matter.
Debating Matters is a competition for sixth form students which was launched in 2003 by the Institute of Ideas. The competition emphasises substance and the importance of taking ideas seriously. Debating Mattters is arranged annually in the UK, and during the past few years has been extended internationally to India and Israel.
One of the key innovations of the Debating Matters competition, and what sets it apart from other, more traditional styles of debating, is the very important interaction between debaters and judges which forms part of the structure of the debates, in the form of "Judges’ Questions" and "Judges Feedback".
I have been involved with Debating Matters as a judge since 2010 and valued engaging young people in debate and discussion about contemporary issues. I have surely learned a great deal from these interactions.
“Reza has been a supporter of the Debating Matters Competition for several years. His help has been invaluable, whether it has been going into schools to talk to students about the importance of debating or as a panel judge at qualifying rounds and regional finals. Reza is analytical and probing in his questioning and feedback to students but at the same time supportive and very personable. He always brings out the best in the students, helping them to think outside of their experience and consider the broader implications of their arguments.”