Laura Bailey studies MSc Psychological Sciences and leads the Student-Led Camden Carers Centre Project at UCL. The initiative works with a local organisation in Camden, London to reach out and support carers in the area.
Which project do you lead? Tell us a little about it and your role.
I lead the project with Camden Carers Centre which provides support and advice for carers 18+ of all and any conditions in the Camden area. An important part of my role as a Project Leader was to come up with innovative ideas that would improve the Camden Carers Centre service. There was a lot of freedom involved in this, so the role really required me to be imaginative. I had a lot of meetings with our partner to refine our ideas, did research using focus groups, interviews and questionnaires and decided that the best approach would be to reach out to unknown carers. We are still in the planning phase and are preparing two psychoeducation workshops in June and run a social media campaign to reach out to carers who are without support.
Why did you want to become a project leader?
I initially wanted to become a Project Leader because I was interested in working in policy after my studies and I needed some experience. A lot of the responsibilities of the project leader position align well with policy advisor duties. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities offered by UCL and the Volunteering Service and this particular project was meaningful to me because I used to be a carer, and to some extent still am, to my mother. And the reason I became a carer for my mother was because as a carer herself, she suffered from the constant stress and lack of support.
Being a witness to the ruthless effects of having to care for someone on your own and not being offered psychological support has led me to believe that caring for the carers is almost, if not just as, important as caring for those they care for.
Otherwise, we risk more burden to health and social services and the unnecessary loss of individuals well-being and ability to cope.
What impact has volunteering, and leading a project had on you?
When I first began the project, I thought our partners were going to have more of a decisive role in what we did but actually, we had a great deal of freedom and decision-making power. I remember feeling really excited that I didn’t have to go through any red tape or middle managers to make my vision happen. It felt as if I was really going to be able to make a difference - this wasn’t just some short-term work placement for my CV but a very meaningful role. Most of all though, I have really enjoyed learning and researching about carers, psychosis and severe autism. My Masters is in Psychological Sciences so this is a topic I am quite passionate about.
How has your network developed whilst being a Project Leader? Did you connect with external organisations, volunteers or other individuals?
Through our project we connected with the CEO of Camden Carers, team managers, coordinators and more. In addition to this, I developed my network within the UCL Psychological and Language Sciences department as I invited lecturers and clinical psychologists to participate in the workshops. I also spoke with other volunteers who have expertise in different areas, including content strategy, writing and project development.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered? How did you overcome this challenge?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was managing my time. As I am on a conversion Masters course, my study workload is pretty unrelenting and I worried that working on this project would draw away from performance on my assignments and delaying of writing my dissertation. I created a timeline to organise my project workload and learned to work better in a team and delegate tasks.
Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst being a Project Leader.
Speaking with carers in focus groups was very valuable and memorable. Hearing the voices of people with actual lived experience of the struggle but also their bravery and perseverance really reminded me of why I was so inspired by this project. One woman informed us that they had felt neglected by psychologists and psychiatrists, in terms of getting to know them and informing them about conditions and offering support. It was clear that this person was very determined and passionate about helping the person they cared for and I really admired the insight and energy they had for advocacy, despite their difficult experiences.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about being a Project Leader?
The best piece of advice I could give is to, first, pick a project that you are passionate about - don’t just do it so you can put it on you CV as otherwise, you won’t be as motivated. Second, be as creative as possible and dream big. Discuss your ideas as much as possible, especially the people you intend to help but also use your network. Finally, manage your time well and make sure to work with your team to split up your tasks fairly.