2016 Community Organisation Award for LGBT
Mermaids supports children and young people up to 19 years old suﬀering from gender identity issues, their families and supporting professionals. They work to reduce isolation and loneliness, and empower families and young people with the tools they need to negotiate services. This in turn reduces suicidality and self-harm in trans youth, and equips parents to support their children to the same end. Mermaids seek to improve self-esteem and social functioning, raise awareness and understanding, as well as improve practices amongst professionals. They operate an email and phone line service, organise residential weekends for families to attend together, provide local groups around the country, and run online forums for parents and teens. Mermaids speak at conferences, provide training, and campaign through media and government channels to raise awareness and challenge prejudice.
We caught up with Susie Green after Mermaids deservingly won the Community Organisation Award for LGBT at The National Diversity Awards 2016. Here’s what Susie had to say…
How did you feel about the other shortlisted nominees in your category?
Mermaids feels privileged and honoured to be along side such amazing organisations and it was just an overall outstanding category. A key thing that we at Mermaids did notice was the fantastic work across the board for our category and we felt it was amazing to see so many fantastic organisations standing for the same thing.
After winning the award where is Mermaids going to go from here in regards to diversity?
Mermaids will continue expanding our services to make them more accessible for all young people and families. We recently received a grant from Children In Need to develop our helpline. Using this, we hope to develop a wider voluntary team in order to answer more calls. We want no call or email left unanswered. At the moment we answer around 40% of calls and we aim to increase this amount to 80% by the end of the year. We want to put in place a peer mentoring program for parents and young people so that they feel they have somebody to speak to on a face to face basis as we feel that this reduces isolation and helps people to feel part of a wider community. As an organisation we would like to reach out to an even wider range of people, and one way we do this is by providing training in schools. We want to eliminate LGBT bullying within schools and help people understand and gain knowledge of what we do. We have recently been awarded grant as part of a wider consortium to deliver training to schools from the department of education, which is a fantastic opportunity to help more young people.
How is the work you are doing within all strands of diversity making a difference?
We know that the work we do has a real impact on people’s lives from the feedback from our service users telling us of the difference that Mermaids has made. Parents tell us of their children gaining in confidence and happiness, and teens make friends, feeling less isolated and alone. We help with support for dealing with GP’s, Schools and other professionals, and we empower families and young people with the confidence to challenge bad practice and achieve the best possible outcomes. Going into schools is making a difference as we educate the educators and open their minds to the difficulties and challenges that young people within the LGBT community face. Our families and young people tell us we have reduced suicidality and self-harm and hugely reduced the feeling of isolation amongst the younger generation of the trans community.
Why do you think it is important to highlight diversity, equality and inclusion?
I personally believe that diversity, equality and inclusion is all part of being human. Nobody should be segregated or left out because of who they are. I feel that hatred is far too common in today’s society and we as an organisation set out to change this. You should be judged based on your actions as an individual and that alone.
What has the reaction been from fellow employees and supporters been since winning the award?
Amazing! Social media has been blowing up, the reaction from Facebook and Twitter was awesome and is continuing to be so. We have received reach outs from other LGBT organisations telling us what a great job we are doing and congratulating us. It’s just been so fantastic and we are so thankful that our work has had such an impact. Such awesome reactions are helping us continuously raise the profile of trans youth. With a team of only three employees and multiple volunteers, we are so proud of what we have achieved.
What were your thoughts on the awards and did you enjoy your night?
Oh we had a great time! We loved networking with the other amazing people who were sitting on our table it was so interesting to hear all about their work and what great things they were doing. We were so inspired by each and every one of the people at the awards. We most definitely did enjoy our night, we were shortlisted last year and unfortunately we didn’t win however, we still enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the awards and so to win this year was just awesome. We had an amazing time.