Youth & Under 30s - Profiles

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Name: Suzy O'Kane
Age: 24
Suzy O'Kane
What inspired you to get involved?
I started to volunteer in order to get work experience in Health Promotion. When I signed up to begin volunteering, I had just finished a Masters in Health Promotion and it became obvious that experience was necessary in order to have any hope of getting a job in that particular sector. This alongside my passion to promote health to the public and educate people on how to improve their health really inspired me to begin volunteering with Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.
What does your volunteering involve?
I had two roles as a volunteer. Firstly, I went out to health fairs to promote health to the public. Secondly, I also was given a project to manage and work on called "Dead Cool". This involved me liaising with a film company to edit a film that had previously been recorded into a DVD suitable for pupils in Key Stage 3 to prevent smoking. This DVD will soon be available in all schools in Northern Ireland for free. I also created a teaching lesson plan and pupil workbook to go along with the DVD.
What skills or qualities are required for your volunteering role?
A bubbly, positive and outgoing personality is needed when you volunteer at health fairs. You meet people from different backgrounds and need to be able to speak with all of them in a way that they will understand. Flexibility is also important as health fairs may be in the evening and at weekends. For the smoking prevention project I worked on, IT and communication skills were both essential, as well as being able to work in a team.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering and what has been your highlight?
I relish the opportunity to speak with people in the public and help them improve their health in any way- be that improving their diet, thinking of stopping smoking or beginning to wear suncream on sunny days here in NI. Project managing the smoking prevention project was an invaluable opportunity for me to show the Cancer Prevention team what I was capable of doing. As well as this, volunteering gave me experience in the area of Health Promotion. As a result of my volunteering, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to train as a "Stop Smoking Specialist" at Cancer Focus Northern Ireland. Furthermore, as a result of successfully completing this training as a volunteer, I then successfully applied and interviewed for the part time post of "Stop Smoking Development Worker- Youth". I have been working in this role since May 2013 and I really love my job.Each day is very different. I am often out of the office, visiting schools and universities delivering Stop Smoking Support Services for Cancer Focus NI.
Why would you encourage others to become a Millennium Volunteer and what advice would you give them?
I would encourage anybody who has a key passion for any particular area, to start volunteering in this area as soon as they possibly can! As well as looking good on your CV, volunteering might open up doors that you might not have expected to open for you.