YMCA St Paul’s Group would not have been the same if it wasn’t for all our fabulous volunteers who give so much of their time and expertise in everything from Children’s Work to Catering to the Health & Wellbeing services.
Suki Grewal is one of the many great volunteers working alongside our Fitness staff. She finished her BSc (Hons) in Sport, Health and Physical Education at Bangor University in Wales in 2012. Upon joining South West London, Suki wanted to put her skills in to practical use and started volunteering for YMCA St Paul’s Group.
Passionate about Health & Wellbeing
Despite having Epilepsy, Suki has always been extremely passionate about health and wellbeing and she has wanted to work with physical exercise and education her whole life.
“I learnt that doing regular exercise can help control seizures, at least it did for me. Through my work, I would love to promote physical exercise for people with Epilepsy. Throughout university I worked a lot with children with special needs and this is something I really enjoyed”, Suki says.
Volunteering at YMCA Hawker is a stepping stone that can help Suki in achieving just this.
“My advice to other young people who have just finished their studies would be to not underestimate the benefits of volunteering! You can get so much out of it. It has really helped me get my fitness career started”.
From volunteering to staff member
As a volunteer at YMCA Hawker, Suki started out shadowing the Fitness Instructors. This eventually lead to paid work, covering weekend and holiday shifts at the Centre.
“In my daily work at the centre I meet with the users, make sure they are ok and that they know what they are doing. Also I make sure the facilities look good and are tidy,” Suki explains. “I generally try to see what’s needed and use my initiative”.
Suki says she’s been welcomed with open arms by both staff and members at YMCA Hawker: “The members here are so friendly and they are always rooting for me, saying how great it is that I have gone from being a volunteer to become a member of staff”.
She continues to say that “there’s just an incredible sense of warmth and friendliness at the Centre. The personal trainers who work here are all great. All in all there’s just so much support and care here and people always go that extra mile to make you feel comfortable. I also enjoy the variety of activities going on, and the longer I have stayed, the harder it has become to leave!”
According to Suki, what makes the gym at YMCA Hawker stand out from other Fitness Centres is that the Centre “genuinely promotes health and wellbeing”. She adds that “my experience also having worked in another fitness centre is that other gyms cannot afford to give that special follow up that the members get here at YMCA Hawker”.
On being a role model
Working with fitness also includes being a role model for young people looking to get advice.
“Teenage girls come to me in the gym and talk about losing weight”, Suki says, “but then I try to make them think about what really matters here in life, and that’s not how much you weigh. It’s much more important being healthy, than being thin”.
“I try to be a good role model because I think that when it comes to body image, people who work in gym and in the health and fitness industry have a special responsibility”.
“One of the reasons I really want to become an Aerobic Instructor and teach Aerobic classes is that it is such a fun way of being active – you can’t be too self-conscious when doing it!”
Research project about physical activity participation
In addition to working in the gym at YMCA Hawker, volunteering has also opened another door for Suki at YMCA St Paul’s Group.
This spring she is also volunteering in the Corporate Offices of YMCA LSW once a week, doing the initial research for a project which she hopes to receive funding for, which will result in running a project for girls and women from Asian communities.
Suki hopes that the project will lead to two main positive outcomes. Outcome number one will be a report about how financial status, ethnicity and background affect young girls’ participation in sports, and outcome number two being increased participation in physical activity opportunities among Asian women and girls.
“Hopefully this report can help us inform how to address these issues in different layers of society,” she says.
The next step in Suki’s career however, is to gain a Personal Training qualification.
“Working for YMCA LSW covering shifts is great because it helps me fund my further education, whilst also giving me invaluable practical skills and real life experiences. I have learnt lots from the Personal Trainers here at YMCA Hawker and I feel like they are always rooting for me to succeed,” she says.
“I am so happy that I get to do what I want to do in my life – it’s not easy when you’re straight out of University and you don’t have any work experience to help you get your first job in the fitness industry. However, through this volunteering opportunity I have got a foot in the door.”