During my time as a Talent Agent for Foyer Federation I went on a Changemakers Leadership Residential, the residential was a catalyst in my journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance that led me to pursuing my own ambitions and passions, but most importantly owning that journey.
As a young graduate fresh out of university, I was complacent, confused and caught in a world that made me believe I needed outside approval. But Changemakers, changed that for me. It taught me the importance of values and introduced me the concept of values based leadership which I can safely say came at the right time in my development as a young woman trying to find her feet.
Alongside activities and breakouts sessions, the residential was a chance for me to really think about my purpose and how my purpose aligned with my own values as an individual.
Five of my core values from the residential that have still stuck with me today are family, love, creativity, honesty and independence. For many these are just a bunch of words, but for me, they are concepts that shape my everyday life and decisions.
Family – A real focal point for me in the sense that anything I do must have a positive impact on those nearest and dearest to me who I consider family. I make time for those I consider family and do my best to create that family environment wherever I am.
Love – I believe we should all give love in abundance and although it can be hard at times, we must continue. As airy fairy as it may seems, I also believe whatever you put into the world you’ll get back. Thankfully I’ve been surrounded by so much love in my life that I can’t help but pass it on to others. Well wishes for the day, a friendly smile or lending a helping hand to someone in need, these are some of the ways I show love to others and I’m sure we can all do the same.
Creativity – I am very creative as an individual and I do my best to use this element of my personality in everything I do. This has helped to overcome challenges and not see anything as bad or good, but instead, create opportunities to overcome any situation.
Honesty – I believe in being true to myself and others and with that being said, I make it a priority to make my feelings or thoughts known. Often it can be hard and this is still very much a working progress for me – as a people pleaser – I’m getting better at being honest with myself and my abilities.
Independence – What I really mean here is self-sufficiency, the ability to find answers within yourself and do things for yourself without needing others, that’s not to say we don’t need other people – because no woman is an island – but more so trusting yourself and your own abilities that you are good enough and capable!
Changemakers definitely taught me a lot, and allowed me the space and time I needed to find myself. And in finding myself on the Changemakers journey I was able to do more as a Talent Agent, but more importantly take the leap to kick start Shine ALOUD UK.
Pop Up Talent to Shine ALOUD UK
As a Talent Agent working on Pop Up Talent, it was my job to set up interactive job fairs for young people in Essex and South London.
Through engaging with different professionals and businesses, I became more excited about working on Shine ALOUD. It was easy to see that if I could encourage other businesses to take part in the campaign to give back to young people, I could do the same with my magazine and more.
I had been running Shine ALOUD Magazine since 2011, but part time, and half-heartedly as a result of studying and working. But the leap to take the business to the next level was a combination of self-development and support from organisations and individuals.
The skills I acquired as a journalist during my undergrad and my experience as a youth worker, provided me with the mixture of skills I needed to fulfil the role as a Talent Agent. Engaging professionals and young people, finding venues, creating information packs, contacting local media, creating press releases, holding development sessions with young people and so much more was part of my daily routine.
I was able to meet employers at their level by talking to them about how they can engage young people, but also meet young people at their level by discussing career progression and providing engaging experiences that would not only give them an insight into the job market, but give them the opportunity to consider a career path they might not have thought about previously.
I continued to write articles on Pop Up Talent and the work we did, which I really enjoyed, but whilst working with young people discussions of healthy relationships and sex were common, which made me more passionate about continuing the magazine, writing about sexual health and relationships content and encouraging other young people to do the same.
Whilst working at Pop Up Talent, I was also granted a place on the Lloyds Banking Group Start Up course run by the School for Social Entrepreneurs in London which assisted my journey even more. I was able to understand and get to grips with what having a social enterprise really meant, as well as be amongst people who were actually making it happen, which for me was pivotal in my journey.
Changemakers, Pop Up Talent and SSE where all a part of my journey that led me to taking the next steps in business with Shine ALOUD UK.
I have been running Shine ALOUD UK for the last 5 years. It is a sexual health empowerment organisation based in Newham, East London. We use interactive media and peer led training to change the perceptions and behaviours of young people aged 15 – 24.
We have produced 7 magazines, all of which are digital and 3 which have been produced physically, each with a print run of 5000 copies. The magazine acts a platform for young people to discuss sensitive issue as well as learn, share and grow with each other.
We have produced an animation about the work that we do and are due to release more in the near future. We have also been granted an accredited training centre status by the Royal Society of Public Health where we can deliver accredited training in level 1 and 2 subjects such as Health Improvement, Substance Misuse, Sexual Health understanding and more. We aim to deliver this to young people and professionals under the Health Champions Syllabus, where we aim to provide tools and expertise to raise health awareness nationally.
As a result of my work with Shine ALOUD UK we have been awarded funding and support from by O2 Think Big, The Alec Dickinson Trust, Starbucks Youth in Action, Arc Business in the Community and Lloyds Banking Group – as a result of me being a student on the Start Up Course run by the School for Social Entrepreneurs where I am now a Fellow.
For my involvement in Sexual Health awareness I was always nominated as a finalist for the JLS Young Person of the Year Award 2013 sponsored by FPA and Brook. In addition to featuring in national and local press such as The Guardian, The Voice Newspaper, The Stratford Recorder, NHS Trust Talk, The Newham Mag and most recently London Live where I was interviewed about the launch of Issue 7 – our Self-love and Confidence issue – as well as the future of the brand.
What is next for Rianna?
At the moment I am continuing to distribute the 7th issue of Shine ALOUD UK . And we will soon be starting working on issue 8 which will be about Habits – forming new productive habits and breaking negative ones.
I will be starting to deliver the accredited training program next term. We will soon be working with local agencies and organisations to hold youth fairs and conferences for young people centred on health and well-being. In the near future we also aim to embark on overseas development work with young people allowing young people to learn about different cultures, traditions and health policies at home and abroad and more importantly how they differ.
Additionally, I am also preparing to study for my masters in September in Reproductive and Sexual Health Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, where I intend to do research on the impact the lack of engagement in sexual health services has on BME young people aged 15 – 24 and how services can refashion their programs to make services more inclusive.
I am passionate about sexual health education and empowerment and I am excited about continuing on this journey.
Watch this space…