Our TEN10 volunteer writes about her time shadowing us at The Maya Centre and her special contribution to our cause.
4 August 2023
By Bianca Walker
After being selected by my workplace, TEN10, to volunteer at a charity of my choice for a week and donate £2500, I was delighted to be placed at The Maya Centre. As part of my work here, I shadowed the many different job functions, gaining an understanding of everything from reflexology to art therapy to social media content creation.
Beginning my journey on Monday, the 31st of July, I taught and assisted an inaugural fitness and fun-day alongside Women’s Hub Community Navigators Ikran and Edna. I talked to some participants afterwards, who were all smiles while speaking highly of The Maya Centre. With my curiosity growing stronger as the week progressed, I had a chat with the Office and Clinical Systems Manager, Stephanie, who gave me insight into how wide their reach is: clients range from 18 to 60 plus and come from every background you could think of. Counselling services range from 12 to 24 weeks in length, with shorter, specialist and general psychoeducation workshops and wellbeing groups available — not just in English but in other languages such as Somali and Bengali too! Combatting the after-effects of violence against women and girls (VAWG) is at the heart of what they do.
Later in the week, I joined a walking group led by other staff members, who spoke candidly about their personal emotions and experiences in a way that made me feel refreshed and at ease. I also took part in a relaxation techniques session with Gemma, a complementary therapist, which really opened my eyes to all the psychological support systems out there for women like myself and others. As someone with ADHD, I could have never imagined being able to sit and focus without interrupting thoughts, yet I left my session with Gemma feeling equipped to combat feelings of stress for future situations.
My last day in the office involved a family fun-day for women and children in Islington, which I helped organise. This experience was one of my highlights, as it was great to interact with so many different women from across the borough in the context of joy and celebration.
As for the £2500 donation? This went to providing five sets of new counselling chairs in their counselling rooms. My time at The Maya Centre left me with a newfound sense of comfort that good still exists in the world. The women who work here are humble, hardworking, relentless, and all ooze the same ethos of wanting the best for all women. From a variety of backgrounds, ages and experiences, The Maya Centre highlights the unity within diversity and how this is a force for both community building and self-improvement.
You can almost say The Maya Centre is like a women’s retreat, with the charity providing a broad range of emotional wellbeing and mental health services that would make anyone feel safe and secure. In one year alone, their counsellors, mind-body therapists and community navigators can support up to 500 women from Islington and neighbouring boroughs. The post-pandemic new normal means that clients can access both remote and in-person therapeutic services, including psychodynamic therapy, complementary therapies, and overall wellbeing support; 70% are seen on-site.
The Maya Centre is rapidly growing in size and impact, having launched its Women’s Hub project last year, bridging the gap between specialist counselling and general wellbeing through events, arts activities, family fun days, and support groups. While the centre is not the first to offer such resources, what makes the charity stand out are the self-development opportunities provided to women who access their diverse services. Minoritised and low-income women are encouraged to lead with their voice in a society where they are often sidelined. I had the honour of speaking intimately with some of the women served by the charity, and every one of them echoed the sentiment that they feel seen and heard at The Maya Centre and its Women’s Hub.
As a young Black woman watching this charity anticipate its 40-year anniversary next year, I feel inspired to advocate for more spaces like this. The Maya Centre’s staff members are impassioned, and this shines through via the quantity and quality of services delivered throughout each year. Shadowing the team this week has been an absolute delight — Thank you so much for having me!