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Nicola to use her creative skills to inspire young people

Nicola Melvin has been asking herself how she can use her background from the fashion industry to benefit young people. The answer? Bridges Project’s Homemaker Service!

She is the charity’s newest recruit and has just joined the team as a part-time Independent Living Support Worker. Nicola will be working alongside Stevie Baxter and Neil Maclean to help young people develop independent living skills and to secure and maintain tenancies.

Her journey towards becoming part of the Bridges Project family is all but a conventional one. For most of her adult life, she has been working with clothes rather than young people.

“I graduated with a Textile Fashion Design degree from Heriot-Watt University. I then did a design course in Milan and went on to work as a freelancer for 15 years, making things like dresses and bridal wear,” says Nicola.

It was the Refugee Crisis in 2015 that led the new Independent Living Support Worker to charity work.

“The Refugee Crisis was a situation that affected me a lot. In 2016, I therefore set up a community group for helping refugees in the Craigmillar area of Edinburgh,” she says.

Nicola continued her involvement with helping refugees and held presentations for primary school children on refugee awareness during Refugee Week 2016.

“These experiences made me think more about purpose and how I could combine my creative skills to benefit disadvantaged children. I observed several children with lack of self-esteem and self-worth. This is also something I had witnessed in Craigmillar as I grew up there myself. Working so closely with disadvantaged people really made me more passionate about making a difference,” says Bridges Project’s newest recruit.

Her passion for helping young people was further developed when she started a job with an employment agency, where Nicola was introduced to working with young people on a regular basis through a work placement programme.

“I really enjoyed meeting young people and hearing about their background and experiences. However, some young people were not confident enough to open up, which made me more passionate about helping young people with their personal development,” she says.

Nevertheless, the new Independent Living Support Worker did not want to shelf her creative side. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she held facemask making workshops with a group of volunteers at Cockenzie House. In total, they made 500 facemasks that were distributed to people at risk such as bus drivers, shop workers, hospital patients and their families.

“This experience sparked my interest in running creative groups in the community,” says Nicola.

All these ventures eventually led her to Bridges Project.

“When the Independent Living Support Worker job came up, I thought it was a great opportunity for me to work with young people in disadvantaged areas and help them believe in themselves. It is also a great opportunity to work with a diverse mix of young people and a job with a lot of variety,” says the new recruit.

The close link between creative skills and independent living skills is another aspect that appealed to her.

“It is great that I in addition to doing one-to-one work can also run workshops, where I can bring in my own creative qualities. I hope to be able to bring in some arts and crafts sessions that can not only engage young people but that can also help them develop practical skills they can use,” says Nicola.

Nicola’s impression of Bridges Project so far is very positive.

“It really shines through that everyone in the organisation is creative and has an open-minded approach. This job is just perfect,” says the new Independent Living Support Worker.

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