Name: Aaron Smith, Sixth Year, St Louise's Comprehensive College, Co. Antrim

Background: After one of Aaron’s close friends tragically took his own life in 2016, he began struggling with his own mental health and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. Looking for help and support, Aaron turned to volunteering for help and joined a cross-community programme, Uniting Communities Young Leaders.

Within this programme, Aaron successfully planned and delivered workshops to young people aged 11-16, working with several organisations, like Todd's Leap. Aaron was selected to represent the Department for Communities in Berlin in 2018 for the European Democratic Action Week and presented a workshop to 85 young people and leaders in Berlin.

Aaron is vice-chair of his local youth forum, ROOTS, which allows young people to voice their concerns to members of the NI Assembly. Aaron joined the Young Ambassadors programme and was approached in early 2019 by the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Association to help co-design a declaration on Human Rights and Sport. The declaration was a huge success and Aaron was invited to accompany the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Association to the 2019 Commonwealth Games Forum General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda where he helped deliver this declaration to 71 different Commonwealth Games Associations.

Aaron’s motivation for volunteering: “I began volunteering at around twelve as I had very low self-esteem, so in an effort to boost my self-confidence, I tried volunteering at local events through my youth club, and found myself growing more confident and self-assured.”

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