Sarah Hadfield undertook YPI when she was an S3 student at Inverness Royal Academy. As part of her presentation on behalf of Highland Hospice, she penned a moving poem. The impact of her YPI experience has stayed with her. Eight years on, Sarah is now a university student continuing to volunteer. She shares with us her memories of the process and how it impacted her.
Why did your team choose Highland Hospice?
I was not familiar with the Highland Hospice at the time, but my group really cared about it. When they explained to me what a hospice was and what they did I realised that it was really important.
What inspired you to write the poem?
I’ve always loved creative writing and secondary school was when I got into writing poetry. I write because I love to, and I especially write when I’m inspired. I remember that my group had gone to visit the hospice that day and that we’d met with a representative and interviewed them. We learned a lot about what they did and how the money could help them. I felt really excited and passionate about it and wanted to do whatever I could to help. I kept thinking about it and I realised that I wanted to write a poem and that it would probably help my group.
It was really scary though as I never fitted in at school and sharing my writing is very personal and makes me vulnerable. I decided that the Highland Hospice was worth it though and I really wanted to write it so I did. I’d never, at that time, known anyone terminally ill so I imagined what I thought it would be like and how the hospice could help. The poem just came to me and flowed forth from my pen, a sign that I was truly inspired.
How did it feel to reach the YPI Final?
It was very exciting. I was disappointed to have lost but it was a great experience which I loved.
How did it feel to address such a sensitive topic?
I think the more sensitive and deeper topics are the ones which most need addressing. They also make for stronger pieces of writing. The experience of putting myself in someone else’s shoes was very rewarding and it made me think about the work that the hospice does in an entirely different way than I would’ve otherwise. I think it helped the importance of their work to hit home, and it helped me to see the people and lives instead of just an organisation, making it more real.
How did you find the YPI experience?
I learned lots about a really important and previously much unknown to me. I felt a sense of connection with the charity.
My group was challenged with converting the video we made as part of our presentation into a form which we could play on the school computers, and we had to do our presentation without our video at the last minute, which gave us experience of improvising. We did eventually figure it out in time for the finals where we were able to do our presentation as we’d planned.
Public speaking was a daunting and scary experience for me and reading my poem in front of a large audience, including my peers with whom I never felt accepted or that I belonged, along with English teachers, charity representatives, and parents, was a really fulfilling experience, made more so by the anxiety I felt at the prospect. I was challenged enough to grow but not enough to defeat me. Even now this experience helps me when I am in a position to share my writing.
Have you continued any sort of volunteering or advocacy?
I have since volunteered at one of the Highland Hospice’s charity shops. It was a wonderful experience to actually get a chance to make a difference. Knowing that the money we made would help people in a very real way was amazing. It was truly wonderful to be a representative of something so special, and I loved getting to know the other volunteers also. What I most enjoyed was getting to interact with the public. This was really good for me as a person, helping me to grow and develop more confidence. But more than this it was an opportunity to help people, even if only in small ways.
Along with the Highland Hospice I have also volunteered with Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre and with the StAnza poetry festival, my love of writing still a large part of who I am. I did also volunteer to help first year students as they joined my university as I really care about helping people.