County Down woman’s lockdown writing challenge for NSPCC in Northern Ireland.
A Newcastle woman has embarked on a writing challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic to raise funds for NSPCC Northern Ireland.
Judith Smyth has been volunteering with the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service since she retired and was inspired to continue to support the charity in another way during lockdown when the courts were closed.
The Young Witness Service is unique to Northern Ireland and it provides support and assistance to children and young people aged under 18 who have to attend court as witnesses.
Specially trained NSPCC Northern Ireland staff and volunteers provide information and advice to children – as well as their family, friends and supporters – before, during and after the trial to help minimise the trauma of appearing in court and giving evidence.
Judith said: “During lockdown, I was aware that NSPCC still needed to raise funds to support their work.
“As I was cocooning, I felt unable to help and was impressed by so many people doing wonderful fund-raising through sponsored exercises, walks, runs and the like.
“I worked for many years as an English and Drama teacher and then as a producer of educational resources for schools and museums, and ended my career as an adviser for a range of online educational resources within the BBC. So for many years I wrote for others.”
She added: “Since retirement and the death of my husband I have, to a large extent, immersed myself in my writing. I am not a published writer but have been drawn to nature writing, memoir and a little bit of short story.
“Writing is a great way to express your inner thoughts and to unbottle feelings as well as the joy of being a little bit creative.
“There is a saying by Jane Yolen,’ Exercise the writing muscle every day… without the exercise, the muscles seize up. And from that the idea of ‘Time to Write’ emerged.
“I have a Just Giving page and if people donate, I will send them five different pieces of my writing, one every day for five consecutive days. Each piece will be either uplifting, entertaining or informative.
“Doing this work has certainly inspired me to keep on writing, which I did not find easy along with a certain level of anxiety that many of us felt and still are feeling. Knowing I just might raise a little bit of money for NSPCC helped maintain focus.
“I am so grateful to all those who have supported my page and just hoped that some of them enjoyed some of my writing.”
Judith added: “I have been involved with NSPCC since childhood. My mother was secretary of the local branch. On retirement I trained as an NSPCC Young Witness supporter.
“The training was so thorough, very enlightening and gave a solid secure base from which to support the needs of those children and young people who need to go to court to give evidence as witnesses to or victims of crime. It is a privilege to be able to support them in this way through what is, for them, a very difficult time.
“I also trained for NSPCC’s ‘Speak Out Stay Safe’ programme and this too is so very rewarding. We engage with children in the school through assemblies and interactive workshops so that children will be aware of the forms of abuse and how to speak out to ensure they receive any help they need.”
Joanne McMaster, Supporter Fundraising Manager at NSPCC in Northern Ireland, said: “We are hugely grateful to Judith for this wonderful fundraising initiative and using her love for writing to support NSPCC Northern Ireland.
“This could not come at a better time as support for our services for young people at NSPCC Northern Ireland is needed now more than ever.
“We know there are hidden victims – suffering abuse and neglect at home, increased risk online, or further pressures on their mental health.
“It’s time for us to all work together – to rebuild our society so it’s better for our children; to continue to adapt how we work on the frontline of child protection, and to go further. Because no child should be left to cope alone.”
If you would like to make a donation to Judith’s Just Giving page, the link is: