Guest post by Fatjona Koka – Work Placement

My time at the Children’s Commissioner for Wales

I was offered a 16 weeks placement at the Children’s Commissioner for Wales from the organisation that I have volunteered for years, Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST). I firstly had an online meeting with the participation team officer Rhian and the HR manager Amanda, where I completed a very short and friendly interview, so they could get to know me better. I then was talked through the teams that are part of the organisation, their roles and responsibilities, and if I had a particular interest in working specifically with any team while on placement.

Rhian was my supervisor throughout my placement, and she was very supportive in every step of the way. She ensured that I was introduced to every staff member, so I could get familiar with everyone. Within 2 days of me working, I had already met (online) every team of the organisation.

On the first day at the office, I felt very welcomed since I had spoken to everyone online. Rhian showed me around the offices which were all bright and capacious.

Jamie, the IT specialist gave me a laptop, its charger and a headphone set. He created a new email account for me, showed me how to use Wildix, and helped me in ways how I could detect scam emails and prevent them from stealing information, which was very helpful. Tony, the Health and Safety manager, went through the health and safety protocol, as well as the fire safety procedure. He showed me what actions I must take in case there is a fire in the building.

Rhian, my supervisor, talked me through every project which the teams were undertaking, and gave me the option to choose from all of them, in order for me to be part of as many I wanted. That, I found very helpful as I had the option to choose projects which suited me the best, and which I would participate in the most. After I decided which projects I wanted to be part of, Rhian informed all the team leaders of that specific project, in order for them to send me the online zoom/wildix links. The ENYA Project is the project which I mostly took part in and participated in the most, due to my interest on climate change, which was also the topic of the project. Sophie, Rhiannon and Rhian handled every meeting in a very precise and professional way, making the project a success and very enjoyable by the young people who took part. I was always motivated by the project officers to take part and share by opinion whenever I felt comfortable to do so.

Workshops and school visits are something that I thoroughly enjoyed during my placement. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to be part of the participation team and attend workshops at different schools. I got the chance to observe and even lead some of the activities.

In the workshops, we would inform them about the new children’s commissioner, what rights they are entitled to, where they should seek help and support if they feel that their rights are not being respected and some fun activities throughout the workshop to keep them interested. I am so thankful that I got to observe Sally Holland, Rhian, and Jordan in previous workshops, as that is what gave me the confidence and the ability to carry out the workshop. It was an amazing experience, which I will always remember, and I am very grateful that I got to experience it as I am sure it will benefit me in the future.

This placement has truly benefited me in many ways. Prior to starting my placement at the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, I did not have much information on children’s rights and places where they can seek help and support if their rights are not being respected and implemented, despite having done many hours of volunteering with children. This placement has provided me with so much information about children’s rights, the right approaches that schools should follow for an equal and fair teaching, anti-bullying policies and procedures and many more. I was able to improve my research skills during this placement, thanks to the research that I carried out as part of some projects. I have improved my ability to search for, locate, extract and evaluate information that could be relevant to the topic that I am researching for.

I am from Albania, and the team was very interested to know more about my country and culture. This is why, I organised a meeting where I invited everyone from the office to join. The meeting was about all Albania which contained information about the best places to visit, some of the most popular food, some popular Albanian greetings/saying and words, and some information about Albania’s history. Everyone who joined thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, as I received some lovely comments from everyone, saying how they learnt so much about Albania, and that they would love to visit it one day.

Within a week of me working at the office, we had a meeting with the minister of education Jeremy Miles. He was invited to the meeting so the advisory panel could share their concerns, including travel to school expenses, exam unclarities, free-school meals and so on. It was my first time seeing and speaking to him, but it was a great experience as I got to listen to what the Welsh Government had planned to help children and young people with those concerns and problems.

I was very lucky to attend Sally Holland’s lecture which took place at the Welsh Parliament (Senedd Cymru) before she left. There, she spoke about her experiences as the children’s commissioner for Wales, things that she would have made differently, and some advises for the new Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes. Mark Drakeford was also part of the lecture, where he gave a speech about what his plans are to continue support children and young people in Wales, and his experiences with Sally Holland as the children’s commissioner for Wales.

I would just like to thank everyone enormously for this amazing experience. I have truly loved every minute of it. Within 16 weeks, I have learnt so much, and I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity. Thank you, Fatjona!