Islander Interviews #3 – Charlie Cox


I caught up with Charlie Cox to talk about her experience of working in the third sector, what Samaritans and Youth Commission can offer the community, what we can do to get involved and lots else besides – suicide prevention to social media struggles to steak and scallops.

Charlie Cox

Tell me a little bit about Charlie Cox, where did you come from and how did you get here?

“I’m a Guernsey girl. I grew up in a family that was always part of a community, always doing something or other, whether it was helping out at a fête, taking cakes to the neighbours, I just grew up in that kind of family.”

“At school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, not hugely successful in any area. I went to university and did Education & Human Development with Performing Arts, but it was performing arts based in the community, working in prisons, after-school and community groups and it was all about—not classic performing arts, how talented an actor are you—it was about building confidence, letting people express themselves, giving them a voice.”

“I did that alongside placements in schools, thinking I wanted to go into teaching. I just enjoyed the community setting so much more, I find the relationship you get as a teacher has to be bound by the curriculum, has to be bound by all the important things you’ve got to get done in your lesson, and often you couldn’t have those really interesting conversations with children: what they’re excited about, what their day’s been like, what their life looks like; whereas I did get that with the community stuff.”

“I came back to Guernsey and still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I went into finance, as everybody does. Then I saw an advert for the Samaritans. I hadn’t heard much about the Samaritans before, but just from the offset, I loved the idea of it. I loved the idea, if you’re in a crisis, 24 hours a day, you could phone somebody, and somebody would listen to you. I just think it’s so powerful.”


“I started volunteering with the Samaritans and became obsessed with it as an organisation. At the same time I started doing youth work, originally out of Styx community centre, then I started volunteering with Action for Children at youth clubs.”

“By this point I’m obviously spending the majority of my time either in my 9 to 5 job or volunteering for some kind of organisation, which felt a bit crazy. An opportunity in youth work came up, and I got the job working for the Youth Service, which was just incredible, just to have the time to do more of it, scope to do my own stuff as well. My outreach work and volunteering was very much ‘you have this many hours,’ ‘this is the kind of thing you gotta do.’ Being fulltime I could design projects, do things that haven’t been done before.”

“In parallel to that, my journey with Samaritans became more intense. I just got so passionate about it; I fell in love with the organisation. In 2012 the HUB was launching. A group of individuals raised some money, because they felt there was the need for a service for young people to be listened to.”

“Jane St Pier, who founded the HUB, I knew through Samaritans, and over many a late night volunteering session we talked about how great it was when children phoned up and that we could offer this service for children too. I applied for the job as a lone project worker for this brand new charity on a one-year contract, not working for the States, so a big pay cut for me as well, and I just had to do it so it sounded so exciting.”

“At the same time I was appointed as Director of Samaritans. It’s all volunteer staff all the way up to Director level, and how they choose the Director is everyone in the branch votes—it really is incredible, you feel so honoured to be asked, the branch is already behind you. It was never something I’d feel I could take on, I was 21 at the time and they were saying, ‘Here, be a Director of a branch of 60 volunteers, who’ve all been doing this so much longer than you and know so much more than you know’, but I think my enthusiasm was infectious and they all quite liked that.”

Just to dwell a moment on Samaritans, would you describe what exactly it is they do?

“Samaritans offer 24hr confidential support to anybody, they have volunteers who sit around the phone 24/7. I’ve done shifts on Christmas day. One year I did Crisis at Christmas, which is a national thing where they open up abandoned business buildings and invite homeless to come in and all sorts of professionals donate their time—doctors, dentists, vets—all these services that homeless people cannot access, it’s incredible. And Samaritans act as Samaritans there—just a wonderful experience.”

“The Guernsey branch is connected to the UK, so doesn’t just take calls form the UK. If a Guernsey person calls and our branch is closed, because it’s not big enough to man the phones 24/7, you’d get diverted to the nearest branch.”

“One of the things I really wanted to do was de-stigmatise Samaritans. Some of the people were just having a tough time, just like we all can, people who’d maybe been widowed, or just feeling down; some who feel like they’d pushed their luck too much with their family, they feel like they’ve put too much on them but still need someone to talk to.”

“When I was there I wanted to raise the profile, because Samaritans started and still is a crisis line, for people feeling suicidal and wanting somebody to talk to. It absolutely does deal with people close to taking their own life. But we also talk to people having a bad day, feeling a bit lonely.”

“I think in Guernsey there is that fear that it will get back to people. Whenever I had Guernsey people they’d automatically assume you were from Guernsey—‘When I was at the De La Rue the other day’— saying things only Guernsey people would know about, then there’d be people very keen to hide their identity.”

“At Samaritans the training’s really intensive and the commitment you make to confidentiality is so important, it’s never going to be broken, it’s never going to be acknowledged or talked about. They also offer a text service, an email service and a face-to-face service.”

Is the Youth Commission offering something similar to young people in Guernsey?

“Working with children is completely different because we are a professional organisation and we have a duty of care for young people, under 18s, so that confidentiality isn’t always possible—like it is in Samaritans.”

“Sophie Andrews, who was chair for Samaritans but was abused herself, didn’t tell teachers because she knew they had to do something, so she phoned Samaritans because she knew they wouldn’t. Children aren’t naïve, they know what’s going to happen, if they talk to us about something going on and can see that they’re at risk we’re going have to do something about it. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. Children have lots of people in their lives, but there’s not always that person who can actually sit and have that dedicated time just to hear what they’re saying.”

The HUB and Youth Commission

That’s a good inroad into a great Youth Commission program, mentoring. Would you speak about what it is?

“You can probably speak about it better than I can! Before I was employed by the HUB we started recruiting volunteers because we always knew the key to success was always going to be volunteers.”

“For some young people, the fact that you’re not paid to be in their life is really important to them, particularly young people who might have a social worker, obviously teachers at school, all these different people, but actually you’re there because you want to be there.”

“The other really important thing is that we don’t have a threshold for those contacting the service: we don’t say you have to tick a box—you have to be this sad, you need to have this much going wrong in your life—for you to access this service. If you say you want support, we will support you.”

“We had lots of choices about what sort of model we went with, we could’ve gone down a counselling model, we could’ve gone with a semi-clinical approach, but we really stayed away from that, we wanted to stay community-based, supporting people when they needed us with the power of relationships, which is where I think mentoring is amazing.”

“Really, there is no magic trick, there is no skill that we can teach you that can solve young peoples’ problems. If we had that magic wand that’d be incredible, but we don’t. The most important thing is the relationships that our volunteers build with young people.”


I like that organic conception of what support can be: just making a space in which people can hang out, it’s not made more artificial than it needs to be. What kind of feedback have you had from that program?

“Amazing stuff, mentoring is one of our most popular program, we get most referrals for it, also one of the most successful. I can think of one young people who before mentoring really struggled to leave mum’s side, struggled with independence, would come into the room and stand behind mum when you were trying to have a conversation with him. After the mentoring program, which we took really slow—first time mum waited in the car, you know, it was a journey—but by the end of it he wasn’t only going out on the mentoring sessions with the volunteer but was going out for walks on their own.”

“They were really into photography, so they were then able to go out for walks and take photos on their own without mum being there—it was just transformative. Previously you had this child with all these nerves and all these worries about being away from mum, and the pressures that put on mum, having a child who always wanted to be around them and not giving her any time to do simple things.”

“We have so many young people whose feedback is around ‘really listening’ and ‘really caring,’ which again I think is so powerful. I think we all know how it feels not to be listened to, and I think young people really feel that.”

“It’s just about helping them discover their passion, helping them discover what they’re interested in and then helping them to make that flourish and being ambitious with them.”

“I think some of our young people have lost—I don’t want to say hope, that makes it sound so dreary—but they’ve lost a bit of spark around what they’re capable of and what they can do and what they can try. There are millions of things to do in the world, I think there are so many young people now who I see who have carried on with those talents that they wouldn’t have started without their volunteer and now they’re doing incredibly well with, and pursuing their dream. You think: if they hadn’t had that volunteer who had taken them to that first drama session, or whatever it might have been, would they ever have done it?”

Quick-Fire Qs

Best thing about living on Guernsey?

“Being so close to the beach.”

Something Guernsey needs to work on?

“I’d say better community connections. I’d say we’re definitely a good way there, but to say we’re so small and we still don’t do everything as a community, it seems like we could do that better.”

Why is it, then, if we literally live on a rock, that people can live in siloes, not just between families in a community but within families themselves?

“I think in Guernsey that things are so accessible that we don’t appreciate what’s on our doorstep. I mean that myself as well, because there’s lots of community events I don’t always go to all of them, I don’t support them all. I think sometimes that makes us live in a world of luxury where we don’t always appreciate what’s in front of us.”

Last meal and drink on earth?

“Steak and scallops. And my last drink, my last day on earth, and I was treating myself—champagne!”

What are kids nowadays missing out on?

“It shocks me every year how many children haven’t been to the beach. When we run play-scheme and we have primary school children who haven’t been to the beach, even if they haven’t been to the beach in the last year, it still blows my mind. Guernsey people who are older now reflect on our childhoods, when we would finish school we ran to the beach and stayed there until we were dragged home, even if it was raining you’d still be outside. I think thanks to social media and some of the new trends coming through, being outdoorsy is coming back, I think people are respecting how important it is.”

It’s nice to hear you mention social media in a positive sense, as it does get such a bad wrap generally. Just to go on a wee tangent: how has social media complicated or helped you work?

“I just am so glad that social media didn’t exist until I was at university. I always use this example: if you remember being back at school and you get to school on Monday and you hear there was a party on Saturday night and you weren’t invited to it, on Monday morning, okay, you’re pretty upset, people are talking about it the first half of the day, but by lunchtime people have moved on to the next thing and it’s over.”

“Nowadays, you watch all of your friends getting ready on social media together, with all their insta-storying, you know you’re left out, probably from lunchtime on Saturday, you then watch the party, and of course it’s only the highlights of the party you don’t see that it was actually a bit boring and nothing really interesting happened. So you have this horrible vision that everyone’s living this better life. It’s so hard on young people.”

“I think they can access stuff way too young, even if you have the best controls on your router they can still get round them, of course. Some of the stuff we’re learning around pornography, just the age these children are accessing this stuff, I think we’re going to see in 5, 10 years time the real impact of some of these things.”

Do you have a hobby that we don’t know about?

“I like to do calligraphy. I’m not that brilliant at it, but I like doing it, I like to take time out and make cards and things like that. Very frustrating for somebody who has OCD tendencies…”

Anything going on at the Youth Commission you’d like to promote?

Just encouragement for people to find out what we do. We’re quite happy for young people, families, carers, family members, just to phone us and have a chat. If you’re interested in a child coming to a youth club or just finding out about anything—if we don’t have the answer, we will absolutely have a connection and be able to put you in the right direction. Just give us a call!

Youth Commission Services

Your wider range of services: I’ve heard a few parents say ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was on, this would have been perfect for young so-and-so.’ For these parents, would you mind giving a shout out to some of those services?

“Yeah—there’s so many though! We know we need to work on it, and we are working on our media and how we communicate those things.”

“We operate under five service areas, which helps make it clearer to the public: support, activities, learning, voice and network support.“


“Support, emotional health and wellbeing, predominantly ages 10 to 18. It’s completely free and it’s just that opportunity to have somebody to talk to.”

“Within that we have our specialist area of bereavement. We provide bereavement to children aged 5 to 18, we also offer support to their parents, their family, their carers, whoever might be around to make sure they feel really resourced as well.”

“Child sexual exploitation, another thing in Guernsey that we don’t like to think happens. We’ve seen young people being exploited, young people being in very dangerous situations, be that online or in person, supporting them, helping them identify risk.”


“We then have our activities area, which is basically all kinds of positive activity. It ranges from youth clubs, junior and senior, open access, 50p a session, different places on the island young people can access all sorts of fun stuff.”

“We have a range of GET projects, which goes back to what I was saying before about helping young people find a passion or an interest or something they might not have tried before, and reducing all barriers to trying that. We have done things like personal training, archery, we have rock-climbing and golf, we have all sorts of stuff that usually has a big cost attached to it or you have to sign up for however many months to be able to attend, and you child might not like it.”

“I imagine it’s frustrating for a parent to sign your kid up to kickboxing and after two sessions they don’t want to go anymore.  So it’s really about 6 week taster sessions, and if they like it we’ll help them get into it.”

“We also run our holiday play-scheme. During the school holidays we have lots of primary age schoolchildren access us everyday. Effectively you’re childcare for families who need some support over the holidays, and they do such exciting things. They’ve gone to the beach today, they have a slip ‘n’ slide next week, they’ve done visits to the dairy—we just try to make it as exciting as possible while their parents have to be working and doing stuff that adults have to do.”


“Then we have our learning service, most of that’s done through schools. For example, we deliver the domestic abuse lessons in schools, we deliver lessons around LGBT, so supporting young people with sexuality and their gender. We deliver something called the Prince’s Trust Program, which is for young people who are GCSE age who for whatever reason aren’t thriving with their GCSEs, which could be for all sorts of different reasons. Prince’s Trust is an alternative curriculum where they can get support through us.”

“And we also run Duke of Edinburgh. We support schools delivering the program, but we also deliver some groups ourselves. It’s a great one because I think young people assume that if they haven’t done their Duke of Edinburgh at school they can’t do it, but they can through us. We have loads of people who do it later on, we have someone who’s 21 who finished their Gold just the other week—you still have plenty of time to get it! So we do lots of community-based Duke of Edinburgh.”


“Next service is Voice. We are passionate about young people having their voice heard, particularly when there are decisions being made about them. We do that on two levels. An individuals level, supporting young people through advocacy; it’s an amazing role to have because you’re helping young people find their voice. They might be sat in a room where decisions are being made about their lives, whether that be where they live or schooling, and our role is purely to help them say what they think and what they feel.”

“And we also do that on a much broader scale through the Youth Forum, which is a group of young people who give the States and other organisations their view on what young people think about things. At the moment they’re doing a project on food waste, so they’ve been working with the recycling teams, learning how it all works and looking at it from a young person’s perspective.”

“This is their island, this is their future than we’re building for them, so we’re really trying to empower them to have their say and influence things that are going to affect them. We shouldn’t really be deciding stuff about them without them.”

Network Support

“And then the final one is a network offer of support. We know there’s lots of fantastic organisations doing great work with young people and as a bigger one we provide a bit of practical support, be that around grants or DBS checks or helping with a building or a minibus they might need to borrow—we offer this umbrella service to support in anyway that we can.”

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