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A message from SAYiT CEO, Heather Paterson


I am sad to share that I will be stepping down as SAYiT’s CEO in July. It has been an honour and a privilege to work with the charity for the past 5 years, we have a fantastic dedicated team of staff, trustees, volunteers and amazing young people, and I am sure the organisation will continue to go from strength to strength under new leadership. I will be remaining in the LGBTQ+ sector and look forward to seeing SAYiT continue to flourish as it enters its next phase.


There have undoubtedly been challenges during recent years, not least a global pandemic and an increasingly anti-LGBTQ+ climate, but I am proud of how we have been able to respond to these challenges and continue to support LGBTQ+ young people in the region, providing safe spaces supporting their emotional wellbeing to develop a positive sense of self-identity and equip them to fulfil their potential, creating positive independent futures.


I took over as CEO at the start of the Covid pandemic and was proud of the way the team responded as we had to quickly adapt to new ways of working, delivering sessions online and in church halls, vacant nightclubs and other larger spaces to allow greater social distancing when face to face working was permitted. We delivered care packages to young people full of wellbeing items to support them through the isolation of lockdowns and social restrictions and our Noah Lomax fund enabled us to continue to offer vital hardship and counselling support to young people to minimise the mental health impacts of the pandemic.


As we returned to face to face working, it became apparent that we had outgrown our former home at Scotia Works and I oversaw the move to our new dedicated centre at Star House. It has been fantastic seeing how the young people have flourished taking ownership of the space, and the development of the centre including nature themed counselling rooms, our ‘snug’ (a quiet/sensory room), training room and our ‘queer book nook’ LGBTQ+ lending library. The support of our funders, partners, volunteers and community members was invaluable in creating this, with donations of furnishings, books and funding to create the wonderful home we have today.


We have sadly seen increasing attacks on LGBTQ+ people during this time and in 2022 we became a third party hate crime reporting centre to enable LGBTQ+ people experiencing this to report their experiences and access support. As LGBTQ+ topics continued to be high on the political and media agenda, we expanded our training and education offer to increase the knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues for professionals working with young people in all settings.


We could not do the work we do without the wide ranging support we have received. Without listing everyone individually for fear of becoming a very long Oscar style speech or missing anyone out, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of our partners, funders, networks and community members who have supported our work. SAYiT’s work has never been more needed and we couldn’t do it without you.


The CEO role will be advertised shortly and I will spend my remaining months working with our board and the team to ensure a smooth handover to my successor who I hope you will continue to support in delivering SAYiT’s vital work. I may be leaving SAYiT but my commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and the rights of marginalised young people remains as important to me as ever. And my support for the great work of SAYiT will never diminish.


Thank you all for your support and I look forward to seeing what the next chapter brings for SAYiT.

 

Heather Paterson

CEO, May 2024

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