Hello everyone, this is my first blog post so I hope you enjoy it J.
I’ve been involved with Lifeways since 2009. It has easily been the happiest time of my life. I get a HUGE buzz from seeing the wonderful things that happen here.
Here are three stories that I’d like to share because they demonstrate the importance of what Lifeways does. I’ve changed names to protect privacy.
Jim was introduced to me by a psychologist. He was overweight, dishevelled and suffering from depression and social anxiety brought on by smoking a particularly pernicious strain of marijuana. He was shy, despondent and only said one word on our first meeting. I asked him if he’d like to volunteer in the garden and he said “yes”. I suggested that he could come in whenever he felt up to it, and to my immense surprise and pleasure, he turned up the next day. I showed him the garden and he set to work, patiently clearing weeds from the pathways. He only stayed for about an hour, but came in the following day and stayed longer. From then on, he came in daily, each day staying a little longer. Eventually I offered him a small plot, where he started to grow vegetables for his family. He took on mowing the lawns and from then on began losing weight, began to take care of his appearance and started a relationship with a lovely girl. After a year of being with us, he started going to Morton Morell College to study grounds-keeping and is now qualified. Jim still has dark times and gets low, but he has turned his life around by his own efforts.
Andy came to us with a program run by the Warwickshire Youth Justice Service (WYJS) after getting into trouble through violence towards someone in his family who was taunting him. The WYJS program is one of ‘reparations’ rather than Community Service, this means that they help the community in some way rather than being punished with menial tasks. With his excellent mentor, he worked hard and it was evident that he was enjoying his time here. When the time came for him to end his sessions with us, I wrote him a reference which he immediately used to get a job. He was soon able to afford a small flat, taking him out of the social situation that was the reason for his brush with the law. Andy is a thoroughly lovely chap who has been back to visit us and is doing brilliantly in his job, having now progressed to management and is very happy with the life he has rebuilt for himself.
Denise visited us a few years ago. She was in a terrible state, unkempt, tearful and bruised as result of domestic violence. I immediately linked her with DACS, one of the charities working here who voluntarily support survivors of domestic abuse. Denise was counselled for several months, gradually regaining self-confidence and strength to a point at which she could move out of the situation she was in. After her final session she popped in to visit bearing a large box of chocolates (we love chocolates at Lifeways) full of confidence, neat and professionally dressed – I could hardly recognise her! She showed immense strength and intelligence to move on with her life and I take my hat off to the wonderful service that her DACS counsellor provided.
These are just three stories out of hundreds I could relate – community groups that have formed here where friendship and laughter build happiness, children with anxiety who have been helped through difficult times, the refugees with frightening back-stories who have allotment spaces, pregnant mums helped by therapies, people undergoing end-of-life treatments receiving love and friendship. All of this is due to the people who come to us, building community, healing and helping people live better, healthier, and happier lives.
The collective of groups and individuals who work here is wonderful – everyone, my fabulous colleague Angela, our lovely cleaner Mary, neighbours and friends, our incredible therapists and counsellors, our generous Trustees who volunteer their time freely to manage our plans, finances and direction, volunteers in the garden and the families and individuals we can help. It is immensely heart-warming that so many people can get together to benefit the community naturally and healthily. That is the aim of Lifeways, and has been since Heather Burton Established it over 30 years ago.
Thank you – everybody xxx