The beauty of my job is that every individual and their stories are different.
I come from a nursing background, working in the sector for about 20 years. I loved my job, but cuts started to crawl in and circumstances just started to shift. I felt that I was supposed to be moving on to something new but I always imagined it would be something I’m experienced in rather than anything dramatically different. I prayed quite a bit about what it was God wanted me to do next. The more I got to know about what St Aldates were doing, the more my heart was stirred and so I resigned from my hospital job and started volunteering for ACT and have been there ever since.
I’m a housing coordinator/support worker and essentially on a daily basis we go to the houses, and simply just spend time chatting with the tenants and building relationships with them. We also talk practicalities such as budgeting, shopping, cooking- and I support them in how to live in the most cost-effective and efficient way. We do that throughout the week and our doors are always open for our tenants to come and use us if they need to chat about something. We ensure that we create a safe space for them to come and feel valued, feel supported and feel loved. It’s just what we do.
So the beauty of my job is that every individual and their stories are different, therefore we don't categories them. I have supported people who have pretty much been life-long institutionalised, people who have gone from children’s home to young offenders to prison for large percentage of their lives, and are just beginning to experience a new life on the outside. To people who have actually only just had a short spell in prison, perhaps only a year and that was their only taste of anything to do with prison and so actually it was a massive shock to have to deal with that. Some people come with mental health needs, addiction issues, it’s a real mixed bag but each one is an individual who’s life is broken.
For me, the best part of my job is being part of a transformed life and seeing God do something amazing with somebody who has been so broken. I can’t imagine anything better than being part of someone’s journey. When something has been so dark, so broken, so lost, so hopeless, and then they come into the safety of a home and experience family. And through hard work of their own and through God’s grace and mercy, they have been able to live differently and to turn their life around. Thats why I love my job! But with every job, comes the aspects that I struggle with. My heart has been broken for these people. It’s so sad when you’ve worked with somebody, and seen them make steps forward, to then see them get tangled up in relapse that leads to a downward spiral and then they have to leave the houses.We try to offer as much support as possible in order to keep these people in the system, but in certain circumstances, there is no other option, and that is really hard- the hardest part of my job.
My faith massively impacts the way that I work, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing, nor would I be able to do what I am doing without it. I always laugh that God has made this possible. In my previous career, I did it because I was fully trained and equipped to do the job. I’ve got no background in this, it can only be God. As they say, ‘God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.’ Every time I drive to a house I call out to God to help me, I depend on his Holy Spirit massively and I spend a huge amount of time listening to him for what these guys need.
I love the fact you are doing ‘safe space’ as a theme this year. I think it’s massive, some of the people we are working with who are longing to turn their lives around have often mixed with the wrong crowd, but a safe space is key to keeping these people on the right track. I think the thing we have noticed within ACT is just the sense of family which has grown massively since we created the safe space. There’s much more laughter and camaraderie and guys looking out for one another. What community should look like.
For anybody who is thinking about this area of work or maybe just wanting to dip their toe in, I would say find somebody who is already doing it and join in with them. Generally there are people out there doing some amazing stuff and they are always looking for people to be part of it. And I would say don’t wait for all the right boxes to be ticked, for you to be qualified, to be trained, to be called with an audible voice, don’t wait, this is God’s heart and he longs for us to step out in faith and just start doing, as opposed to waiting. Be pro-active, seek God, and be obedient to his calling, and you will see great things.