April 12, 2019
After reading about a local woman who had been supported by New Leaf to get her life back on track after being unemployed due to ill health, Sarah decided it was her time to turn over a new leaf.
Sarah had her own health issues: battling with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia and struggling with anxiety and depression. But after learning to manage her symptoms and taking control of her anxiety, Sarah was ready to get back into work. She just didn’t know where to start, so she got in touch with New Leaf, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and The National Lottery Community Fund.
Although I was ready to get back into work and regain my independence, I was very nervous when I first started on New Leaf. I didn’t know what to expect, but my mentor, Stephan Polshaw from Weaver Vale Housing Trust, made me feel at ease right away. There was no judgment on his part, he simply wanted to help and support me find the right path to employment.
I was put on some courses, ran by Chester Work Zone, to build my confidence. I ended up loving these courses so much that it inspired me to want to do something similar myself. It had never occurred to me that I could use my own experiences to teach and support adults to improve their mental health and wellbeing. I now knew what I wanted to do, I just needed help getting there.
My New Leaf mentor put me in touch with Dee Gunning at Chester Voluntary Action. She was so supportive and found me a voluntary role where I would gain experience in helping people. Surprisingly, I ended up back at the Chester Work Zone, where I was given the opportunity to support the tutor, Becky, with the delivery of their health, wellbeing and confidence courses.
I meet some amazing people on these courses who were experiencing difficulties like low self-esteem and lack of self-belief, things that I had learned to overcome within my own life. Thanks to the support and encouragement of Becky and the rest of the Work Zone staff, I had finally found a role that fitted with my skills and experience and would not have a negative impact on my health.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoy volunteering, my ultimate goal is to find paid employment as a tutor. For this to happen, I had to gain a qualification in teaching and training adults. Thanks to New Leaf, I was given a place on an Education and Training course and an Advice and Guidance course and I have now gained a level 3 Award in Education and Training. I have also gained a level 2 Award in Information, Advice and Guidance which has also been invaluable in understanding my role as a teacher. All this has gone hand-in-hand with the vital experience I gained volunteering in this role.
The support I have gained from New Leaf has been invaluable to me. It’s like nothing I have experienced in the past. There is no judgment and no pressure to commit to something you don’t want to do. Throughout the whole journey, I have been made to feel valued, that I matter to them and they genuinely want me to succeed in getting back to work.
It’s been so refreshing to have a mentor who works with me as opposed to telling me what they think I should do. My mentor Stephan, has been a rock to me over the last 8 months, encouraging me at every turn. He has always worked hard to find solutions to my issues, never rushing me or pushing me down a path that doesn’t benefit me.
But most important of all, I have got my confidence and self-belief back. Anxiety is now a thing of the past. My future is bright and filled with opportunities that I want to enjoy and not waste time hiding myself away at home.
New Leaf really has given me all the support and tools I needed to turn over a new leaf.
While continuing to volunteer, Sarah is building her portfolio of personal development courses which she one day hopes to deliver to help others with their own mental health and wellbeing. She also has plans to study for a degree in psychology and counselling and a mentoring qualification in the future.