Things really aren’t great right now, are they? And in so many ways that’s quite the understatement, for sure. Don’t know about you, but I can barely face tuning in to the news here in the UK or across the world: things falling apart. That’s how it feels.
But this isn’t a story playing into all that. It’s a story about how fallen pieces can be put back together and not only made whole again, but triumphantly so, and against the odds.
Meet Lyndsey Jones…
Just awarded Highly Commended at the Finals of the Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards in the Breaking Down Barriers category, Lyndsey supports people with Learning Disabilities for a charitable organisation called Journey Enterprises.
And yet, up until very recently, an award, the job, a Level 3 qualification, college and even a life, bordered on the impossible as she explained to me:
“I lost my mum when I was 13 and had quite bad mental health from then onwards. I was battling anorexia and was in and out of hospital, spending nine months away from my family. I ended up with severe depression and anxiety. Throughout my teenage years, the anxiety was crippling and I ended up unable to leave the house for a very long time. I met my husband in hospital 15 years ago and he has Learning Disabilities and mental health issues. The fact is, this job saved me.”
Also having two young nephews with Learning Disabilities, Lyndsey learned more and more and when Journey Enterprises opened in her community, she instantly knew she wanted to be part of it even though at that stage she still was unable to leave the house. But driven by a strong desire to give something back having been so brilliantly supported herself, she propelled herself to volunteer and within two weeks was going in every day. And that was five years ago.
When Lyndsey started there, no one really knew it existed and there was an idea to set up Friendship Groups where the clients would go visiting nursing homes…
“But I wanted us to go into the homes of isolated people in the village and that’s now been built up to visiting 38 people every Wednesday! The clients have put the menu together themselves, cooked and packaged and delivered to the houses themselves and people actually wait on the doorsteps, all with the double benefit that they see our clients as just as able as anyone else. So now we’re getting on really well in the community and people are seeing just how fantastic these guys are…which is how I see them.”
Lyndsey re-emerged from her isolation wanting to make a difference in a field close to her heart but she began to realise that it was the best of worlds – a giving and receiving, both ways. The clients and the organisation have empowered her to feel good about herself – that she can take on pretty much anything with them behind her:
“I want my clients to be able to stand up and do anything they want to do and if that means me getting up and doing it with them, in support, then I should do it too. And now I can. Unbelievably, I’ve even learned to drive!”
Lyndsey has since opened the Coundon Community Shop because she well knows that her clients are happiest when they’re doing something in the community, for the community. So now not only are the clients hugely proud to be helping people but are gaining employment skills and learning about recycling and food waste. A pre-loved uniform shop has also opened and partnerships have been set up with companies such as Gregg’s, who want to contribute.
Recently going up to full time, this is a remarkable and truly inspiring story for a woman so long imprisoned in her own home.
“I’m extremely lucky to have the job I have and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the clients. Everyone deserves the best support possible – I got that and I love giving back in the same way.”
When the pieces all fall apart, resilience, passion and support can help solder them back together – stronger than ever before.