Since leaving school many years ago I had always been in paid work such as factory operative, general labouring and driving. This gave me a routine, structure and most of all a salary. I was a keen sportsman too and played football and gaelic for my local club.
However over the years my physical health deteriorated and I had to have a double hip replacement. This meant I could no longer work and due to slow recovery I was spending days upon days on my own. I found myself becoming withdrawn from family and friends. I was angry with myself but could not find a way to get back on my feet.
After several years I realised that I had to something to help myself. I attended my local jobcentre who suggested that I should go to AMH New Horizons Downpatrick. I was reluctant but thought “hey I should try this I have nothing to lose”.
On my first day I met with Joanna (Client Development Co-ordinator) who suggested that I should try the garden centre as I enjoy practical activities. I met Keith (Horticulture Instructor) and he quickly put me at ease and made me feel very welcome.
After a year I had achieved my NVQ in horticulture and a First Aid qualification. During a review, my keyworker Keith discussed with me that my confidence and sense of self-worth had increased and suggested that I should speak with Stephanie the Employment Officer. Stephanie explained that I could try some work experience to see if I would be ready to go back to work. I was very reluctant to do this but I was continuously assured about the support I would receive.
Stephanie set up a meeting with Croob Engineering in Clanvaraghan and we both met with the Managing Director Fintan McMullan who explained that he would be happy to give me the opportunity to gain work experience as a labourer one day per week. Stephanie came with me the first few weeks to ensure I was settling in. Fintan allowed me to work at my own pace and was always there if I needed guidance.
The staff at Croob Engineering made me feel part of the team and I shortly increased my placement to two days per week. Stephanie arranged for me to complete CSR training to allow me to go onto sites if needed with other staff. After 4 months Fintan McMullan had a meeting with me – he explained that he had been impressed with my work and in particular fitting into the team and would like to offer me paid employment. I was delighted with this and accepted readily and began working 3 days per week.
It has been nearly 1 year since I started my employment journey and I would not be the person I am now without AMH New Horizons Downpatrick and my colleagues at Croob Engineering. I would like to thank them for their help, support and guidance.
AMH New Horizon’s Working It Out Project is part-funded by the NI European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.