Paul has lived in the area of Walton all his life. He was employed but was made redundant twice, both times after 10 years’ service, and when he was made redundant for a third time, he had a breakdown. Looking back, he realises he had already started experiencing signs of mental health issues - depression and anxiety - but hadn’t recognised the signs at the time.
He went to sign on at the Jobcentre Plus, which was something new for him. Unfortunately, he felt that he received little support and in his depressed mindset, without understanding the system, he continued a downward spiral. He started self ‘medicating’ with alcohol and hit rock bottom. A friend suggested he should visit an organisation called Wellness with a Goal (WAG), where he started the RESOLVE programme to stop his alcohol abuse.
The Jobcentre Plus suggested various support services, including Central Surrey Voluntary Action, and they suggested several voluntary projects. Paul chose Walton Charity’s Community Allotment project.
He remembers his first few weeks at the Community Allotment. He was amazed at how friendly and supportive everyone was and it felt strange as he was not used to people being nice to him, and he also felt appreciated. The site is large and open and there is a relaxed atmosphere. Over the 3 years that Paul has been a volunteer, attending weekly, his confidence has improved and so has his sense of achievement as he nurtured the plants and learnt a lot about gardening. It was good to be part of a supportive team, whilst pushing the boundaries at his own pace.
Being part of the team who built a display at the Hampton Court Flower Show was a huge step forward for Paul, conquering his fear of being in crowded areas. With the other volunteers, he also got involved in projects, such as revamping a school garden.
With encouragement, Paul decided to try yoga with the Mary Francis Trust, and this felt like another positive step for him.
Paul’s next huge step was to take the route back into employment, and he was introduced to a charity called Home Support who provide practical help and support to older people who, due to age, sickness or disability need additional help at home. After receiving some financial assistance from us, he was able to buy some gardening tools and now jobs have started to trickle in.
The Community Allotment is still a huge part of Paul’s life, and his experience has given him a new zest for life!