E attended approximately five different high schools, due in part to repeated instances of bullying and subsequent poor attendance, finally leaving at sixteen with 3 GCSEs. E first came into contact with TRO through her application to the Trusthouse funded Reader Apprenticeship Programme, which she became aware of when a family member picked up a flyer at a local community mental health initiative. Although E did not gain that particular post, we were keen to have her on board and she was invited to complete our reading assistant training programme. E is now 20 years old, recently completed the 5 week programme, attends 2 GIR groups every week and has become an indispensable asset to the Wirral team in her volunteer placement as a reading assistant. Here is her story:
Before I came to the groups I was housebound. I had no motivation, never spoke to no one, had no confidence; unhappy, basically. I was nervous when I first come [to the group] and didn’t know what to expect – I just thought, ‘what am I doing?!’ But when I went in, everyone greeted me and straight away I knew it was a friendly place so I relaxed a bit. When I first heard what we’d be doing [in the group] – reading – I thought, ‘is this for me?!’ then, once [the facilitator] began I started getting dead into it. The atmosphere and communicating with people – even the layout with the biscuits on the table and getting a drink – is good. It’s like being at home.
I was dreading reading, thought I’d run away, but [the facilitator] said that there was no pressure to read if you didn’t want to and then I felt ok. I never read, not once, when I first came, but then I did the training. I used to stutter my words – was dead edgy talking to people – but even my communication has improved. The other volunteers are lovely – lots of friendly faces when we meet up. To know them is, well, really nice. It’s an opportunity to make friends. The support [from Reader staff] has been great, too.
It’s given me the motivation to get out the house and do more stuff. It’s turned my life around. I’m a completely different person – sometimes I don’t recognise myself, I think, ‘Is this me?!’. It’s made me want to get out and get a life. It’s given me opportunities I’ve never had before. It’s given me the opportunity to do more with my life – I’ve had anxiety and depression and it’s helped me come out of that. You can express how you feel. I’ve achieved something. I used to feel like a nobody and now I feel like a somebody. I’ve never been proud of myself before. I am now. I like feeling helpful. It’s nice to be wanted – I’ve never had that before, I’ve never really been praised. I never used to take compliments; even if someone praised me I couldn’t take it, but now I’m learning to not take the negatives, not to worry what other people think, but just – y’know – see the positives. I used to not the like the world, not like people, but I do now.
I never liked poetry before and now I love it! It’s something I actually enjoy, I like reading something I can relate to. That one the other day (The More Loving One by WH Auden), that was just brilliant! When you leave [a group] it gives you a light, it lights up the rest of your day. I’d suggest this to every single person in the world – it’s fantastic! It changes your aspect – it’s amazing.
When asked whether there was anything more she would like to add, E said, ‘People should know just how friendly it is, it’s really important. Everyone is so welcoming.’
E has gone from strength to strength in her role; having recently been asked to share her experience of how GIR has changed her attitude to reading with a local MP, as well as expanding her current voluntary work with TRO. E has expressed a wish to go to college and one day work for TRO in a paid capacity, saying, ‘I’ve never known what I wanted to do before, but this is it.’
We couldn’t be more pleased to have her with us.
Here at TRO, we’re passionate about helping people like E overcome some of the challenges they face and transform their lives. That’s why our major fundraising campaign for 2012 is The Reader Apprenticeship Programme: Building Opportunities for Life. We’re aiming to raise £14,000 to employ a young care-leaver to work with us in Liverpool and take their first steps towards independence.
To find out how you can support this vital cause, please visit our website.