“I was fortunate by the grace of God that I didn’t go to prison. I could’ve very easily done had circumstances been different. I’m fully aware of that. You’re thrown into a life where you need to find support, not just for your own mental health, but what LandWorks offers you is, ok, so you now know how to go onto Universal Credit, how to work on your housing, who’s going to pay the bills, what’s going to be happening with … and the facility to be able to plug into all those services has been second to none. To know that there’s someone here that can speak to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and I think with my circumstances, because I was in such a dark place, was unable to communicate effectively to any other agencies or knew where to go, they were doing that all on my behalf and before I knew it we were filling out PIP applications, looking at the Breathing Space scheme for anybody that’s had trouble financially. There were some creditors that were looking to come after me. There were things with Universal Credit. Could I get more support because of my mental health conditions?
Even some of the lovely things. If there’s food left over at the end of the day … being able to take some food home with me, being fed whilst you’re here. The array of support is really broad. It’s emotional. It’s working with people that are plugged into the system for those that might have lost their way.
I think also the ethos of the environment … if you’re working … I work a lot on the gardening side of things. I know they’ve got maintenance people. There’s a woodwork shop. There’s the kitchen. But every one of those areas, the people that are in charge of those aren’t necessarily just in charge of the garden. They’re like your own personal therapists. You can talk to them about what you’re going through. There’s a lot of empathy. If there’s a situation that you’re very troubled with, I’ll see them just do things at a drop of a hat. They’ll get in the van and they’ll take you to somewhere that you need to be quickly, or they’ll fill out a form for you. Nothing is too much trouble. It’s amazing that you’ve got experts in their own fields, be it in carpentry, be it in horticulture, site maintenance, but those individuals are also … well, they’re your therapists. They’re the people that you can explain your day and for me it’s nice. I’ve got one of the gardeners, Lucy, that’s able to almost identify that if I’m feeling quite sociable will put me in a group setting or if I’m feeling a little low and a little bit like I need my own time, can recognise that quite quickly and adjust the tasks accordingly.
I remember very clearly saying to Chris and excuse my language, but I said I really am on my arse at the moment and I think it was the evening and they said we’ve got some food for you to take home, and every day they’ve given me food to take home. I just look at the people that run around and say, have you got something to eat, have you got something to take with you? There’s care and compassion that I’ve not seen in my years in life. The first time that happened I just remember thinking, oh my goodness me. That is a highlight. Kind of getting back to basics and I can get why people say that going back to nature and surrounding yourself, going for walks is good for your mental health. I know it sounds daft … I’ve got kids, but to plant a manky potato with these seeds coming out of it in the ground and then sort of eight weeks later you’ve got this harvest of these beautiful potatoes. There’s something quite land-worky about that analogy, putting something that’s a little bit broken and doesn’t look well and actually from that comes this abundance of that. The gardening’s been a highlight.
What LandWorks does is it extends that your own family is obviously the heart and centre of your world, but when you’re talking and working with other people and you’re hearing their stories you realise that you’re not alone, everybody’s got their challenges, everybody’s got something that they’re trying to handle and look after. I was always somebody that would shy away from any sort of negativity. I didn’t want to deal with it. If there was a problem, oh no, that’s going to spoil my fun. Where actually volunteering and helping, there’s more enjoyment in that than there is in just trying to have some sort of self-administered joy through drugs, alcohol, whatever it might be. So, hearing other people’s stories is very humbling and seeing them get the job that they were hoping for and then still popping back in. The amount of people that I’ve seen that have been through and yet still come back, I think that kind of rubber-stamps how brilliant this place is.”
Photographs taken by Emma Winslet for http://www.fotonow.org/