From Tragedy to Triumph
I found this photo deeply moving and this is because this one image tells an incredible story, one woman's story - M's story. Since seeing this photo on M's Slack Channel it's remained with me. As I stated on You First's Social Media platforms recently:
"The journey this woman has taken, the majority of it not of her choosing, is both tragic and triumphant in equal measure"
and this image captures that for me because it's an image of a woman simply "doing her life" and order to "do her life" she's had to reclaim it and come back from an incredibly dark place. The resilience and fortitude she has demonstrated is extraordinary. She has my total respect.
Nathalie (You First Operational Director) and I have known M for close to 30 years as both of us have worked with her at various stages of our previous careers with Somerset County Council. We know her well, very well, and this is why I was so shocked to see her when a Social Worker took me the house where she was living prior to You First supporting her. I'm not going to go into detail here, but M was half the weight you see here, in a very poor physical state, highly anxious, her hair had not been washed, her clothes were falling off her, she was engaging in self-injurious behaviour and she was desperately unhappy. I was almost in tears; the Social Worker I was with on my initial visit was in tears. I spent time with M whilst she was getting ready to move to her new house and You First's support and I honestly questioned whether the real M, the M I knew so well, was still there.
This beautiful photo shows, very clearly, that she was and this is thanks to M slowly building trust and confidence in her You First team. She hadn't known consistent support for a very long time, she was supported almost entirely by agency staff, but slowly we built a Micro Team around her that was made up of consistent people that were a perfect match for her and that practised consistently; together we all learned from M. We had dedicated support from Somerset Partnership initially, but slowly, one by one, they discharged M because they saw her thriving and flourishing.
I don't gloss over what was a very difficult period in M's life. Building trust again was a very slow and difficult process. M had been through trauma and the journey back was never going to be easy but through the professional guidance and support Nathalie and others provided for her team M slowly began to recapture skills she had lost as well as learn new ones and with this she slowly re-gained her self-esteem, self-respect and evidenced this through the way she once again took pride in herself. Being smartly presented was always important to M.
I cannot over-estimate how powerful M's story is. This photo of is one of simple, some might even say, mundane everyday life but to me it represents a story of survival. It's also a story that gives powerful testimony to You First's approach to people and it's also a powerful story of one teams complete commitment and dedication. That's why I share it.
This is but one story within You First that demonstrates just how important the role of a Support Worker is and I say this at a time where the role of the "Key Worker" is being openly discussed and at last being held with the value such a role deserves. To M, you are not people who are paid to do a job, you are the people who helped her find herself again, the people who gave her her life back - people who love her. Let's not be afraid to use that word.
M is now free to walk into her garden and collect her laundry.
How magnificently ordinary is that?
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