Not all Heroes wear Capes
Our customer Steven (not his real name) is a hero and an inspiration.
Growing up in a rural and economically deprived area and having to deal with dyslexia meant that Steven’s work opportunities were severely limited, so he moved in with a grandparent living in Gloucestershire to expand his horizons and increase his chances. Although his family are located in various distant places around the UK he was determined to make his own way in life and work.
Inspired by the stories of a family doctor and the actor Susan Hampshire, who were both diagnosed as dyslexic, Steven didn’t see his condition as an obstacle to employment, instead choosing to be inspired by his chosen role models.
After working in construction where a serious accident halted his work temporarily, Steven used the time not only for his physical recovery, but also to volunteer with a Young Homeless Project because being out of paid work encouraged him to invest his time helping others.
After various jobs through agency work he accepted a full-time contract in the public building cleaning sector, and works unsociable hours on a demanding shift pattern. This is both physically and mentally demanding, and when split shift working patterns see him finish late one day, only to start again early the next, Steven is inspired to improve his situation.
But his current circumstances are not designing his future.
In the current lockdown through Covid-19 he has continued to work the demanding shifts, and when one of his colleagues who works alongside him was really struggling and ready to quit Steven’s positive attitude and practical stoicism led him to guide Derek to think carefully about what he was planning to do. Having experienced serious setbacks himself, Steven coached his colleague to carry on, reminding him that although resigning would eliminate the current position and frustration, it would also create another issue Derek would then have to overcome. That day, Steven was Derek’s hero, saving him from an inevitable situation he would have had to deal with if he stepped down: finding alternative work from an unemployed position of his own making.
Even though his own work situation sees Steven currently unable to achieve his personal ambitions of more meaningful work, improved pay, and a move into his own home from shared accommodation, added to him currently being unable to enjoy an active social life because his hours see him working when his friends are free… Still, Steven carries on.
He has also advised the same to his colleague Derek by sharing his patient approach, and that’s another aspect of true heroes: they don’t always whoosh into a scene and fix things in a minute.
Since meeting with Forwards, who will support him in his quest for an improved life accessed through a better job, Steven has consistently demonstrated the qualities needed to succeed, his quiet determination and steady progress is a credit to him. Together we will succeed and the team is really looking forward to the time when we will be able to share the end of this story, which for Steven will be the beginning of a new chapter in his life.
Life in Lockdown: Mending the Cracks
Here's a story that's beautifully and truthfully written by 'Lily' to relate her experiences in lockdown.
Right now, we all need that message.There’s a Japanese art called ‘kintsugi’, or ‘mending with gold.’ Rather than throwing away broken pottery, or hiding the cracks, artists repair them using lacquer mixed with gold. After all, we can’t turn back time. Broken pottery can never ‘return to normal.’ But instead of treating the change as shameful, they highlight the unique beauty of each crack. The disaster gives birth to a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Kintsugi shows how objects - and people - grow more beautiful from having once broken.
The lockdown has been tough, but I’m no stranger to sudden change. I’ve seen how lives can shatter overnight, whether from loved ones suffering life-changing injuries or from coming out as trans and becoming a second-class citizen. Through it all, I pride myself in my ability to grow and adapt. Becoming a young carer taught me compassion and resilience. Coming out as trans helped me become an activist, giving me the motivation and first-hand experience to change lives. And the lockdown, as horrible as it’s been, has felt the same. It’s given me time and space to heal - to mend all my cracks, both old and new.
The lockdown shattered my old life. I’m mending it with gold.
When the lockdown began, I was terrified of stagnating at home. I’d already spent three years living with my parents, watching my university friends build new lives while I sunk deeper into caregiving. My house felt like a prison cell, rancid with the stench of rotting dreams. I was ashamed. So I volunteered and applied for jobs, desperate to feel like I was progressing. Distracting myself from how stagnant life had become. Because if I couldn’t make progress, I was afraid the shame would consume me. To me, lockdown wasn’t just months of isolation - it meant being forced back into stagnation. At first, I didn’t think I could handle it.
As weeks passed, the cracks began to show. I made lists of ambitious goals - sleep more, write more, exercise more - anything that felt like progress. I clung to my old coping strategies, hoping that ‘seizing this opportunity’ for self-improvement would quench my cabin fever and shame. But as my family members grew more stressed, each missing normality in our own way, our arguments grew worse and worse. Caregiving became harder and harder. I couldn’t save myself or my family from this suffering, let alone both at once. As my compassion fatigue grew and my new routines began falling apart, I felt myself slipping back into stagnation. The more I cracked, the worse my shame became. Eventually, I shattered.
After one family argument too many, I realised I couldn’t repress my shame any more. So I opened the floodgates and let myself feel . All my stress, all my shame and a thousand other traumas that I’d bottled away until now. I spent hours sobbing in the nearby woods. For three nights in a row, I woke up at 2am in a cold sweat. My worst nightmare was about leaving on a deep-space voyage, naively proud of my bravery, only to realise - as I crossed the point of no return - that I’d thrown away everything I’d ever known and loved. That’s how it felt to lower my guard. It seemed almost suicidal - throwing away my coping strategies and diving into the abyss, knowing I could never un-feel the emotions I’d set loose.That was my low point. After that, life got better.
At long last, I stopped hiding from my shame and focused on self-care. I let myself experience my thoughts and feelings without distractions, knowing that I had all the time in the world to soothe myself. I sat outside and appreciated life - the birdsong, the rustling trees and the sun on my face. I tilted back my head to watch the clouds, then realised that I hadn’t looked up once since graduating. I’d been too busy looking ahead. As I finally let myself process my feelings, I felt lighter and more cleansed than ever before.
The next time a family argument erupted, I didn’t bury the pain. Instead, I went for a woodland walk with an open heart - and had the most Zen experience of my life. Each time a feeling bubbled up, I invited it to walk alongside me as a companion rather than overwhelm me. I wandered down a familiar forest path, looking at each tree individually - some had fascinating shapes I’d never noticed before. And as I watched each tree bending in the wind, I imagined how that breeze must have crossed the whole forest, touching every tree and every house in the area at once. I felt connected in a surreal way that I’d never experienced before. Once I lowered my defences and let myself be vulnerable, I discovered something beautiful. That’s when I began mending with gold.
Since then, the lockdown hasn’t felt so bad. Rather than longing for life to be different - wishing that the pottery of my life would un-shatter - I’ve embraced everything that the lockdown has to offer.
My friendships with my university friends are flourishing - when nobody can travel anyway, distance is no longer an obstacle. I spend sunny afternoons playing badminton with my family - rather than struggling to carry their burdens, I share joy with them instead. And best of all, I have time to simply exist , unshackled from deadlines and self-imposed schedules. I’ve reframed isolation - my old prison cell has become my monastery.
And so, in the middle of a global pandemic, I’ve never felt more at peace than I do now. The lockdown shattered my unhealthy coping strategies. It’s been the perfect storm for personal growth - too much stress to hold inside, plus all the time in the world to heal. My lifestyle before the pandemic was never ideal, but since my distractions and goal-chasing worked ‘well enough’ back then, I didn’t stop to consider a better option. Once I accepted that my old approach simply could not work , I could start fresh and fix the underlying problems that caused me to shatter. I stopped running away from my shame and learned to trust myself - I could handle my emotions. And while the pandemic will end eventually, the resilience and inner peace I’ve developed will last a lifetime.
I’ve become more beautiful for having once broken.
This isn’t the first time my life has shattered, and it certainly won’t be the last. Life is predictably unpredictable like that - disaster can strike when you least expect it. But each time we shatter, we have an opportunity to start fresh. Disasters force us to confront problems we should have faced long ago - and then we heal. We become stronger, kinder and more beautiful than before. And we learn to adapt, which is such a valuable skill. We learn to trust ourselves to handle change. So while the lockdown has been horrible, I’m grateful for this opportunity. I’ve found purpose and meaning in this experience - not from the suffering itself, but from the ways that I adapt.That’s what kintsugi means to me.
For now, the lockdown is our new normal - that won’t change for months. It’s painful and horrifying to accept, but we can’t turn back time. We can’t ‘return to normal.’ All we can do is adapt. But rather than being ashamed of the changes, or blaming ourselves for struggling, we all have an opportunity to create something beautiful. We can heal . Not by hiding the cracks in our lives - by starting fresh and celebrating our unique ways of mending. Rather than longing for the past, let’s move forward and embrace something new.
The lockdown shattered our old lives. Let’s mend them with gold.
Julie was diagnosed with bilateral anterior uveitis with secondary glaucoma at the age of seven so she had both eyes removed and replaced with prosthetics. Julie is supported in the community with her guide dog, Heidi. Julie lives at home with her husband and guide dog Heidi and she has a grown up son who lives nearby. Julie and Heidi have only just qualified as a partnership and Heidi is still a young dog.
For 22 years Julie worked at Lloyds Banking Group as a Site Communication Assistant, This role was vital for the smooth running of the office and the senior managers. This year Julie was made redundant from Lloyds which had a large impact on her life.
Julie was determined to gain further employment but also follow her desire to work in a medical environment. With the support of Forwards Julie was offered a permanent, paid role as a Medical Audio Typist. Under the direction of the Secretary Supervisor Julie will provide audio transcription support services to the Speciality Team. Julie will also provide general administrative support to both the Supervisor and the Team of Speciality Secretaries.
Daniel, 3D Printing
Daniel is a young gentleman who wanted the opportunity to gain work with the support of Forwards. Initially, Daniel lacked confidence due to uncertainty in his life. That all changed when he was offered training in 3D printing where he exceeded everyone’s expectations. Results of his work built up his confidence and gave Daniel a sense of direction. Daniel said this opportunity is the happiest moment in his life.
James has always wanted to have a paid job but needed the support of Forwards. James’s ambition was to be a cleaner and James and his Job Broker saw the perfect job advertised online. James applied for the role and shined throughout the interview. James started on Monday the 3rd of June and his role is to ensure that the classrooms and canteen are cleaned to a high standard. “James has settled into the team wonderfully and is doing an incredible job. We are also thankful to Forwards for supporting James while waiting for his job coach” Trina Roberts Harewood Office Manager
Simon has a learning disability and has volunteered for many years however it was always his goal to gain a paid job. Simon and his Forwards Job Broker created a plan identifying the steps needed to achieve his aspirations.
Forwards arranged a work experience placement at Cineworld. Simon was very enthusiastic about this opportunity and met with the manager. Simon knew immediately that he wanted to work there.
To help Simon learn the role and undertake necessary training Forwards completed an Access to Work Application for in-work support. Before he started his placement Simon met with his Job Coach and his line manager and they discussed how long the placement is for, hours and the areas of support needed. Simon’s Job Coach showed him how to complete tasks using Systematic Instruction, this method of learning is used by all Job Coaches.
Simon’s passion and enthusiasm shone through and he proved during his placement he was an asset to the team. At the end of the placement Simon was offered paid employment however he still needed some support in specific areas of his role. An extension for his in- work support was requested and the Job Coach continued supporting Simon for a limited amount of time. Simon has now completed all training and is working without his Job coach.
His employer said “Simon has adapted well to his role at Cineworld and is a valued member of the Gloucester team. He always has a smile for our customers and his colleagues. It really is a pleasure to work with him.”
Tom, BP Motor
Tom is 19 year old student from National Star College in Cheltenham. He has been completing an AIM Supported Internship at BP Motors in Cheltenham since September 2018. On top of his college work and other placements, Tom has been at BP two days a week, throughout the year.
Tom’s internship involves lots of different tasks: getting involved in scotching, polishing, cleaning the cars, preparing the vehicles before painting or restoration work and other car body work. He also gets involved with other duties such as cleaning, brushing and keeping the work environment tidy.
Tom appears to have really valued his time at BP. However, he is ambitious and is thinking about his next steps, saying “Now I’ve finished my internship, I’d like to get an apprenticeship or paid work in this industry”.
Tom’s certainly made an impression with BP Motors; Christina Richardson who works with Tom had nothing but praise for his work at their business. She explained there have been some real changes since Tom started his internship, “Since Tom’s been here he’s grown in confidence, he used to rush a job because he wanted to impress you. He’s learnt that speed isn’t everything and that the longer he takes on a job, the better the end result.”
On finishing his internship, Tom has been offered 2 days a week paid work at BP Motors. He’s really happy with this, but he sees it as one step in the right direction and is working with National Star College towards his ultimate goal of a Motor Vehicle Apprenticeship.
Ben, Wheels for All
Ben has a learning disability and was referred to Forwards Employment Service in late January 2019. Mark (Community Placement Broker) met with Ben ti find out his interests and his ambitions. After a few weeks a placement was found at Wheels for All in Gloucester to complement his love of physical activity and his sporting abilities.
Ben went along for a taster session to see how he would get on and both Wheels for All and Ben agreed it would be great to continue and started a regular weekly placement in March 2019.
Initially Ben was supported 1 to 1 but that quickly became unnecessary as he picked up the required skills very quickly. Ben now helps set up the event each week by unloading the bicycles from the storage facility, moving them to the track, checking the tyres, brakes and safety harnesses as well as helping service users to fit their cycle helmets and supporting them to ride around the track when necessary. The placement has been really positive for both Wheels for All who now have a highly motivated, valued and capable regular volunteer and for Ben whose independence, skills, and confidence have all been positively impacted by the experience which he hopes to continue long term.