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A recipe for success – by Cailin Grant

Following two spinal operations in 2017 Calum was forced to leave his job and started the long and painful process of developing his walking ability again.  His mental health suffered as a result, and he struggled to address his traumatic experiences resulting in depression and anxiety. His walking recovery was coming along well, but it was a slow process and it wasn’t until 2019 Calum took another brave step and approached MOTW.

“When I first met Calum, he couldn’t even look me in the eye and when he spoke there was no enthusiasm or passion in his words.  He rarely left the house, kept himself to himself and felt hopeless about his recovery.  As a result he was on a couple of antidepressants and pain medications.

We talked about setting some goals, but he lacked any optimism and although he wanted to be able to search for jobs on his own and get back into work, he lacked the confidence.  Calum is a qualified chef and had previous work experience in that role before his operations; he has a passion for the profession and would often watch cooking programmes and keep himself busy at home baking in the kitchen.

In order to help his confidence and bring his motivation back I suggested he attended the ‘Time for Change’ course from Uplift, and he really warmed towards the organisation after I took him for a visit to find out more in person about what he could expect (pre COVID of course!) and despite his nerves Calum signed up to attend.  The course ran for 4 days and he enjoyed it so much he then went on to do the 12-week ‘Time for Life’ course which focused on more in-depth personal development, resilience and confidence building.

During this time, I kept in regular contact with Calum and we worked on his communication, discussed the courses and started to point him in the direction of job searching.  We worked at Calum’s pace and took things slowly by first designing his CV and working on his cover letter skills – these activities really helped him to think about the future in a positive light, it really boosts your confidence to see all your skills on paper!

After a few months Calum was a new man.  He spoke differently, his motivation, self esteem and confidence was returning and thanks to the new friends he had made on the course he was looking forward to Christmas and the year ahead.

In January 2020 I suggested the Recovery College as a potential next step as it would help his confidence even more, improve his social interaction and would give him a structure and routine that’s beneficial when you’re readying yourself for the working environment.  Calum was ready for what he called ‘real life socialising’ and the first course he signed up for was ‘Cooking on a Budget’.  Although he was a trained Chef he had been out of work for over 2 years and he thought this would be a good starting point to being around what he enjoyed, in a more professional environment.  He loved the course and raved about it during our regular chats – it was lovely to see his passion for working with food and I knew he was on the right path.

Calum made a big impact on the course leader due to his patient, caring and fun personality (not to mention his amazing cooking skills) and he was asked if he would help to assist with leading the course as a volunteer. We were both really chuffed that his skills had been recognised and it was a great step towards employment.  By this point it was the beginning of March and he was a motivated, positive and enthusiastic young man who would actively choose to communicate with others – a long way away from the man who couldn’t even look me in the eye.

I started to look for more volunteering opportunities as Calum was keen to try new experiences and maintain his momentum.  He still got anxious, but he was able to cope in stressful situations and take accountability, so I made contact with Handcrafted Kitchen in Chester-Le-Street and arrangements were made for us to visit and discuss the volunteer cook position they had available.

But then, COVID paid a visit…

During lockdown, Calum didn’t want to stall his progress, or worse, relapse into his old habits.  He wanted to focus more on his wellbeing and we introduced weekly catch-ups to keep in contact during those difficult times.  I really enjoyed chatting to him, and we both got a lot of value out of the conversations.  Despite the difficulties of lockdown Calum managed really well, his spirits were high and he had a fantastic sense of humour.  He would often ask how I was doing during the lockdown and would discuss how different people he knew were coping and this actually helped me do my job better. I felt appreciated and although he knew I was his Navigator, he also knew that I too could feel stressed during difficult times.

All of Calum’s volunteering was cancelled, so I suggested creating and sharing some recipes to other MOTW participants – and he was totally up for it! This gave Calum the opportunity to experiment with food and keep his skills up and the activity acted like a form of virtual volunteering as it not only helped to fill his time positively, but helped other participants to learn a new skill, keep busy and sample some delicious food!

After realising the pandemic was looking long-term, I prompted Calum to think about moving forward and returning his focus toward his employment goals again. Once he was ready I organised a range of meetings around interview practice, job search and cover letter amending. Calum got to a point where he felt confident enough to job search on his own so it was agreed we would sign him off the programme in August 2020.  Although it was sad to see him go, I felt a huge sense of achievement and pride as I could barely recognise him from the man who first came into MOTW.

I am so proud to have worked with Calum and honoured to have been able to help him throughout his year of progress.  To top it off, he is now no longer taking any of his pain or anti-depressant medication and he is such a happy person.  Although Calum says he could not have done any of what he achieved without the support of MOTW he also needs to remember what a star he is, and his hard work helped to make my job a lot easier!  I want to thank Calum for showing me what support I was capable of and making me a better Navigator as a result.  It’s cases like this that make me so proud of the work I do.”

In October 2020 Calum applied for a job at his local Butcher’s. Part of the interview process was to work a trial shift, and Calum was successful in his application and was offered the job of a Baker.  He was thrown in at the deep end straight away and makes all the desserts, pastries and fresh deli counter goods. He was also put on the ‘speciality’ side where he can come up with new dishes to make and sell, and he has also been given the opportunity to expand on his knowledge and learn butchery.  With Christmas coming up Calum says the shop is manic, but he’s managing well and is really happy to be part of a local business and back in work in a safe and supportive environment.

Calum says:

The best thing about the support I received was gaining a friend when I needed one.  I was in a place where I didn’t think it would be possible to face strangers never mind meeting them everyday whilst at work!! The fact I’m so much happier in life and have a different outlook on life is actually fantastic.  I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for Cailin and MOTW.  Nothing was ever a bother, and I honestly can’t thank everyone enough. I now always start the day off with a smile and end it with one.

If you believe you, or someone you know, would benefit from joining the MOTW programme, or you’d like to learn more then please get in touch.  You can call us on 0191 217 3260, email enquiries@motw.org.uk or complete our online referral form.

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