“Before starting out my journey with The Wallich, I had faced the barrier of a criminal record for a long time. I’ve been to prison on three separate occasions. When I came out of prison, I just wanted to get on with my life.
During the last 15 years, I felt that no one would employ me in meaningful sustained employment, because of my criminal record. Consequently, during that time, I have mostly been self-employed.
When I had my own business, I just got on and worked, without really thinking about what I was doing or what I would really like to do. I felt I had no choices. I had a long-term relationship which broke down suddenly and, unfortunately, it was a very difficult separation.
It got to a point where I suddenly found myself without somewhere live and having to rethink my life’s goals.
I found out about The Wallich’s Building Opportunities, Skills and Success (BOSS) project and became a Peer Mentor for the project. I was also encouraged to join their Working In Sustainable Employment (WISE) project.
WISE was a big commitment, being six months long, but I don’t feel there would have been any chance of getting the job I’ve now secured without it. I had never thought about things like body language and soft skills before receiving training. It also gave me skills such as how to fill in application forms and interview techniques, amongst many other things which were crucial to gaining employment.
My BOSS Peer Mentor training and all my other volunteering placements didn’t just give me practical knowledge, but practical experience. It also made me think about myself as a person, how I carry myself and how I interact with other people.
I have always been very comfortable talking to people, but The Wallich’s projects gave me the training, encouragement and opportunities to enhance myself.
I am now much more aware to how people react in different situations. I empathise more and believe I interact with people in a much better way.
The BOSS project and WISE were a trigger for me to move forward and realise exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
I can’t emphasise enough how crucial the volunteering aspect was. I think that the volunteering opportunities have been crucial to my development. They gave me practical experience in real life situations.
BOSS and WISE opened doors for volunteering, in places that were suited to me, and offered me the support I needed at that time. I volunteered at The Wallich’s Solutions Centres for rough sleepers, had a work placement through WISE at the Gorwellion Project in Swansea and spent time at the main BOSS office. I learnt so much and met so many inspirational people.
My BOSS Mentor and members of the BOSS team were there for me to talk things through when I felt that things were not going my way, or when I became frustrated. This, on several occasions, meant a lot.
Through work placements and volunteering, it also gave me insight into how The Wallich works and it made me want to work for them. That’s why I applied for my job with The Wallich.
My favourite part about WISE was to see the way a group of people gelled together, as time went on, and become a team through the encouragement and support we gave each other.
People were at lots of different stages in their lives coming onto the WISE project, and to see them develop was great. There were lots of ups and downs for everyone but I don’t think there’s anyone on the course who could say they didn’t learn a lot.
WISE isn’t just about getting a job, it’s about working on yourself as well. It doesn’t just relate to employment, it also relates to your life and the way you deal with things. A massive amount of thanks must go to the project staff and my fellow project participants because I gained so much from my interactions with all of them.
When I started out on my journey with The Wallich, I hadn’t sat in a classroom for a long time, or done much training. I was sceptical at first but I completed the WISE project, along with all the volunteering placements. It was the massive amount of support and encouragement from everybody I met at The Wallich which enabled me to get where I am today.
In my new role as Learning and Employment Mentor on the BOSS project at The Wallich, I will be working with ex-offenders, both in prison and on-release; giving them the skills, training and confidence to enable them to work towards gaining employment. Now I want to make a success of my new job. That’s the biggest thing.
I feel very privileged considering that less than a year ago, I had nowhere to live and didn’t have a job. Now I have a job which I’m really interested in, motivated and driven to do. It’s a job that I, never in my wildest dreams, thought I would ever be given the opportunity to do.”