Thanks to the support of her Shared Lives South West Carer, her faith, local church and feeling part of the community, *Vanessa (*name changed to protect the person’s identity) is now ready to move on and take the next step in her life.
Vanessa moved in with SLSW Carer Nicola a year ago and needed a ‘place of safety so she could heal’ following former abuse relationships and overcome mental health issues.
SLSW Carer Nicola Brimblecombe lives in an idyllic home, isolated from any fast paced life.
“I supported Vanessa with her emotional needs by talking things through and listening to her worries; helping her manage her symptoms and take medication, develop her independent living skills and develop community links. I also built up self-esteem and confidence,” said Nicola.
“Since being here Vanessa has re-established a relationship with her family who she spends time with. Slowly she become more confident and has started saying what she wants rather than what she feels others think she should say.
“She is stronger now and is more able to say ‘No’. She is beginning to recognise what is abusive and that she doesn’t have to put up with it.
“She has just started this journey, but I am confident that she will do well with this.”
Vanessa has come such a long way and has taken steps at her own pace to become part of the community.
“She has developed her own style of dressing and takes pride in her appearance,” said Nicola.
“She goes to a local hairdresser and has developed friendships within the local community.”
Vanessa has nothing but praise for Nicola and the work she has done to help her get back on her feet.
“ In the mornings she is welcoming. We have breakfast together and the food is good. Polly the Lurcher is funny and Mixie Cat is my favourite,” she said.
“Nicola is caring and is aware of how I feel. She thinks about things and is thoughtful. It’s important that she is also positive, which helps when I am feeling negative.
“I feel safe and supported. Sometimes I feel too safe now and am looking forward to moving on a bit now that I am ready.
“ Also meeting with SLSW SLC Claire Bettinson and talking about how things are going – makes me feel included and listened to.”
One of the main focuses of her recovery has been going to the local church where she been involved in fundraising events including jumble sales, helping make jewellery for one of the church stalls, and assisting with teas and coffee.
“Vanessa started to go to church with me and she used to go to church before living with me,” said Nicola.
“She was welcomed and supported by genuine, safe, kind people. They became protective of her and helped her come out of her shell. She is very shy and a private person but she began to trust people and like people again – this is a work in progress.
“Through church, we call it a church family as church is the people not the building, she has made links with the local art group and the WI. She is accepted as a vulnerable person, who is a person in her own right. “
Vanessa feels part of the church community and has been welcomed by the congregation.
“I go to the weekly Sunday service and short service on Wednesday followed by coffee and chat and have discussions about what to do at church,” said Vanessa.
“I enjoy services – especially like our Rural Dean’s services. Philip’s services are good, but we haven’t had many in church because of lockdown and Covid-19
“I am looking forward to going back to church and having services there again. Zoom services just aren’t the same.
“People make me feel welcome – especially the Wednesday group who include me in things. I have made friends at church.
“I like Philip who is welcoming and understanding. I feel part of the church family. I liked the carol service and the Christmas concert. I like joining in the singing.
“I also enjoy taking Communion and it is important to me. I also like the peace where we shake hands and wish each peace. People are easy to talk to and support me.”
Nicola is proud of how far Vanessa has come.
“It hasn’t been an easy journey for Vanessa who has been very damaged by her life experiences. She has worked hard to grow and change. She is better able to recognise her mental health symptoms; her feelings about her past and make decisions about her life generally.
“Vanessa needs to be busy and go out a lot so that she control her thoughts more easily. We are isolated here with no public transport and the village is small. She has therefore decided that she wants to move on to a Shared Lives placement in a busier area. She is ready for this now and we are exploring opportunities.”
Nicola has been a SLSW Carer for seven years and says ‘it’s the best job’ she has ever had.
“I am an experienced professional and it is good to use my skills and experience. I enjoy working one to one with someone in my own home. This provides the opportunity to develop a truly person-centred service.
“It is good to welcome someone into my home and give them the chance to grow and feel safe. I enjoy seeing people become themselves and feel safe – doing what they want to do and live a good and fulfilling life.
“It is challenging because I support people with complex needs. I am a lone worker. It is all about building relationships and trust. I just get to know someone properly and then they are ready to move on!
“Shared Lives is very supportive and accessible which is really important. Sometimes I just need to offload or talk things through and SLC Claire Bettinson is brilliant at that.”
As well as being a carer, it’s clear Nicola’s faith also means a lot to her and she has recently enrolled in a Foundation course in Ministry and has the support of Rev Philip Conway.
“He has been very supportive of myself and Vanessa I am looking forward to working with him – he will be my mentor for my course,” said Nicola.
“ I have a lotcto learn but am l privileged to be able to study on the Foundation Course in Ministry. It is part-time. If I complete the course successfully I would like to go on to take the two year Reader Training Course .”
Rev Philip Conway, said the church community has welcomed Vanessa and seen her change.
“Her confidence has grown enormously,” he said.
“I am quite a loud person and I think that quite frightened her when I first arrived! She is far more secure in holding conversations and building friendships within the church.”
He said he hadn’t heard of Shared Lives as a model of care, but now feels it’s a ‘fantastic model’ of care and support.
“Hospitality: sharing your resources with others, has always been an essential part of Christian ministry and care,” added Philip.
“This reminds us all how much of a difference we can make in others lives! Unfortunately these acts of kindness and love are often unnoticed by a society that is interested in the big and flashy. It is worth remembering that there were plenty of mansions and palaces in Palestine 2000 years age, but God wanted his son to be born in a stable! I think that that tells us what matters!”
With Nicola’s ministry course starting soon, Philip is looking forward to supporting her through it.
“Although I am somewhat daunted as well, as I will have quite an important role as the course progresses,” he said.
“ I will be there to help work through particular questions and issues, and to encourage her in developing her leadership within the church.”