I started out with TCV in 2016 as a trainee on the Natural Networks project, designed to help people like me – with not much in the way of work skills or experience after a long battle with mental health problems and unemployment – get a chance to work in Conservation.
This was my first real contact with TCV and I didn’t really know what to expect, I remember that first meeting in Edinburgh with a room full of people, staff and trainees, every one of whom seemed so far ahead of me in terms of knowledge and aptitude.
I’d pulled myself out of depression and suicidal feelings using nature and exposure to the outdoors as a therapy tool. When nothing else had worked, wildlife and conservation had been the key.
Throughout all those years living with my mental health issues it had always been my dream that one day I would be in a position where I would be able to have a job and a home of my own, where I could live ‘normal’ life and contribute fully to my family, community and society. I never really thought it would be possible – I was told over and over it would never happen – but I always hoped, in the back of my mind that ‘one day’…
And finally ‘one day’ was here. After a lot of help and support from various people and organisations, TCV gave me the chance to work full time, and to change my life.
That first year’s traineeship was a whirlwind of positive experiences (even the bus breaking down on the way to our first event was a team building experience!). Throughout TCV gave me every opportunity and encouragement to work with and learn from the best people working on some of the most exciting projects in this sector.
This was an amazing opportunity, a chance to try out new ideas, test new theories, and stretch myself to find out just what I was capable of – and all while being supported every step of the way by a support network of first class professionals (and generally awesome human beings!).
TCV gave me the opportunity to work on, and help to build, a project which allows to others to experience the same life changing effects of spending time in the outdoors that I experienced. Through our Wild Ways Well project – in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust through the Cumbernauld Living Landscape – I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of people, from all ages and backgrounds, and pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned, and share some of the amazing benefits that nature can bring to people and communities.
My time working with TCV, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Cumbernauld Living Landscape allowed me to expand my own skills and reach the very limits of what I thought was possible for me to achieve. And then they gave me the confidence, and support, to go even further than that.
I’m still working with TCV, still learning every day how to stretch myself as a person, still gaining confidence and experience. Through Wild Ways Well I now get to help others who are suffering from, or at risk of, mental health issues to take their first steps along the same path that I took, to step outdoors, meet nature and, maybe, find themselves. I listen to their stories, hear their experiences, and see little bits of myself everywhere. Where I once felt so isolated and alone, I can now see a huge network of people, just like myself, just waiting for that chance – and that helping hand – that TCV can provide.
There’s nothing better than seeing the smile on the face of someone who you’ve helped to expand their own boundaries. Hearing an excited child telling stories of what they’ve seen, sharing a cup of tea with someone who has no other social contacts, helping a family to build a bird feeder, or exploring a woodland with someone who spends most of their week afraid to leave their own home.
Learning together about trees and badgers, connecting with a butterfly, taking time to smell some flowers, improving a local park or just simply keeping each other company while we sit in the sunshine (and the rain!) watching the world go by.
I’m proud to work for TCV, an organisation that is leading the way in valuing people, communities and nature so highly. Without a doubt spending time in the outdoors, amongst nature, changes lives for the better and I feel privileged every day to be part of a team that helps to hold open the door so people can take that first step outside.