In 1995, having spent far too many years unemployed and feeling increasingly cut adrift from society, I decided enough was enough. Little in the world around me really struck a chord, but a vague sense of enjoying the natural world, from several shoestring-budget camping trips in and around Edale in the Peak District, prompted me to set my alarm clock for 12 noon sharp and head over to the job centre.
Explaining that I wanted to volunteer outdoors and do something useful, I was pointed in the direction of BTCV Enterprises (a former TCV business which helped people into employment ) where I signed up for a voluntary programme called Community Action.
From day one, the warm welcome, the sense of camaraderie and the encouragement to take on positions of responsibility (a few weeks in, I was asked to help a couple of new participants clear scrub from the banks of a pond and I couldn’t believe it – I was being trusted to do something important!) fired something inside of me and kept me coming back for more.
I spent that summer working on green spaces in and around Nottingham including the fabulous Attenborough Nature Reserve. I have many fond memories of sunshine-filled days, learning new skills, getting along with people who came from some very different walks of life and developing the confidence to embark on a career. Via Brackenhurst College and further volunteering with TCV, I started my first (ever!) job as a Project Officer in Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire in 1997.
Over 22 years, ten TCV roles, lots of fantastic managers and one very dramatic haircut later, I feel both fortunate and proud to still be playing a part, connecting people and green spaces, as the Chief Executive of the very organisation which made such a positive impact on my life.
It all started with the natural world – which I still love – but today, it’s the positive impact which people and communities derive from connecting with green spaces which gets me out of bed.