I’ve been very quiet with my blog over the past few weeks and, those who know me in the ‘outside’ world, will know that I’ve been going through a very drastic, life-changing experience during recent months.
For over a year, I’ve had the threat of redundancy hanging over me. I worked for the Local Authority delivering outdoor educational and non-educational activities to children and young people throughout Cardiff. We worked with children from age five all the way up to young adults of college-age, delivering a mix of adventures walks, canoeing trips, climbing, surfing, gorge walking….. suffice to say that if it’s an outdoor activity, we delivered it. We mainly worked with children and young people who weren’t in mainstream school, or who would normally be unable to have the opportunity to take part in these activities.
As we all know, Local Councils are facing the task of making huge budget cuts, and so lots of projects similar to mine, (such as play centres, libraries and youth clubs), have all been under threat of closure. We had a year of fighting for our cause with wonderful support from the people that we work with, the schools we deliver to, and families whose children who have attended our activities.
However, after lots of wishing and hoping that we’d be saved, we were told just after Christmas that we were definitely to be axed, and our project would be closed at the end of March.
The news was devastating. I was one of the lucky people in the world who could say, with all sincerity, that I loved my job. My experiences through this job have been amazing, and I’ve been able to share those experiences with family, and loving and enjoying the outdoor world is a huge part of our family life. I started on a three-month secondment which happily turned into an eight year career, and taught me the job and career that I wanted to have in life.
A big part of the rewards of that job is that I’ve worked with some amazing and talented people. It’s really hard to put into words how much fun we had, and how much we laughed. Of course there were down-days, but the good days definitely outweighed the tough days. Fantastically, silly days. We were definitely young at heart having snowball fights, tumbling down sand dunes and enjoying the activities as much as the children and young people we worked with.
The people I worked with also saw me at my worst. Crying, (actually sobbing), when I was confronted with a caving activity, as this was my biggest fear. There were moments when I would be crawling through a cave with tears streaming down my face! But I had lots of support and cwtches, and it was only when we were in the car park that my colleagues would make jokes and lighten the mood.
I have also had the opportunity to work with wonderful coaches, who always shared their knowledge and experience to teach me so much. I know that without their help and guidance, I really would not be in the happy position that I am now, with my outdoor pursuit career. I will always be grateful for the help and guidance I received while in work.
Over eight years, we worked some brilliant groups and met such wonderful young people. Working with these groups showed us that delivering outdoor activities were immensely beneficial. Some of those young people we’ve known since they were teenagers, and we’ve seen them grow into wonderful adults, and it’s been a pleasure to know them and now call them friends. I don’t mind saying that in particular Lauren Jones this bit is about you!
Without getting on my soap box, I worry for, and also feel very angry about, the children and young people who we worked with most recently, and what opportunities they’ll have, (or not), now that we’re gone. We had experiences of taking young people to the beach for the very first time because, sadly, they were never taken as a child. One child even asked me if you had to pay to go on the beach, not understanding that it was free and open to all. There were young people who found that mainstream education just didn’t suit them but, by getting them outside, it showed them the huge potential and learning opportunities in a tactile environment. It taught them about important life and social skills, things that can’t necessarily be learnt in the classroom.
As my title of this post says, it is a new beginning in my life. I think we all understand that a job is never for life, nowadays, and I’ve struggled hard to find a way to make something positive out of this experience.
So I’m going it alone!
I’ve been very, very lucky to be able to form a small business, (albeit a name to start with). I’m very grateful to all my colleagues who’ve helped point me in the right direction in order to gain freelance work. I’m also very lucky to be able to draw upon my qualifications and experience, which is allowing me to deliver Forest School free-play sessions, as well as stepping up my teaching and support within the local D of E organisation.
And I have to say a huge “thank you” to my husband who has supported me throughout this difficult time. Not just with my loss of my job, but he has given me the strength and support to show me I can work for myself. His support has been what’s helped me through this experience and, when I would wake at 2 o’clock in the morning panicking, he would tell me everything will be ok, and I’ll be fine! It’s really pulled us together.
My old post formally dissolved just over a month ago. Throughout that time, this is the first chance I’ve had to actually sit in front of a screen, and write a post to express my feelings.
To sum up, I’ve been scared when the cuts were announced. I’ve been strong by trying to maintain a professional front in work, and I’ve tried to support my colleagues and clients to the best of my ability. I’ve had to learn a great deal, in short order, about setting up on my own, pitching for work, and so-on. But I’ve had loads of help along the way.
I think I’m beginning to understand karma. Try to be nice, and people respond nicely. Help, and you’ll be helped back. I really hope I can continue to help, (in some small way), to bring some fun outdoor adventures to those young people who wouldn’t normally get that chance.
The benefits are boundless, and the rewards aren’t always obvious, but can be found in so many different ways!!