When and how did you first hear about Body & Soul?
I first heard about Body & Soul when I was working at Victim Support with people who were at high risk of domestic abuse. I was in need of a change and spotted an advert on Guardian Jobs for a casework intern at Body & Soul and was delighted to be given an interview. The first time I walked into the building, I was struck by the friendly and welcoming atmosphere: there was music playing in the background and people were smiling and laughing. It’s something that I still love about coming to work every day.
You’ve had a number of roles at Body & Soul – tell us about your journey.
I started as an intern for the casework and advocacy team – this involves helping members with whatever practical issues they might be facing, making sure they are aware of their rights, and referring them to trusted professionals for specialist help when necessary. I enjoyed the work so much that I stayed on beyond the internship, becoming the caseworker for the new Young Adults programme and working for the Beyond Boundaries service, which provides remote support to Body & Soul members over the phone. In September I took on my current role heading up the new programme for young people who have attempted suicide. We’re about to register our first members in the new programme, and I’m excited about bringing the Body & Soul model to this new group of members.
I have been involved in a bit of everything at Body & Soul, and gotten to know many different members across the different age groups. I really thrive on this variety, but it presents its own challenges: it’s sometimes hard to balance the demands of the different roles with the needs of individual members with whom I have built a close relationship, particularly if I have to hand their case over to someone else. However, the most exciting thing is to witness a breakthrough in someone’s situation – to see a member moving on from a stressful or painful situation to something more hopeful and productive. It’s what I love about working here.
What does the Body & Soul community mean to you?
The Body & Soul community to me, as clichéd as it sounds, is like a big family – full of people of different ages and personalities who you come to love and who support one another through all manner of life experiences. It is such a beautiful thing to be a part of. The energy in the building during service nights is something I have never come across in any workplace before and is something that I love – it’s chaotic and beautiful all at once. The variety of cultures and experience means that you learn something new every time and you have something to celebrate too. Body & Soul is an organisation that people can access whenever they need to, for as long as they want to, so there is a very different feel to the organisation – people feel really invested in, and part of, something bigger than themselves.
What have members taught you?
So so much! I’m forever amazed by the resilience of members and I strive to emulate the wonderful qualities they possess. Mabel is one member whose story stands out for me: I did a home visit with Mabel when she was due to have her PIP assessment and was worried about having strangers in her home. Before the assessors arrived, we got to talking about the various people in the photos she had displayed in her home. There was a photo of a friend of hers who helps her with the cooking when her body is in too much pain to stand…
When she first met her friend, Mabel found out that she was from Rwanda and had come to the UK during the genocide. She left behind a husband and a child – they had been separated during the genocide and she never found out what happened to them. Mabel was from Uganda and still had family there, so she asked her new friend for the names of her husband and child, called her brother in Uganda and told him to travel halfway across the country to one of the refugee camps that were still there, equipped with the names to see if there was any chance they were still alive. He found out that the woman’s husband had unfortunately been killed, but that her daughter was there in the camp. This paved the way for mother and daughter to be reunited here in the UK.
Mabel taught me so much about not giving up, acting when we hear a need and caring for others in a meaningful way. This sums up what Body & Soul is all about for me – it’s something I strive to achieve every day I come to work here.
Members’ names may be changed for reasons of confidentiality.