Jess visits Sheffield's first cat cafe and gives us the lowdown on the residents there. Cat cuddles and cake; that's proper therapy.
Jess Gibson: Reaching my ambitions through local organisation Big Ambitions
Each month Sheffield Flourish feature an organisation who we think people should know more about, as part of our monthly themes. This July we were given a recommendation by one of our volunteers Jess, who had lots of positive things to say about working with Big Ambitions. Here, Jess tells her story of getting employment support with the local organisation.
As the theme for this month is ‘Living on Benefits’, I thought I would share my experience with Big Ambitions. Here’s a brief introduction about who they are and what they do…
Big Ambitions is a Community Interest Company (CIC), which means that they are a company that uses their profits and assets for the benefit of the community and public good. They specialise in support in employment, as they see it as a therapeutic tool that can improve mental health conditions and overall wellbeing, believing that all individuals have the capacity to work towards and achieve their own employment goals. They deliver support programmes to help people gain and retain work and improve poor mental health. They also offer to support businesses to become more mental health friendly to overall improve workplaces.
I joined Big Ambitions after finding their business at a stall in the city centre as part of the Wellbeing Festival on Fargate in July 2017. At that time, I had just experienced one of my first big relapses, which had caused me to leave a job after only just starting earlier that year in February. I felt completely at a loss, like I was utterly useless and felt totally ashamed that I had been unable to cope with this new job I had started only 4 months earlier. I had no idea what to tell people. It felt like I had been on benefits for half of my entire life (even though it had only been a year or two) and for something that, because of it’s ‘invisible’ nature, could be seen as untrue, made up somewhere in my own mind or easily dismissed as some sort of exaggeration to get me out of working. And so began the narrative in my head that I was ‘workshy’, ‘idle’, ‘a waste of space’ and ‘a drain on taxpayers money’. The shame, the guilt and the confusion from the outside worlds perceptions of being un-employed mixed with my own self-stigma of calling myself useless became overwhelmingly debilitating. How truly grateful and relieved I was on that day, to find a company so specific to my current circumstances.
Since being with Big Ambitions, my ambitions have certainly got bigger! Initially, I was set up with a key worker to help find me a part time job, which is one of the main ways that Big Ambitions support people…
“Big Ambitions can help individuals to move towards personal goals whilst supporting mental health, whether re-entering employment, volunteering, accessing training and education or improving personal development skills. Our Vocational Support Service is the provision of support to unemployed individuals in relation to seeking meaningful employment.”
However, since receiving the constant encouragement from my key worker and on going chats over a cuppa about my ‘ideal/dream career or job’, we have managed to break my employment puzzle down into manageable and realistic short, medium and long- term steps to reach my goals – and it’s working out pretty well! I have found this support to be so beneficial. Alongside the practical assistance in breaking things down when my mind is like spaghetti, I have received continuous reassurance that I’m not a ‘failure who is workshy’ but a determined and driven young woman who has been recovering from a mental health breakdown. This is of utmost importance for me to keep in mind as I can easily lose perspective when I become unwell and through this process I have learned that my depression is a terrifyingly ferocious beast that consumes and demands all of my attention; but I know my key worker knows me better and can see past it, to me.
This is what I think makes this company so great…
Big Ambitions push you when you need an encouraging nudge and help you to slow down when you’re starting to feel like you’re whirl winding out of control. Their 1:1 guidance has really helped me to identify where I want to be and how I can get there. Even though my employment route may be less conventional than others, as it is based in theatre and performance, they have continuously supported me and checked that I’m being realistic in my goals and have the right qualifications/experience to go in this direction. If I was an individual who was to change my employment direction, I know that they would assess my needs in relation to this and support me in finding realistic and achievable ways to reach my ambitions, whether that be courses, training or help filling in applications. In my experience, this company really listens to the individual that they’re working with, acknowledges their personal experiences and knows how to drive a person forward in reaching their employment goals.
Big Ambitions CIC, Jade Centre, Askern Road, Bentley, Doncaster DN5 0JR
Tel: 01302 874963