Guest blog by Brian
Due to unforeseen circumstances, at the age of 60 I lost my job. Well I say unforeseen – because of a very traumatic experience, I ended up be treated for PTSD which lasted for about a year.
After treatment I found myself unemployed. Now I am quite specialised in my profession, and need certain certification to do my job, but during my year on sick leave my certificates expired. So I had to go and claim jobseeker’s allowance, which plunged me plus my partner into debt. The bills were mounting. I had to cancel the wi-fi, among other things that we all take for granted.
Things became so bad that we ended up having to go to the food bank. To be honest I have always taken pride in myself as being hard-working and that I’d achieved a very high standard within my chosen profession, considering I left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications what so ever.
At first I was embarrassed at having to ask for help and vouchers for the food bank. You know it’s a very sad world in which we live when government agencies such as the social security are not able to help.
To explain that last sentence, this is what happened to me. I took a letter from a potential employer to my job advisor in the job centre. The letter stated that they would employ me at £24 per hour, tomorrow, if I had the necessary certification.
It worked out that I could take an e-learning course for £60. So on explaining to my job advisor that for the sum of £60 I’d be able to get my certificate, which would mean I’d be getting two people off benefits, he informed me that he was unable to help – that due to the rules imposed by the government they were not able to afford me the money.
Right, that may seem a bit long winded to get to a point, but I felt that I had to explain the situation.
Now for the food bank. After getting over my embarrassment and swallowing my pride, together with my partner, off we went to the food bank. To be honest I just didn’t know what to expect.
On arrival we were greeted by one of the volunteers and what a lovely lady she was. She sat down with us, offered us tea or coffee and a very nice piece of homemade cake, and went through a list of what they had to offer and what we needed and then off she went to get our provisions.
Another volunteer who sat and chatted with us asked if we had any problems that maybe they could help us with. So I said well yes I do have a problem, but I doubt that the food bank could help me with it. And I explained what had happened with the job centre and how that I could not get the small funds that I needed to do my course.
Her reply absolutely astounded me. She said if you call back in next week on Friday we may be able to help you.
So the following Friday I popped back to the food bank and once again spoke to the lovely volunteer, and I just could not believe what I was hearing. She told me they had organised the funds for me to take my course [through the giving website Acts435], and not only that but there was also money for me to purchase my personal protection equipment which is necessary for me to carry out my work.
Well you could have knocked me down with a feather. To be honest I became a bit emotional and tears started to roll down my cheeks. Even as I am writing this I’m welling up at the thought of all the kind-hearted people that helped me get back on track, where official government agencies that are designed to aid people with problems didn’t help.
I passed my course with 100% marks, purchased my personal protection equipment and I’m on my way to getting back to work. I never would have believed in a million years that sitting in a food bank would have led to me getting back on track. I cannot thank them enough.
To end, what I would like to say is to anybody reading this: do not be ashamed or embarrassed about having to go to the food bank. The volunteers are loving and compassionate people and there is no shame in asking for help if you need it.
Brian is now volunteering at the food bank (and is such an asset to the team!). He is looking for paid employment in oxy-acetylene cutting and welding, and hopes to start work in the New Year (building opportunities are quiet down in the run up to Christmas). If you are or know a good local employer who is looking for a ‘burner’ – as Brian’s role is known – please contact the food bank on email@example.com