“When someone says 'Jo what you said has really helped me', it still astonishes me”
As well as the emotional challenges that raising a family brings, stay at home Mum, Jo, found herself needing to overcome an unhealthy dependency on alcohol, but with 24% of adults in England and Scotland regularly drinking over the recommended guidelines, Jo wasn’t alone. She recognised that she needed to take control of the problem before it completely took control of her, and after receiving help from several agencies she completely turned her life around.
However her journey had left her feeling battered and bruised and she admits feeling like her mental health took a hit from years of turmoil. Whilst feeling more stable, she soon found herself in a mundane cycle of school runs, housework and food preparation and now with a clear head, her sobriety left her with a thirst for life.
Whilst research suggests that stay at home parents are more likely to report depression than their employed counterparts, finding work that fits in around childcare can be problematic, and that’s why Jo decided to look for a voluntary role that would complement her family arrangements, not challenge them, and help her to finally move away from her demons.
She said “I had worked up to being 4 years sober when I decided I wanted more for myself so I hunted out some volunteer work. I searched through various organisations and came across Motivated Minds, I thought ‘brilliant that’s a bit of me’ especially considering they were offering all the help I had just been receiving and more.”
She recalls “I was so nervous on my first day, I could only muster up the courage to serve teas and coffees to the staff members, but slowly I took on extra work.”
Despite her evolving role, there was still one thing that Jo couldn’t do, and that was drive. But over time it became increasingly apparent that this was a much needed role, so she saved up enough money to complete an intensive week long course and took her theory test too. She failed her first theory but didn’t let it get her down, she said “I had been trying to learn to drive since I was 18, but this time I had a real purpose and motivation to try again as I knew passing my test would make a huge difference to my role at Motivated Minds.”
Jo soon passed her theory and practical test and to this day being a volunteer driver is proving vital to Motivated Minds as she currently collects food donations for their food bank at least twice a week.
But driving is just one of the many personal goals that Jo has achieved since volunteering at Motivated Minds. In 2018 she joined the team in Wales to climb Mount Snowdon after months of training and emotionally preparing for such a big challenge. She said “Climbing that mountain was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I had been through (apart from getting sober). Climbing this mountain was more than just walking up a hill for me, it was the most special, amazing, liberating feeling standing at the top of the mountain….AMAZING !!”
After the challenge Jo returned to Essex with a new sense of confidence and pride which has since enabled her to participate in long distance learning. Despite 'failing’ school, she has now completed a Level 3 in Mental Health and Level 2 in Understanding Autism, Challenging Behaviour and Mentoring, which has not only helped within her voluntary role, but because both her children are autistic, she has grown as a parent too which has had a positive impact on her home life.
Not content with all that she had achieved, the sky really was the limit as Jo made the bold decision to take on a skydive raising over £200 for Motivated Minds whilst falling fearlessly from a great height! Carla Andrews, Managing Director of Motivated Minds said “Jo has made a spectacular transition from stay at home Mum shackled to modern day unhealthy coping strategies, to a courageous individual inspiring others to reach new heights.”
She continued “not only am I incredibly grateful to Jo for her hard work and dedication but I’m very proud to have had the privilege of being part of her journey. At Motivated Minds we want to see people overcome barriers and achieve great things, and Jo has done this in abundance. She is a real inspiration, and her journey has only just begun!”.
Jo now leads a weekly support group called 'A Cup Of Kindness’ which is followed by a craft class delivered by her Mum who is always there for moral support - which Jo admits helps a lot with her anxiety. She said “I get a lot from helping and relating to others, I have been there so I know how it feels and I want to be a wellbeing champion who whole-heartedly believes in people.”
She added “I still to this day find it strange when someone says 'Jo what you said has really helped me’, it still astonishes me.”
Carla concluded “Jo has been at Motivated Minds for nearly 3 years and has taken her voluntary role by storm. While some give a little, Jo has given everything, and this has transformed her life. All we can do is provide opportunities for our team to grow, develop, and meet new people along the way, it is Jo’s passion and drive that has led her to get the most from volunteering with us, and we look forward to more life changing successes over the coming years.”
Jo added “I owe a lot to Carla for seeing so much potential in me, she sees more than just my diagnoses, and sees beyond my past, she has always just treated me with kindness and respect. She helped me realise that I have the tools, I just needed the help to find them and to be shown the ability to use them and I haven’t stopped since”
Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering and takes place every year between 1-7th June. If you would like to volunteer with Motivated Minds get in touch with Carla on 07846 209846. From tradesmen to help renovate their new Happy Hub in Eastgate, to volunteer counsellors, and Walk 4 Wellness leaders, they have a role for everyone.