500 Words Competition – Winners!
Back in April we launched our 500 Words Competition, giving our staff the opportunity to share their stories and write from the heart, for the chance to win £500.
Staff were asked to write 300-500 words about their time at Creative Support, and our panel of judges had the tough job of selecting an overall winner and ten runners-up.
Congratulations to our winner: Katy Gee, Senior Support Worker in Calderdale!
Katy’s heartwarming entry really stood out to the judges, who praised its powerful message that we can all learn something from the people we support. Read Katy’s entry below:
“So I’ve just celebrated ten years with Creative Support, I’ve been at the same project the whole time and I have tons of memories that make me laugh hysterically, cry deeply and genuinely beam with pride. Anyway I walked into Highfield Road and was met by Helen, who had lovely ginger hair and a beaming smile on her face. She grabbed hold of me for a big hug and squeezed me so hard to introduce herself and then poked me in the eye with a pair of 3D glasses, I couldn’t see for the rest of my first day…
I then met Kerri who asked me my name. I said “It’s Katy” and she burst out into a dramatic Shakespeare style dance shouting “Kiss me Kate”. I knew I’d love it here, they made me laugh so much. I had never worked with people with learning disabilities, I didn’t know anything at all about people with Down Syndrome, but boy was I about to learn.
Now these two special ladies had different types of Down Syndrome and happily argued about this regularly. I learned so much about the deep pride they had with who they were, I loved it. I suppose I was a bit naïve thinking you’d not mention the learning disability or that people with them didn’t know they had them, I cringe at that now. I’m ten years in and I’m now the senior.
Over the years I’ve seen them both celebrate big birthdays, 40th, 50th. I spent Christmas mornings opening presents and making dinners, I’ve watched them lose loved ones and feel deep hurt and I’ve held them when those things have been tough. I’ve laughed at a million things and cried at a million more because they stole my heart. I didn’t realise I would become such a massive part of their lives and it’s been just wonderful.
They’ve taughtme how to just live in the moment, to not be afraid to be who you are and to love unconditionally. They’ve taught me that you can always find something to laugh about, even if it’s yourself… and that the most important thing in life is to be happy and to make people happy.
I guess I wanted to write about these two because not only am I a part of their lives but they’re a huge part of mine and I’ve so much to thank them for. So this ladies is for you two, for ALWAYS making me laugh, no matter what. For teaching me invaluable things about life and for being two of my favourite people.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey and thanks for being the funniest and most loving part of mine,
Congratulations to our ten runners-up, who have each won their choice of a £20 voucher or a new We Care hoodie.
Bobby Jones, Cleaning Supervisor, Stockport
Bobby’s humorous and touching entry talked about his experience joining Creative Support after a difficult time, and how much he appreciates his colleagues on the reception team.
Creative Support is so much more than two words it’s:
Caring, Reactive, Empathizing, Affable, Tolerant, Insightful, Virtuous, Empowering
The building is a veritable hive of happiness, a hub of helpfulness, and not just to the thousands of users we provide our excellent services to, but also the thousands of staff who help provide these services.
I joined the group during one of the darkest times we all have had to endure and I soon learned that even during the darkest times, light is not too far away.
I had just lost a job of 34 years and was feeling kind of useless, I was offered my post as cleaning supervisor and it didn’t take me long to realise that my role was more meaningful then menial.
I am lucky to be considered part of our resplendent reception team who as our first port of call truly epitomise the term first impressions count.
I move around the building quite a lot in my role, and although at first the masks we wore prevented me from seeing how friendly everybody’s faces are, they didn’t stop their personalities from shining through. This helped me rediscover my sense of community and feel confident enough to share my hit and miss sense of humor with everybody.
It pleases me that my role is not as repetitive as the job title makes it sound, and have found each day to be a unique experience with different challenges waiting for me the moment my little black fob opens the door to a set of new possibilities. As well as leading the cleaning team I help support with stationery, PPE deliveries and have been part of a huge archiving project that is ongoing and I really enjoy how diverse my role is.
I have had to endure a few personal tragedies during my relatively short time here and I couldn’t ask for a better set of people to help me get through this and I am eternally grateful to the staff and managers who are always there when you need them most.
One particular anecdote springs to mind that really sums up how close knit it feels here, a few weeks ago the 2nd floor dishwasher was broken so I rolled up my sleeves to get on with scrubbing the mountain of dishes the old fashioned way, Anna walked in and saw what I was doing and said “let me do that, I quite like washing up.” I can’t think of any other organisation where a CEO would take time to do this, it really brings home the sense of just how equal we all are here. It’s not a place of work, it’s a community.
I would like to end by quoting an old theme tune that best sums up the Creative Support experience:
Sometimes You Want to Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name and They’re Always Glad You Came
Roshitha Gattupalli, Support Worker, Warwickshire
Roshitha’s unique anecdote captured the attention of the judges, comparing Creative Support to a song that she might have skipped, but later discovered it was one of the best in her playlist!
“Have you ever had that one song that you always skipped, but later found out it was one of the best in your playlist? Creative Support is like that one song I decided to skip, but later it was one of the best decisions of my life. I am not trying to exaggerate but this comparison starts to make more sense by the end of this essay. When I came across Creative Support’s essay competition, I was more excited to share my experience rather than winning the prize money. Let me introduce myself, my name is Roshitha Gattupalli and I was 21 years old when I started my journey as support worker at Creative Support.
As a 21-year-old, I thought that the care field was one of the hardest fields to work in. After my first shadow shift at Napton House, I decided to give up and thought this job is too hard and wasn’t meant for me. I always pictured myself working in an art field, but never as a support worker. With a lot of enthusiasm I decided not to give up on that first day and worked few more shifts. I realised that my approaches towards service users has to be creative to communicate and understand their needs.
Working at Napton house provided me a whole new perspectives and new challenges in my life. My perspectives changed from understanding different mentalities to working with different age groups. One of my best experiences is supporting service users with cooking. I say this because I grew up in India where I never touched or cooked meat in my life. As my job involved in cooking healthy dishes for service users, I went an extra mile and learned to cook different cuisines. This made me appreciate different culture and various food. I still remember my first baking experience with one of our tenants, which turned out to be a fun rollercoaster as the service user couldn’t keep of her hands on the cookie dough. Another best experience would be the “shower game” with one of our service users. They had a really hard time with showers, however I noticed that they had a great obsession with games. So when we turned the boring showers into an interesting game it worked. As a result, the service user got back to their shower routine which is one of their greatest outcomes. Moreover I enjoy organising various activities like painting, communal cooking, movie nights and game nights for our tenants.
At the end of the day, I was moved by Creative support’s missions and values towards disabled adults. I always thought that if I’d given up after my first day, I would have missed two precious years at Napton. That’s why I would like to describe Creative Support as a good song in my playlist, and I am glad that I didn’t skip it on very first day. Creative Support provided me more than I could describe in just 500 words. It shaped me into a better person and provided me better understanding about disabilities. That’s why I enjoy supporting our service users to achieve their outcomes and celebrating their wins.”
Tracey Richmond, Community Outreach Worker, North Lincolnshire
Tracey opened up about her experience following an injury and being out of work, and how joining Creative Support helped her regain her confidence and ‘fit in’.
“My name is Tracey, I work as a support worker in the community outreach team in Scunthorpe. I’ve done 22 years now in the profession. When my daughter was 3, I took a job working in a care home and did all the necessary training, and built up the knowledge over the years to help me go further. After a few years I decided to move on to the community, still elderly care, and after a few more years I had a little boy so I took time out. I gladly went back to work but then changed to another care company, which at the time I enjoyed.
Then one cold night I went to my shed, I slid off a high concrete step and caused a bimalleolar fracture to my ankle, which at the time I thought hey ho it’s just a blip. After months of recovery I began to question will I ever will I ever do my job again? So I went back to work as a volunteer to work admin. I tidied up I did some photocopying, even made cups of tea, I thought if this is what I’m to do now how on earth am I going to cope? Deep down I really knew where I was supposed to be, after all care was all I knew.
After a few months my boss told me they had nothing for me, I felt they gave up on me so away I went back home. I felt I was heading into a deep depression, I had to apply for jobs, 115 admin at that, and no one got back to me. That didn’t help at all until I was summoned to a mandatory job show, I walked around not knowing what I could do then I walked up an aisle and saw a big colourful board with the words Creative Support. I told myself it was too good to be true, a job that could incorporate my art skills as an artist too so I decided to apply. I went for an interview and wow I got the job!
At first I did a bit of everything, like creative classes with the service users where I had so much fun helping to make things. I supported one service user to art classes but had to end them due to Covid. Throughout Covid we all kept the service users safe and helped them all get through hard times while they all shielded. I felt sad for them but they were ok and all did well considering. I actually felt they all have also helped myself get back to the old me I felt I had lost when I’d had the fall and lost my job. I only now wish I’d done this work as a support worker from the beginning of my career, I just wasn’t confident and I didn’t know what to expect.
I absolutely love my job, I’ve met a lot of lovely people and I find that I’ve actually found a job where I do feel I fit in. I’m so thankful that I found Creative Support when I was at my lowest. My motto for 22 years has always been it’s got to be about the care and support, not the money, yes it pays the bills but service users are also mums, dads, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and family. Thank you for getting me back.”
Shamsa Hussain, Recovery Navigator, Birmingham
Shams impressed the judges with her poetry skills, writing 500 words in rhyming couplets to describe rebuilding her confidence over the past few years.
“At the age of 28, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease,
Shocked, paralysed. What will now become of me?
My mind and body clouded in a dark mist of fear and sadness,
Forced to stop teaching, while I process around me all the madness.
Stop, wait…this was not my part of my life plan,
Being disabled is hard. It is stigmatised. It certainly is not glam.
I want to continue working and making a difference to the students I taught,
However, now my body has become weak. My emotions a mess…my mind is fraught.
I need to turn my pain into power. This disability will not limit or define me. It will not get in my way,
My light will not be blighted by my diagnosis, I will rise from this pain one day.
I rationalise and reason to myself that no-one has the perfect life, daily life is hard for us all,
Resilience and courage are what I need to manifest now and pivot from this, unexpected downfall.
Every day is a lesson for living, as I learn to adapt and adjust to this new way of life thrusted upon me,
I cannot be overcome by grief and despair. I silently remind myself that my mind is still sharp, I still have purpose, just wait and see.
Through the mental and physical hardship, I am learning tricks and techniques that help manage my mood and mind,
I am committed to my own recovery, so I become fascinated with mental health and read everything I can find.
It takes time, but slowly I rebuild the confidence that was shattered 8 long years ago,
I now seek an opportunity that requires empathy, kindness and values people who want to grow.
In my search, I discover Creative Support, an organisation that shines brighter than the rest,
I wholeheartedly share its ethos and values. It supports vulnerable adults to thrive and be their best.
I apply for the role of recovery navigator. I am positive I will excel in this role,
I am successful and get the job. I work diligently and being impacting lives. This is my primary purpose and my only goal.
Immediately, I build relationships and a genuine rapport with the many people who come to us in their darkest time,
I offer them tea, comfort, and solace, while I patiently empathise and listen. I know with our support; they will recover and be just fine.
I plan and provide group sessions that are informative, creative and help aid mental health recovery,
Everything is so instinctive and comes so naturally. My passion overflows, through all the amazing progress I see.
I provide an eclectic mix of sessions, including arts and crafts, seated yoga and coffee and chat. This is where I am meant to be,
The service users who I meet amaze and inspire me. In them, I recognise an abundance of resilience, courage, and creativity”
Donna Brown, Outreach Support Worker, Wolverhampton
Donna talked about her journey through different careers before finding her passion as a support worker.
“I am a 44-year-old support worker with Outreach in the Wolverhampton area. Now, I have only been with the company and this specific job role since October last year. Before this, I have done everything- you name it. My main roles from what I can specify of an enjoyable but challenging career was 20 years in fitness and the last 3 years as a teaching assistant. Fitness became a lot to contend with, and the teaching assistance roles just didn’t help with my mental health and the running of being a single mum. I was approached and asked to try out this role.
What can I say? I am the happiest and that I have been in many years. I never knew that I would have such a big passion for working with adults with mental health and disabilities. They make me smile every day, I am so overwhelmed by everyone who is a service user for all their own personal specific ways and personalities. I love helping people so much and making them feel worthy and happy, giving them a reason to wake up and get out in a morning and that goes along with myself. I look forward to each day individually and can only wonder what the days ahead have in store for me, in a lovely way. Along with the other members of staff that make me feel welcome, I can honestly say with this role, there are no hidden traits that I have to hide away. I don’t have to try and be someone that I am not, I can be me, again!
I work alongside a wide variety and diverse amount of people and also help out with independent living, and nothing makes me happier than helping and supporting the individuals. I will go to extreme lengths to make them happy, and I will go the extra mile with what is possible and I can relate and adapt to all their needs and wants. Not only has Creative Support given me a fantastic job that fits into my day-to-day routine, but it’s given me my freedom back to self-care for myself again, to keep fitter and healthier and most of all my mental health. My look into the present life and the future, is finally fresh, grounded and somewhat positive.”
Noel Woods, Support Worker, Warrington
Noel wrote about having a complete career change and joining Creative Support last January, where he has had several memorable moments with the people he supports.
“In the aftermath of Covid I decided to go full circle from being a bricklayer and have a complete change in my life. I applied for several jobs in the care and support sector. Last January I had an interview at Creative Support, and to my joy Jill and Alexia offered me a job at Birchwood Court in Warrington. I started work in April shadowing the much experienced Brian.
Whilst shadowing Brian and meeting all these fantastic people, through the crack of his flat door I met one service user as Brian gave him his evening medication. Brian explained he likes to stay in alone with little or no visitors and due to his condition he didn’t go out often or speak to strangers.
My training continued and I started to support people alone which was a whole new ball game. After building up all these new relationships with our service users I grew in confidence and began doing sleepovers at one residence alone. This was particularly fruitful for me on a personal level as I learnt so much from my time there and was nominated for an achievement award by Mark the senior there, something I am really proud of. On this support the household started to celebrate the run up to Christmas early. We often had breakfast together with All I Want For Christmas Is You and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday playing on MTV in late October. This was the first time I had worked through Christmas and it was fabulous sharing it with everyone. Christmas day evening was partly spent playing Super Mario Cart with a service user as we chatted away.
One memorable moment from last year was when I supported a Rugby fan to go to the World Cup Final in Manchester. At the end of the support he said “Noel that is the best day I’ve had that I can remember” What a moment!
Birchwood Court is such a brilliant environment to work in, there is usually a song on the go with a laugh along the way. Recently I was pleasantly surprised to get a mention in the Creative Magazine for my positive and happy attitude at work.
Getting back to our friend I met with Brian last year, he now goes out to music group every Monday where he is learning to play the bass guitar. He is now slowly getting back amongst the community and was last week chatting away to people in the HMV record shop, something that was a dream for him last year.
On April 19th I celebrated my first year here at Creative Support and it has been the best year of my working life by a country mile. I can’t thank all the staff and service users here enough for being so welcoming. They have all helped me so much in what has been a major change in my life. The posititiveness of everyone here is second to none.
Thank you so much Creative Support. I love it here. Noel.”
Maria Staudt, Recovery Support Worker, Doncaster
Maria’s incredible story moved the judges, describing her experience supporting someone to escape domestic violence.
“I work for mental health floating support team in Doncaster, and I was allocated a client for support with her tenancy issues. The more I was seeing her the more I was sensing there was something wrong, and I didn’t want to ask directly as it wouldn’t come across professional. I was trying to be supportive enough for her to open up and feel free to talk to me.
After a few support sessions with myself she disclosed to me that she is experiencing domestic violence for the past 10 years. I tried to encourage her to report her partner, but she was afraid of what he would do if he found out.
One day he assaulted her, and over the phone I encouraged her to run away with her son. She ended up running away from that house with her boy, leaving behind all her belongings. I liaised with the police and social housing provider to keep her and the boy safe, plus referred her to domestic abuse hub at DMBC for support.
They were placed in temporary accommodation out of Doncaster for safety reasons, and I was ringing her daily to make sure she was ok. It was a long journey with more ups than downs, but finally they received a key to their home. The last time I spoke with her she said there is no place on this earth that she feels safe at but our Creative Support office when she comes for support sessions.
I applied for white goods for her so she could furnish her home, and I also spoke with her employer so she didn’t lose her work because of the time she had off. She and the little boy are safe for the first time since he was born, and have a place they can call home and enjoy their new life.”
Zoe Garner, Centre Co-ordinator, Manchester
Zoe really captured the spirit of working in care with her emotive storytelling, describing daily life at Creative Together.
“My place of work is pretty standard really. It’s in Manchester city centre, we have a good selection of butties in the immediate area. If you need a last minute birthday card you can find a decent one. Our toilets are clean and we have a nice kitchen. Our selling point to the outside world is that we have bare bricks, wooden floors and stainless steel features and painted cast iron girders and posts. We even have a panini press. Dave, the caretaker, raises his hand in greeting most mornings at 8.52 as he presses the button for the shutters to let in the morning sun on the east side entrance.
It’s all pretty typical. We make sure the hot water geyser is switched on at 8am and we worry about the recycling, but the business here belongs to the magic of a secret army. When I received the call that I’d got the job I didn’t appreciate just what I was getting involved in but it goes a bit like this.
Last week, after 6 months of tears, endless phone calls and suicidal terrors, X was relieved to find out this was all due to incorrect meds. Staff here fought by their side for a ray of hope from a crisis team and it finally paid off. Four weeks ago Y gently shared their child had died. The quiet that settled on the centre was like a fluffy blanket. It wrapped them up and brought them a brew the way they like it and nothing more was said or needed. It’s E’s birthday tomorrow. It is many years since they received a birthday present. This year a small pile is hidden in the office and the helium filled balloon keeps head butting an unsuspecting member of staff every time she opens the stationary cupboard (which needs sorting by the way).
Spring is here and A is already making a list of the flowering annuals and perennials they wants to adorn the courtyard with. They sidled into the office yesterday and asked what the prize was for the sunflower competition! Tomorrow we have a meeting with safeguarding where some difficult questions need to be asked. Staff S wants to know how to get in touch with the manager of a support worker whose contribution to supporting a person in the art session this morning deserves some recognition, despite being exhausted from their nursing placement night shift they went above and beyond. Staff T took a load of stuff to the tip in their own car when the quote for disposal was more than a weeks pay. X donated 2 HDMI cables, which came in handy when the existing cable failed and threatened to derail the zoom training booked in the Achieve room.
Anyone working for Creative Support will think this is pretty standard. And it is … across every service there is a story like this. We often gift extra minutes, extra hours, extra head space, creative thinking and forego lunch breaks in cafés that serve sandwiches on sour dough.
Welcome to the story of the secret army. That is what it is like working for Creative Support. We seem to operate under the radar but it feels like we are part of something big.”
Sarah Marshall, Personnel Administrator, Stockport
Sarah shared a story from one of Head Office’s LGBTQ+ events, including a narrowly-avoided cake disaster, plus a heartwarming outcome from the day.
“October 2018. The newly-founded LGBT+ Network burst onto the Head Office scene, every bit as fabulously as you’d hope. To launch ourselves we were throwing an “Equali-Tea”, sharing fun LGBT+ facts with a side-serving of cake while fundraising for Stonewall, and it was a success that went past our wildest expectations.
The meeting room was festooned in bunting and pride flags, the tables groaned with cakes, and as our first visitors poured in it amazed us just how much cake our colleagues can polish off when it’s only 10am.
From the start we had been clear that we wanted to educate people in a fun, lively way, and also to explore the often overlooked identities beyond “LGBT”, such as Asexual, Pansexual, Intersexual, Agender and many others. I’d had the idea that the pride flags were a very vibrant way to do that, so we designed posters with each flag on and a paragraph explaining.
I was in charge of organising the baking efforts, and the Mary Berrys of Head Office certainly stepped up to the, erm, plate – with pride of place going to an incredible rainbow sponge cake. This hadn’t been without drama: half way to work I got a hysterical run of texts from a co-worker who had forgotten their cake, but by sheer luck they lived on my bus route, and fifteen minutes and some power walking and frantic calls to their housemate later, the cake was safely in my hands.
Luke, one of our other members, wrote a fascinating quiz which challenged people’s understanding of LGBT+ identities, and as people tucked in to their cake it was marvellous to listen in to people eagerly discussing the questions. As we mingled with our guests we started to feel something rather special was happening.
I lost count of the times people came to me saying they had had no idea how many LGBT+ identities are out there, and the morning had truly broadened their horizons. Several people said to me that they didn’t know that there are genders beyond male and female until that day, and many more said it was new to them that there were orientations beyond gay, straight and bisexual.
In all we raised £96 for Stonewall. But a month later Stella, our master baker, shared something truly priceless.
Keen to share everything she’d learned with her Women’s Institute friends, she’d taken the quiz sheet along to a meeting. A lively conversation had followed, and one lady of 90 came out to them as lesbian. She said in all her life she’d never felt able to, until the conversation our event had prompted.
We were astounded, delighted, and humbled. We had hoped and expected to put on something fun and educational, and more than succeeded. But this showed us that, although our event had seemed small in the grand scheme of things, it had touched someone’s life in ways we could never have imagined. I hope this lady found some comfort and belonging at last.”
Anna Lombardi, Relief Support Worker, Lancashire
Anna’s beautiful tribute to the people she supports brought a tear to the judges eye, as her entry “laughter, joy, sadness” certainly brings those emotions to all who read.
“The title explains my time at Creative Support, and experiencing all these emotions have made it an enriching experience.
I work in a service in Bare part of the Morecambe network, a supported living house with four residents each with their own wonderful characters. A likes watching trains, feeding horses, making his entrance to dinner with a baseball cap on top of a trilby hat, cracking jokes about throwing us all in the skip and laughing.
Then there’s B who loves her word searches, keeping up with local and national news, watching classic episodes of soaps when Coronation Street was full of comic characters- not the doom and gloom that you get these days.
Then we had C and D. C is where the sorrow comes in amongst all the laughter and joy. C, a bright and cheerful soul from waking in a morning to the last thing at night, her room painted pink full of cradles and prams with dolls in each one. Staff would go searching in the cleaning cupboard for yellow dusters as they had all gone missing, and C had them laid over each doll as a blanket to keep them warm. Those dolls were cared for as though they were C’s children. One of her favourite things was to walk to the Venus and child sculpture on the prom, laughing at the child being held in mid-air by Venus. We weren’t to know that sorrow would be lurking around the corner, as from nowhere a check-up from a doctor led to the mention of the big C. Suddenly a bright spark was starting to fade as the staff team cared for her, filling her last days with as much joy as possible, laying her to rest with one of her favourite dollies, the spark being sadly taken from us but never forgotten. Many a time we will walk with one of her siblings to the Venus and child sculpture to capture the memories of that joy.
Then there was D. I like to call her the queen of Bare, wherever we went, if it was for a stroll around the local area or further afield, people would stop and talk whether she knew them or not. She would lay on the charm with a twinkle in her eye and a quick quip and we would all suddenly be laughing. I remember when a few years ago workmen were renovating the Prom on Morecambe Bay, and a big burley workman stopped and had a chat as though she was the queen inspecting their work. He greeted her by holding her hand, and true to form she quickly thought of something funny and charming her face beaming. Sadness again creeped in with tears of sorrow of a twinkling star fading with the light, we were able to remember a long life where 94 years was filled with interwoven memories will remain in the hearts of her family of staff.”