Every day is a new challenge for Martin: on the autistic spectrum, Martin is also recovering from a breakdown. Life has been tough, but it’s got a lot better since Martin was referred to the Surrey Care Trust.
Initially, Martin was referred to the Trust’s Alliance project which helped people who had been out of work for a considerable length time to get back into employment. The project’s advisors helped people to plan their future, and give them information and support to access local training opportunities and other community activities too. Martin’s support worker suggested that he join the Trust’s Swingbridge Community Boat crews as a volunteer.
The boat is a base for conservation work along the Thames and the river Wey. More vulnerable volunteers who may be recovering from addiction or relationship breakdown, have mental problems or mild learning difficulties are supported by other members of the crew.
As I’m unemployed it gets me out of the house for the day and helps to give some structure to my week. When I am busy clearing a ditch or repairing the riverbank, I am practicing social skills by talking to the other crew members but without having to think about it because I’m distracted by what I’m doing. It’s really helped my confidence and self-esteem.
Martin hopes these new skills will help him to find a part-time job and he’s felt confident enough to move out of supported housing and into his own flat.
Martin says: “I’d say to anyone in my position to just give it a go. Until you try something like this you don’t realise how beneficial it is and, apart from anything else, you’ll have a lovely day on the river!”