Exploring ice caves, ice diving and snowboarding across Antarctica: it’s safe to say that Marlon Clark is living his dream.
The 22-year-old is in the middle of an 18-month stint as a Marine Assistant for the British Antarctic Survey, stationed on the incredibly remote Adelaide Island.
Nearly 9,000 miles away, mum Kelly watches his progress with pride from her Greenfields home in Silver End.
On Housing Day 2018, Kelly and Marlon recall how determination and a little support helped the family overcome poverty, depression and a host of difficulties.
Around 15 years ago, Kelly became a single parent to Marlon and his little brother Morgan. Over the following years, the trio rented privately but were forced by their landlords to move regularly around Tiptree and then Silver End. This unsettled the boys, forced them to move schools, damaged Kelly’s mental health and resulting in her having to leave her job.
Kelly said: “I began to spiral into a breakdown. I went to the doctor’s, who confirmed that nobody would be able to withstand what I was going through. Then I went to Maldon Community Mental Health Trust and met Trevor, who saved my life.”
Trevor supported Kelly not only with her poor health, but the issues causing it. Marlon had begun caring for both Kelly and Morgan, so Trevor arranged for support for them through a local charity. He also arranged for financial support and helped Kelly through the process of applying and moving into their Greenfields home. They made the life-changing move in December 2008.
She said: “It was great being able to tell the boys that this is our home and we’re not going to move again.”
With a secure home and Kelly’s mental health problems under control, “focused and academic” Marlon was free to fulfil his potential at what is now the Alec Hunter Academy. He achieved good grades while making time for volunteering, before studying Marine Biology and Oceanography at Plymouth University.
After graduating, Marlon landed his role with the British Antarctic Survey. He keeps family and friends updated with regular calls and videos of his adventures on YouTube.
Marlon believes there are few “normal” families out there, as most families face challenges.
He said: “My mother is a single parent who had some mental health issues as well as other health conditions, my Brother also has learning difficulties and the other member of the family was me. As a result I was a young carer, this taught me to grow up in ways that other children my age wouldn’t have to.”
Marlon recalled how he adapted to become caring and sensitive, while accepting he would have less freedom to take part in activities enjoyed by other children.
Marlon added: “Being from a poor or working class background, kids are at a different starting point to others that have a better economic and social surrounding. Therefore the best way to get what you want is to actively go about trying to get it.
“I’d always been astounded by nature and especially of the marine realm. The difference between animal and plant on land is so clear, but when you delve into the ocean, the spectrum of life is so huge and the families of animals don’t resemble anything you can relate to on land.
“As a kid, I loved all things by the sea, from rock pooling, swimming, fishing and sailing, and I was always guided to do something that you enjoy, no matter what that may be.”
He added: “Although my mum has had issues, she has given me unconditional care and love, which has been the only and best thing a child could ask for.”
Now 46, Kelly works for the Police & Crime Commissioner’s Restorative Justice and Mediation service. She proudly states: “Anyone he has ever met has fallen in love with him, as he is nice and a born leader. He even helped to implement a local skate park together with his contacts at a children’s centre.”
Kelly feels the support housing associations and other organisations offer is crucial to help those who find themselves struggling through no fault of their own. She said: “There are single parents out there who are desperate and find themselves in situations due to circumstances. There is lots of help out there, and if it hadn’t been for Greenfields, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
#HousingDay18 celebrates tenants living in social housing, aiming to tackle stigma and shatter stereotypes.
Watch Marlon’s vlog from the ocean by clicking on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3_SiHPrtyg
Find out about additional support available in the community by clicking on this link: Additional Support
Find out about volunteering opportunities at Greenfields by clicking on this link: Volunteering