“Volunteering helped me through depression and into a job I love”

“Volunteering helped me through depression and into a job I love”
23rd January 2018 Amanda Bhavnani

Back in 2005, 42-year-old John Richardson was homeless, depressed, alone and living in sheltered accommodation in Braintree provided by the Salvation Army.

Today, more than a decade after finding hope through volunteering with NACRO, Braintree District Council and Greenfields, John has secured full-time employment as a fencer at Greenfields.

He said: “When I was homeless, my key worker told me about volunteering opportunities with NACRO. The charity aims to change lives by building stronger communities and reducing crime. I thought it sounded like it would be good for me, so I contacted James Martin at Braintree District Council, who supported me to manage and referee football matches for young people. I did this for four years, and earned my FA Level One badge in Coaching Football.”

John, who lives in a Greenfields home in Braintree, found full-time work bricklaying, but continued to volunteer in the evenings and at weekends over the next four years, which he really enjoyed: “It kept kids off the street and it helped to keep me busy and motivated.”

During this time John began a relationship and became a father of five. Over the years, John had to take time off work to look after his partner; making it difficult to sustain full-time employment.

Following their break-up four years ago, John was again suffering from depression. A friend told him about Greenfields’ Positive Engagement Programme, which helps to keep people busy through sport and other activities; as well as helping them into employment. Coincidentally, this was led by James Martin, who John had met previously.

James put John in touch with the First Stop Centre, which helps disadvantaged people in Braintree overcome their difficulties. John volunteered to paint and decorate their office and, in turn, the Centre helped him to write his CV (John is dyslexic) and post it online. As a result MMP Construction, which carries out work on behalf of Greenfields, offered him agency work for five months.

During this time, John began building relationships with staff at Greenfields, who were impressed with his solid work ethic and friendly nature. When a permanent vacancy became available at Greenfields for a full-time fencer in October 2017, John applied and successfully landed the role. He has quickly settled in, and plans to use an annual Volunteering Day offered to all staff to support Open Road, which helps people with drug and alcohol addiction issues.

“I now have very supportive colleagues and a new network of friends, all of which have given me a fresh outlook on life. Last year I set myself the goal of getting a permanent job and, this year, I am determined to make others changes that will help my children, who are my priority.”

Find out more about volunteering by clicking on this link: Volunteering