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Change And Engage

I'm from Oxford, Didcot. I was on the streets in Oxford for a while as well, for about six months. I come out of treatment near enough two years ago now. I was overweight. I was about 19 and a half stone, my health weren’t good. I weren’t the fittest, I could hardly walk up the stairs, I was out of breath. I like to keep things pretty simple and I just got told two things: change and engage. I come out of treatment and I started working with Aspire. I just dived in really, and the more I've dived in, the more opportunities have come up - working with people, building relationships with people, my manager. I've got my bus licence through Aspire, my security through Aspire. And then I've done all my adult safeguarding and child safeguarding. Loads of training.

And I just dived straight into the boxing. I had two fights last year. We had one in Thame in a hotel, and we had one in Aylesbury as well. The person who used to take the boxercise got us involved. As training progressed a show came up, we volunteered to take part and we just got involved. Straight away, vroom. It was really good for my mental health as well. It's one thing that I've stuck to, and it's opened so many doors from getting involved with Aspire. I've just got so much from them, including my job with Active Reach. We do a boxercise class on a Thursday, and I'm like a Project Assistant with Aspire for that. I’ve sort of been doing it from the beginning. I get involved with clients - talking, building up that rapport with them. Helping them with keeping fit – and wellbeing. I like helping people as well, I get that gratification if I help someone.

The current situation has been hard. I do three days with Aspire and I'm a security guard as well. I keep busy, keep active. We have the boxing class via Zoom. We’re connecting with some people on there, obviously not everyone because not everyone has got the smartphones and all that sort of stuff. We’re getting a few people interested, a few people doing it. I think we had four last week, but I could see it getting busier. Because of the lockdown we’ve invited more people, because people are just stuck at home. To be fair, I don't like doing it on Zoom. I'm being honest, I don’t. But I do it because I know it's helping other people, and we still get a bit of connectivity. A bit of banter going on. Everyone can get involved, we’re trying to share it out, get out there on Facebook and that.

My job started with the Gym Bus, which was part of the project in Blackbird Leys, and a job role come up. Because I was the driver of the bus it made sense. I just love getting involved with fitness, I love working with people. I just love the connectivity and I like seeing people grow and get enjoyment out of it like I do. Even though it’s for my work as an Active Reach Assistant, I just like seeing people grow and, you know, smile and just enjoy this time. We didn’t have many clients turning up at first and then more come, we started building bonds, then it started getting smoother. But we had ups and downs, like the Gym Bus was part of Active Reach, and that burned down. People had put a lot of work into it. We lost a lot of equipment but we persevered, even though we didn’t have a bus, we went up there in our cars, we sat there with the hand gel, all through these difficult times we kept persevering. And people turned up through that, and they’re still coming to the Zoom meetings. We've had a lot of obstacles, but we've got over them, we’re still doing it. Even if it’s from our own homes, we’re still running the classes.

It’s changed my health, my fitness, both physically and mentally. Just my outlook in life is totally different – I see it in a different way, totally. I must have been programmed a different way, I think – my behaviours, all the ways I used to act, communicate with people. I’m more positive, more open-minded about stuff. I’ve built a support network up as well. And now I’m growing, the more I deal with stuff I’m growing. Like I couldn’t use a laptop when I first took this role on, and now I'm typing with two hands. And I'm using Zoom! Just connecting with people better. Thinking more before I talk to someone. My family, my kids, my partner. I done it because I wanted to do it. I done it because I needed to do it, there was loads of things what I decided to change. I always knew there was that other person there, if you know what I mean. And I love it, I'm passionate about it.

Even though I’ve been in recovery for two years now, doing all everything I’ve done, I still feel I need stuff like this. Because of the stuff I did in my past, I want to give a little back and show people you can change and you can overcome your fears, simple fears. That was my world then, this is a totally different world now. I’ve been made to feel like I belong. I’m part of Active Reach, part of Aspire, do you know what I mean? I’ve grown, part of the team. I like all that sort of stuff.


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