Behind the scenes – my 12 months at SSJ

My year of learning at SSJ

Twelve months ago I started working at the Society of St James as their Social Media, Communications, and Marketing Officer. I remember my first day in the office like it was yesterday – turning up as early as I possibly could – after catching the 6am ferry from the Isle of Wight – my old home and arriving outside the doors at Albert Road South ready to start.

Back then I had an understanding of what SSJ did. I’d spent hours researching and reading articles, looking on news sites, finding videos. But 12 months on I now have a much greater understanding and knowledge about the work we do.

I have learned so much in 12 months from the CEO, Senior Managers, Project Managers, and more. Their passion and determination to provide the very best in life for the most vulnerable are second to none. It has driven me to do even more in my own spare time to make a difference. I have heard stories about how – with hard work and determination, lives can be transformed.

Last November I was told about some of our service users who had been moved into a new property within Southampton. Nothing shocking there – it’s what we do. But what made me so proud was hearing about the first time a cleaner turned up at their door, to be invited in for a guided tour of their new flat. They were so proud of the fact they were now living in a place they could call home – the cleaner left without having to do a single thing – and the story was shared with staff at SSJ.

Hearing that helped me understand what it means to help people turn their lives around. I sit at home and sometimes throw a duvet over myself as I watch Netflix and I don’t even think about how lucky I am. This story reminded me that I am one of the luckiest people on earth that I can go to a warm and comfortable home each evening and not have to worry about where I will be tomorrow.

I remember reading the Case Study about the Homeless Day Service in Portsmouth as I prepared it to go live on our website. I remember sitting there and choking back a few tears as I read about the selflessness of the staff members who look after people with a history of homelessness. I remember thinking about those who turn up at the day service in Portsmouth and are provided with things that are a luxury to them, but you and I are things we take for granted.

International Women’s Day  was an incredible event to be part of, seeing ladies smiling for the first time in years as they were given the chance to enjoy a haircut, chocolates, a pampering session. These are things that I have always looked at as part of life – but these ladies were enjoying them for the first time in their lives and it meant so much to them.

I also think about the donations which come into SSJ from our incredible supporters and how that money goes towards giving people a fresh start and the chance to live the life they deserve but were not rewarded with due to awful circumstances in their lives. I have seen people with addictions come out on the other side, people who have slept on the streets for years find themselves in a warm bed for the first time – and I have seen just how much it means to every single one of them.

Just recently, thanks to our wonderful charity partners, The Southern Co-op, we were recognised for a national award at the Business Charity Awards. This news came in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and I remember phoning my boss and just having no words to describe what it meant to us. We were constantly listening to stories from our wonderful key workers about how they were helping the most vulnerable in society – and this award was something that gave everybody at SSJ a boost at the perfect time.

Last month I spoke to Owen, a service user, for our newsletter. He had come to SSJ during the lockdown as his life had fallen apart. He has been kicked out of the place he was living, work had dried up, he felt he had nothing left to give – and so he made the decision that he wanted to end his life.

Speaking to Owen, he told me that if it was not for SSJ, he wouldn’t be here now. Owen is currently aiming to move into support work himself, so he can help people who are in the same position he was in – he wants to give something back in the way he knows how – to share what he went through to save others.

And that to me sums up exactly what we do. It gives people the chance to transform their lives. And when I think about it, in a very small way, SSJ has changed my life too. I can’t think of a better job to do – where I can be in a position to tell you the stories about the work we do at SSJ to make the world a better place for thousands of people each year.

I love working for SSJ. I get so much joy from seeing the positive impact on each and individual we look after. Everybody deserves a shot at a normal life.