“I’ve first discovered Great Places when I moved into one of their properties in 2013. At the time I knew little about them, but what I did know is that alongside being a landlord, they also provided services for the more vulnerable members of the community.
“I was studying towards my degree in Health and Community Studies (BSc Hons) when I first considered getting involved and volunteering with Great Places. I was required to complete a work placement as part of my degree and in searching around for different opportunities, I came across their Health Promotion Service in Oldham. I spent a bit of time researching the service before deciding it would be the perfect place to complete my placement. Not only was it local to me, but it would enable me to follow my passion for empowering and supporting those in need.
“I really enjoyed my placement at the Health Promotion Service, so much so that I took on an additional voluntary role at the Village Housing Work Club. I’ve always had an interest in welfare rights for people living with disabilities, especially those with low IT literacy skills, and I felt privileged to be able to step into the role and utilise my skills and knowledge to help others. I actually based my dissertation on the experiences and journey of a disabled claimant in regard to the newly implemented Welfare Reform Act 2012.
“My placement didn’t just allow me to help others though, it helped me too. Volunteering with Great Places helped to build my confidence and develop my communication skills, especially within a culturally diverse area, putting me in good stead to successfully complete my degree. When my placement came to an end I decided to continue volunteering with Great Places and became a Trustee of the Oldham Work Club Network.
“This year I attended Great Places’ annual Community Stars Awards, where I sat next to David Robinson (Great Places Board Member), who recommended I look into Insight, the customer scrutiny group at Great Places. I have since joined the group and now help to review the services that customers receive and recommend improvements if needed.
“After I finished my undergraduate degree, I proceeded to study a Masters (MA) in Social Work. Part of this was funded by the Great Places residents’ fund to address the shortfall in my fees, which was a real help, as without this support from Great Places I wouldn’t have been able to do the qualification at all. Unfortunately, I became unwell during my final year and couldn’t complete the full course, however, I did leave with a PgDip in Social Work which I was pleased with.
“I decided not to practice as a Social Worker in the end and chose to go down a different route instead – working as an Independent Mental Health Advocate. This is a role that I’m equally passionate about and one I wouldn’t have been able to do without my qualifications, as they gave me the foundations for the role. Great Places also supported me to succeed in this new role by funding my Mental Health First Aid course.
“My plan for the future is to set up my own training business, specialising in Mental Health First Aid in the workplace, First Aid, Paediatric First Aid and Safeguarding. Once I’ve set up my business, I would love to offer my services to Oldham Work Club members to help increase their employability skills in the area.
“Volunteering at Great Places opened up a new chapter for me and now I have the opportunity to open them for others."
If you would like to share your story like Mike or get involved at Great Places, email us at Involvement.email@example.com.