“I don’t ever need to be unhappy, because when I come to Mustard Tree, they make me happy.”
Norma first came to Mustard Tree after losing her father. She was struggling with anxiety, depression and was finding looking for work impossible as she couldn’t read or write. Since joining, she is now finding her feet again and her confidence. Norma has now started volunteering as activities coordinator at a Salford nursing home, whilst being a buddy for new starters at Mustard Tree.
“My mum left me when I was small and I hadn’t had any real contact from her my whole life so my dad was my rock. Everything really hit me when he died about three years ago. I started to suffer with stress and flashbacks. They panicked me so much. I would see a man out on the street that looked a bit like my dad – and suddenly would have a flashback.”
“I had to go see the doctor because I got bad depression and wanted to end my life. I ended up seeing a counsellor, and although she tried to build my confidence up, I started spending more and more time in the house. Eventually I felt like I just couldn’t go out.”
Despite struggling with her mental health, Norma was told in late 2017 she did not qualify for ESA (the benefit for people who are unable to work due to ill health) and that she had to find work.
“As I was able to get the bus on my own, I was told I no longer qualified for sickness benefit. I can’t read or write well, so it started to really worry me. It’s not easy to get a job like before, where you could just walk in and ask someone about jobs, it’s all online”
Norma’s Job Centre advisor suggested she come to the Mustard Tree Little Hulton for help with her job search, but also to learn skills and to help her self-confidence.
“My advisor said Mustard Tree was a great place to go, and she was right! I didn’t know anywhere like this existed. They have helped to explain all the benefits process to me and help fill things in.”
In addition to advice and one-to-one support, everyone at Mustard Tree is encouraged to join one of our training schemes, to help with employability, skills and self-confidence.
“I started in the Community Shop and Food Club; setting up items and serving customers. I thought I would panic and hate it but I didn’t. I’m so nervous when I don’t know people but the Mustard Tree team really encouraged me to do it when I was ready and slowly my confidence grew. I became surer in myself when talking to people and started to really enjoy it.”
Alongside their training, people can get involved with many classes and courses, allowing them to increase their skills and self-esteem. Our classes range from practical such as IT skills, to art and drama, and also give people who are socially isolated the chance to belong to a community – to make friends and build up their confidence.
“I also started to attend the classes because I’ve always wanted to learn to knit, but I couldn’t ever read the instructions to learn. Jess, who helps run the creative classes at Little Hulton taught me how– I love it as it takes away my anxiety. I’m now learning how to sew and crochet too.
Now, I feel like I can look forward to the future. I worked in a nursing home years ago and always wanted to go back. I’m now volunteering doing craft and activities at a home in Salford and making sure the residents have someone to talk to. I don’t feel as stressed and depressed anymore I feel positive because I’ve got so much to do every day.”
Mustard Tree believes everyone deserves opportunity and that you always have something to give. Feeling productive and positive, Norma has also had the confidence to confront her past.
“I’m also starting counselling to help me come to terms with my past and 1-2-1 tutoring help with my reading and writing. I’ve made contact with my mum for the first time in 40 years and have arranged to see her soon, supported by my son and family. I feel like I am finally getting strong enough to talk to her and get answers. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without coming to Mustard Tree, they make me feel like I’m actually worth it.”
To support someone like Norma to create opportunities, please donate online here via Virgin Money Giving