Alana has Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes social interaction difficult, and ADHD which makes concentration hard. She began using heroin from the age of 12, and was reliant on methadone and diazepam for many years... However, Alana’s world changed when Zoe introduced her to community organising at the local Social Action Hub. Alana tells us her story:
“Living in Bishopdown hasn’t always been easy for me and I’ve lived here for 17 years with both my parents – and on my own.”
“I used to have a violent relationship with my dad and at the young age of 14, my father went to prison. It had a huge impact in my life and my view of the community around me.”
“I left home, stayed on the streets, sofa surfed and used hostels. I spent many years doing wrong things and had bad behaviour around drugs and violence. I had been the target of the local police and was a person to stay away from in the community. I was seen as trouble.”
“Back in 2010 I was lucky enough to get my own council flat – but at the time I didn’t realise the importance of being a good tenant. As time went on and I progressed, I realised how I needed to behave to have a positive and secure life.”
In late 2016, Alana decided to free herself from drugs, and went onto be completely opiate free. One day, in September 2018, after visiting her local shop, Alana met a lovely tenant participation officer called Zoe who encouraged her to become part of the community and taught her how she could highlight the issues in the local area.
The rest, as they say, is history…
It was from attending the training and meeting community organiser Katrina, that I had the confidence to go out and talk to the local community.
“I jumped at the chance, it gave me a feeling of positivity that I was clean from drugs and was ready to move on and not become a burden to my community.”
“I attended the course and felt like an equal to everyone else. I was not working, and everyone was from different backgrounds and professions. I learnt the Community Organisers’ Framework and was shown how I could use it in many different ways. I soon decided I wanted to focus on loneliness in my area.”
Thanks to the support of Zoe and the Community First team, Alana now talks of the first time she truly felt someone believed in her: “It was from attending the training and meeting community organiser Katrina, that I had the confidence to go out and talk to the local community.”
“We began to door knock around Bishopdown listening to people’s opinions and concerns in the community. The first question I chose to ask was: ‘What do you love about Bishopdown and do you think Bishopdown has a community?’ as I personally didn’t feel there was.”
During the Christmas period, Alana had a great experience when visiting the local shop and the staff kindly provided her with a box was full of Christmas treats and various cleaning products.
“I started to feel different, more positive, more motivated,” she said.
This entire experience has made to feel like I belong and part of a team and network, which has been a huge help to me getting back into employment and engaging with the community in bigger groups.
Fast forward to February 2019, Alana attended the Listening Skills for Community Organising course with Community First and says it was a “very good and easy experience to understand as it showed me that although my ears are open, I may not always be listening.”
This then led Alana to attend a local Prison, where she spoke to a large group of men about her history; where she has come from; how she decided to change her life around – and where she’s now going.
“The most important part was explaining that you must love yourself before anyone else can. They received me well and had in depth conversations they were really interested in my story. As my confidence grows, I am learning new skills all the time.”
It is thanks to the Community Organisers’ Framework – and the team support at Community First that enabled Alana to feel the happiest she has been.
“When first meeting Zoe and Katrina and going on the training, I was in receipt of benefits, along with PIP, but since then I started a part time cleaning job and managed to secure my first full time job since being drug free. I started as a healthcare worker, which I love, and I continue to use the CO framework to benefit me and my residents in their community.”
If you would like to take part in an upcoming training session or organise a free session for your community group or organisation, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01380 722 475.