I wanted to use my own knocks in life and skills to help women with mental health needs and those fleeing domestic abuse.

My name is Jan: I am a mother, sister, army brat, avid people watcher, true Arsenal supporter, survivor and a Support Worker…

I lead an exciting life but there was definitely a time when I’d never had said that. My path has been heavily influenced by my own experiences, some more traumatic than others but all have led me on a journey of survival, which allowed me to see that I am a true survivor of Life - my life.

For years, I believed I was a bad person and not ‘good enough’. These messages came from many directions. I suffered abuse at both my own hands and at the hands of others, yet I still believe that no experience is a negative one. We can all learn and grow from our experiences, which I try to help those I support see for themselves.

I’ve had to let go of the unhelpful messages and trust my own values and not those of others. I believe having been able to do this for myself, helps me make a difference: allowing people to flourish into someone they see as ‘good enough’.

Before embarking on my journey with Llamau, I trained as a Teacher, Art Therapist, Psychiatric Nurse and Counsellor. Ten years ago, I walked through Llamau’s door as a tutor with the Step into Education programme and I’ve never looked back. I worked with an incredible team and helped support young people to recognise their potential.

I wanted to use my own knocks in life and skills to help women with mental health needs and those fleeing domestic abuse so I now work for women’s services.

As a Support Worker, I play ‘a part’ in someone’s life. Whether that part is deemed big or small doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that whilst I’m supporting someone through their tough times, they feel validated and heard.

Over the years, I’ve worked with so many people but of course some will live with me forever. I remember one young woman who struggled with an eating disorder and family dynamics. We had good days and bad and we didn’t always agree with each other but I remained consistent, open and honest and I never promised anything. My skills in teaching came in useful as she tried to obtain the grades for University. We learned together. I felt so proud the day she told me she’d been accepted onto her University course. She continues to flourish to this day.

I was also very privileged to help a woman who’d fled Syria, get her children back after being apart for four years. Her husband had been killed in an uprising and her mother was very elderly but she’d managed to escape to try and find them all a safe home. It took two years of determination and heartache but eventually her two children were able to join her here and settle happily. I’ll never forget her thanks and just seeing her embrace her children with so much love the day they were all reunited.

I absolutely love what I do and feel that my own experiences help me to connect with those I work with on a deeper level. It’s a privilege to walk alongside someone when they’re discovering who they are and what they can achieve.

When I’m told ‘you get me’ or ‘you don’t judge me’ it makes me feel that I am playing an important part in someone’s life. I am no better: I am just different.

The women I work with are at different stages in their life, so their needs differ but deep down they all need warmth, understanding and time to process what’s happened to them. I believe that my greatest skill is the ability to just be myself and be real. I should also say that I’ve finally figured out how to use humour to its best advantages and break down barriers.

That humour definitely comes in handy on a day where the phone is constantly ringing and you’re trying to offer support, complete paperwork and frantically waving a tea towel at the third fire alarm of the morning. My colleagues are amazing: we laugh together, moan together, support each other and sometimes cry together but I wouldn’t change a thing!