I come from a world of recovery and about four years ago I decided that I wanted to help people with substance misuse.

I became a mentor for Change, Grow, Live, we ran drop-ins in various locations across the city and I would help facilitate the drop-ins within supported accommodation projects, hostels, etc. When I was offered a 12-week internship by BHT I asked if I could do my placement at George Williams Centre. I had run several drop-ins there and I really liked the project, I liked the settings; I have suffered from anxiety before and I really appreciated the calming environment at George, the beautiful garden and pond are a particular favourite of mine. I also really liked the staff who were welcoming, kind, and friendly. There was just a nice atmosphere there which made me feel relaxed and like I could be myself.

Anna was the manager at George Williams Centre when I started my internship, and she ran the place with love.

I think this sort of leadership was what made the place so inclusive and inviting; the staff followed her lead, and everyone was just so kind. This is different to a lot of places I’ve worked; I know that there are all sorts of factors that make projects differ such as level of support, building constraints, location. However there really is a lot to be said for having good, passionate management who will go the extra mile to support their staff. This really instils a sense of worth in the staff and they too will go that extra mile to support each other and the clients.

After my internship finished, I was offered a weekend job at George Williams Centre which I happily accepted.

Again, Anna was so friendly and made sure the hours suited me, she was mindful that staff should have a good work-life balance and was flexible when we discussed my shifts. These little things mean so much, they are so personable and make you feel cared for. These little things made me feel motivated and valued and ultimately made me a better worker.

I still look forward to going to work. I feel like I am on a steady ship, and I have confidence in myself, my workplace, and my colleagues. Remi and the current management team are great, I don’t see them much as I work weekends, but they always go out of their way to help me out when I need it, all the staff do this for each other. The clients at George Williams Centre generally have good things to say about the place too, they feel calm there because the staff are calm. As I am a member of the staff team now, I always strive to be a better worker than I had as a client. I want to be the worker I wish I had! Someone who is understanding, who listens and who keeps their word. This to me is what inclusive environments are about, my experience sums it up. Inclusive environments are led from the top down with respect, care, and passion. They are places where we all know we belong; places we want to be and places where we feel motivated.

Ashley Graham