Charlotte, a lifelong Hinckley resident, today finds herself in a place she could not have imagined a year ago, thanks to the support she has received through the Work Live Leicestershire (WiLL) Project.
Charlotte, a young woman in her 20’s, has had very different experiences to most people her own age. When she was 11, Charlotte’s parents made the difficult decision to remove her from her school and continue her education at home after discovering that Charlotte was being bullied. She completed her secondary education and even her GCSE’s while studying at home, with help from her mother.
After taking her GCSE’s Charlotte attended college to further her education. She subsequently enrolled on a music course at North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College.
As Charlotte had expected, this proved to be very challenging for her given that she had not spent that much time with or been around her own peers for many years.
Charlotte has also had other challenges to face. When she was 3 years of age, Charlotte was diagnosed with hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus is when a build-up of fluid in the brain occurs. The excess fluid produced leads to increased pressure on the brain, which can cause damage to the brain tissue.
This meant that Charlotte, has had to have a series of brain surgeries – the only treatment available for hydrocephalus, affecting her mobility. Charlotte was only able to get around in a wheelchair for the first 3 months, and then crutches for 6 months following surgery. Recovery, for Charlotte, has been a long and often difficult process - physically, emotionally and mentally. One that she is still going through.
It was at this point that Charlotte came across the WiLL Project, when the team visited North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College.
“I made contact with the WiLL Project hoping that they could help me to get some work experience while I completed my course”, states Charlotte.
Charlotte signed up to the project in the summer of 2019 and was given tailored one-to-one support from WiLL keyworker Beverley, who said: “When Charlotte signed up, it was clear that she needed to build her confidence. She was very quiet and shy, and found it difficult to engage with people.
"Charlotte admitted to feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem and depression, and clearly needed support to help her break down some of the barriers that she had experienced in her young life."
With encouragement from Beverley, Charlotte signed up to the many courses that are available on the WiLL Project via delivery partner, the Workers Educational Association (WEA).
“The courses were fantastic. I took a number of courses which helped me improve my well being and personal development, and also allowed me to improve my digital skills”, states Charlotte.
During the Covid 19 Lockdown period, the WiLL Project continued to provide 1-2-1 support to its participants – virtually and over the telephone. The Lockdown period was particularly difficult for Charlotte as she was classed as ‘vulnerable’ and needed to shield for several months. This had a massive impact on her already-fragile mental health.
“The support that I continued to receive from WiLL and Beverley was particularly vital during this period as it meant that I was able to have contact with my Keyworker regularly and still receive 1-2-1 support. Without it, I would have felt more isolated and anxious”, states Charlotte.
Charlotte continued to attend the training courses which were delivered virtually over Zoom. “The more courses that I went on, the less daunting they became, and the more confident I became.
"All the courses were delivered in a safe and supportive manner – with helpful tips and suggestions relevant to work experience”, states Charlotte.
“They also allowed me the opportunity to have a reason to get up in the morning while I was shielding, as well as becoming part of a wider community.”
The skills that Charlotte gained through the WiLL Project and training courses gave her the confidence not only to secure a voluntary position as a youth worker – something that she has always been drawn to - but also to set up her own website.
Charlotte’s website offers and provides support to other ‘high risk’ and ‘vulnerable’ people who are shielding and may be experiencing feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation.
Through her website, Charlotte has been able to create a community by bringing people together, many of them her own age. In addition she has been able to organise events and raise funds for the Charity ‘Shine’ – a charity especially close to Charlotte’s heart. Shine provides specialist support to anyone living with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus, as well as to parents, families and carers.
“I never imagined, in my wildest fantasy, a year ago that I would have ever had the confidence or the know how to be able to design my own website; be part of a community that I helped to create as well as being able to raise funds for a charity that I care so deeply about”, states Charlotte.
For WiLL Keyworker, Beverley: “It has been a pleasure and an honour to have had the opportunity to work with Charlotte these past few months. To have been able to support and guide her on this journey. I have been so impressed with her tenacious and positive attitude towards achieving her goals. I am so proud of everything that she has achieved”.
Charlotte cannot speak highly enough about the WiLL Project, adding: “I am so grateful to my keyworker, Beverley, for her counsel, support and help.
"During these very strange times, the WiLL Project made it possible for me to continue receiving support that I desperately needed. I feel that I have blossomed and grown into a completely different person to the person that I was.”
“I still have some not so good days, but Beverley reminds me of everything that I have achieved, and how far I have come. My aim is to be able to work as a stage or events manager some day, and I am hopeful that I will be able to achieve that too.”
(NB – You can find out more about Charlotte’s website and the Charity ‘Shine’ by visiting: https://charlottewalton199.wixsite.com/mysite)