Life Restoration – A Volunteer’s Story

Two men, John and Ross, stand at the back of the Genesis Trust Furniture project van. One man, John, is inside tying down some furniture. The other man, Ross, stand outside the van and looks to the camera.

Meet Ross. He has been volunteering with Genesis for just over a year.  We asked him how he became part of the team at Genesis and what volunteering means to him. But this is more than just a story about volunteering, it is about his journey from addiction to life restoration.

Ross came to live in Bath four and a half years ago. His journey before that had been chequered. After school he had a variety of jobs, working in the building trade, on a dairy farm in Cornwall and he also spent many seasons as a holiday rep in France. Things then took a turn for the worse and he stopped working.  He entered a difficult phase of his life spending the next fifteen years suffering from addiction to alcohol and drugs – heroin, crack and strong lager. Witnessing tragedy amongst his friends and being ill, homeless and depressed, Ross realised that he needed to stop. He had been told that after the age of forty it’s harder to quit. He knew that he desperately had to change as the alternative was probably to die young.

To make a break from that life he moved from Bristol to Bath and managed to stop drinking and taking drugs. Then in six months he was able to stop his substitute medication as well. Ross took vocational courses through the job centre such as painting and decorating and stone masonry.  He took up Maths and English again with Adult Learning in Twerton. It was at a Jobs Fair in 2019 that he met Anthony and Caleb from Genesis Trust who were there promoting volunteering and trainee opportunities at the Furniture Project. “They seemed approachable” Ross said “and so I went to speak with them.”  And that was the start of his volunteering journey with Genesis Trust.

With the first lockdown in March the Furniture Project closed but in July, John, who manages our Foodbank warehouse asked Ross if he would be available to help with Foodbank tasks. He now regularly helps John on Tuesdays and Thursdays to sort the food that comes in. Before Christmas it was so busy that he also helped to pick up collections of food from the various supermarkets around the city. John says “It’s an enjoyable experience working with Ross in the Foodbank warehouse. He’s not only fit, strong and able but his willingness shines through. We have a good chat and a laugh too. He takes an interest in how the operation works and relishes in getting the job done.”

The Furniture Project is again active and busy so Ross is now working on both projects. The work with the Furniture is very physical and typically involves loading and un-loading furniture into the van and warehouse as well as then collecting furniture from donors and delivering to customers and clients. Anthony, our Furniture Project Manager feels that “Ross seems happiest when he is busy and he adds enormous value to furniture operations on a daily basis. He seems to really be getting his life back under control and is developing a strong set of life skills, handling success and adversity in an extremely mature and measured way. He can see a long term future with Genesis as it fits in with his personal lifestyle. Ross feels his effort and contribution with Genesis helps him to reconcile with being paid benefits. He is a pleasure to work with and a great ambassador for Genesis Trust.”

So, Genesis Trust benefits from Ross’s voluntary support but what does he get out of it?

“What I get out of volunteering is a great feeling of being able to help people less fortunate than myself. I love giving up my spare time to help other people. In my old lifestyle I was a selfish person but now I want to help. I also really like chatting with people and I have been to some quite interesting places I wouldn’t normally have had a chance to see.”

We are so grateful for the invaluable support that Ross gives Genesis Trust. He inspires us with how he has turned his life around and has restored his health and wellbeing with self-determination and his cheerful, caring and can-do attitude. We are so glad to be part of his journey.