Caroline (a Barnwood Trust Grantee) sitting at her house and smiling.

It started with a washing machine

When Caroline applied for a grant from Barnwood Trust for a washing machine in 2017 she couldn’t have expected it would take her on a journey from art courses, mindful-photography sessions to a voluntary role feeding alpacas!

Abi, a Barnwood Trust Welcomer, sat down with Caroline to talk about the journey and what it means to her.

Caroline: I heard about the Barnwood Trust through the Women’s Centre in Gloucester. I had spent 5 months in treatment and then I spent a year in a dry house through the Nelson Trust before getting my own home. My support worker at the time, Dani, told me about Barnwood Trust. At first, I didn’t know what they were capable of – I thought they were just for grants.

The first grant was for a washing machine – we’re quite a way from the launderette here! Then I had some funding to get some furniture; a dining table, chairs and a carpet. Then I met up with Abi, the Welcomer, and we talked. She told me about some opportunities to do some voluntary work, so then I met Emma from Fair Shares and helped out with Friday Walks with the elderly. I also did… well it was something really mad… I went to see some alpacas!

I knew some people from Fair Shares and through them I met someone who had alpacas – they needed someone to feed them. Someone else volunteered to feed the alpacas too, so I managed to get a lift there with them.

An alpaca in a field.

So then I applied for a grant for a laptop – it has really helped me. I’m getting used to it now and doing more emails. I went to the library with the laptop and did a course with a really nice lady who showed me bits and bobs. That was really cool.

Because I was doing some therapy, which I knew would be quite heavy, we looked at some college courses that I might like to do and we found a floristry course. I found the application for the floristry course quite difficult – it fell through but I ended up doing a drawing course instead which was quite cool. I also did a course of mindful-photography and I really enjoyed that. I had a lot going on mentally, so just going there to have something to do was good, there’s no stress about it. The lady is really nice – I’m actually going back to do another one.

I’ve also been given the opportunity to look to do something else more vocational, maybe social care or child care for the future. I’ve done some mentoring for the Door Project too, which was a 3-month course.

All of these things I wouldn’t have done ever in my life, and now I’ve done loads of things. It’s about the commitment – turning up and the experience and the confidence I gain.

Abi introduced me to the mental health coaching group at Barnwood Trust. We had a coffee in Tesco’s and I didn’t really know what the mental health coaching group was, to be fair, but then I went there and I was nervous and anxious but I managed to meet the other people. The second and third time I went I got it and I actually felt really comfortable. That was one of the times that I found myself feeling most comfortable in myself.

It was something to do with like-minded people and through taking part in all of these things I have met lots of people, so that’s really good.

I definitely think things have changed since that first grant. I’ve got support from Abi, my Welcomer – I thought I was just going to a apply for a washing machine but I’ve found myself with support and lots of opportunities. And every time I do something my confidence grows. I have done more stuff in the last 3 years that I have done in my whole life. I sometimes forget – compared to where I was at, to where I am now – I’m a completely different person!

We offer grants for disabled people and people with mental health problems living in Gloucestershire. We have three funding schemes for individuals; the Wellbeing Fund, the Opportunities Award & the Family Leisure Grant. To find out more about our grants programmes, visit our grants pages here