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Last day at South West London Recovery College

As it says on the tin, 31 December 2013 was my last day working as a Peer Trainer at South West London Recovery College. I joined, as a student, in 2009 and took the “Taking Back Control: Planning Your Own Recovery” and “Telling Your Story” courses. The recovery process seemed to work for me and, my teaching and training talents being noted, the College offered me work as a sessional trainer. By 2010, I had undertaken the “Train The Trainer” training and let loose in my new guise on an unsuspecting world; or at least to that part of it in Southwest London mental health services.  I have also undertaken the Knowledge & Understanding Framework (KUF) for working with Personality Disorder, and have been delivering that training to staff at South West London & St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. A path of mentoring and tutoring that restarted through IT courses at Croydon College and Merton Adult Education’s art classes took pace and there was no stopping me. I blossomed through art and Imagine Mental Health eventually invited me to run their art sessions. This was the outwardly visible start of rebuilding my life, as I found I could use my previously untapped empathy and experiences to help others. Classes and exhibitions of artwork followed, giving confidence in both mine and others’ recovery. Later the MACS drug & alcohol project further extended belief in my artistic and mentoring skills, and lead to me volunteering for the online forum that Rethink Mental Illness provides. I put longstanding IT skills and online experience developed as coping mechanisms, to better and wider use. RethinkTalk is an online community for everyone affected by severe mental illness to exchange ideas, opinions, artwork, and support. My roles there as moderator, guide, advocate, activist, friend, mordant artist, and occasional wit, have hopefully also helped others explore their situations in a safer, more supportive environment. Other artistic adventures through The Green Canteen and – lately – Expressive Salon 57  CIC have allowed me to run art groups and curate exhibitions to fill gaps in service provision for people with more challenging life experiences, who tend to feel excluded from the mainstream.  Having moved to Lambeth from Merton, I also got involved in my local Mental Health Trust, helping SLaM in co-developing and co-delivering two courses or their Recovery College. 2013 started with me stepping down from a number of voluntary and community positions to focus  on another passion: English Language Teaching.  I finally took the CertTESOL course at St George International for which I had registered some years previously, achieving a B and 4 As.   This qualification allows me to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages.  At Easter, we went to Malta – the hub of English Language Teaching in the Mediterranean – to explore places to work; Tunisia’s political stability ruling that out as an alternate location.  Having sought out potential employers, I returned to the UK and took up a part-time role teaching with EC English in London.  A further visit to Malta for interviews led to work offers teaching there; which is to where I am heading in January 2014. The moving boxes are almost all packed, the cats are awaiting their fitness to fly certification, homes are being found for art equipment, I’m building a bonfire of the old diaries, and plans for Malta are all in place … … so this should be another interesting year!