Jenny Spink: an inspiration

Every now and then, you get to meet someone who really opens your eyes. Someone who makes you realise that, however bad life may look at times, things CAN get better – and those with the will to change their world can do so.

RoSPA takes work experience students from all walks of life, and they all have something special to offer. But Jenny made a real impression when I met her at the recent CSEC/LASER meeting. Despite her nerves (or mild terror, as I’m sure she would correct me) she gave a first-class presentation about her work with Fairbridge and the project she undertook while working with us at RoSPA.

I asked Jenny if she would write me a short article for the blog about her life, how Fairbridge helped her, and what she did while she was working with us. Here is part of her story:

My name is Jenny Marie Spink. I am 24 years old. I was born in Birmingham and I have now moved to West Brom.

I have been through a rough lifestyle with mental health issues and had no confidence or self motivation. I was then put into contact with Fairbridge by my CPN [community psychiatric nurse] in 2009. I wasn’t sure whether this would work for me as it involved mixing with groups my own age.

I was bullied at school and was afraid to face other people in case it happened again. I had developed a stammer aged 18 due to past experiences and I was scared that people would take the piss out of the way I spoke.

During my access course I felt safe because I was in a safe environment and with people with similar issues that I could relate to. I realised we were all in the same boat and made some good friends that I still speak to, to this day, even though they have now moved on from Fairbridge. The whole experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, doing things I’ve never done before like mountain climbing and rock climbing. At the end of my access course I felt that I had achieved something and faced my fear of meeting new people.

Through my time at Fairbridge I have built up confidence and self esteem. I also faced a fear of sailing on open water when I sailed on Spirit for six days. It was an amazing experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have also had opportunities in training to be a youth worker, working with people from all backgrounds.

I was first introduced to an organisation called RoSPA when Fairbridge young people, including me, wanted to put on a talent show event and awards evening. We went to RoSPA to find out about risk assessments and how it takes place on venues.

The Youth Liaison Worker, Cassius, asked me about my interests and I told him that I was interested in sport and leisure. He said that he offers placements in the leisure department and asked if I wanted to do a work placement to gain more experience. I applied for the position mentioning that I had a particular interest in water safety due to an incident that happened when I was younger involving a friend who nearly drowned.

I had a formal interview for the placement and had to wear a suit. I didn’t sleep the night before as I was too nervous. I was interviewed by Cassius and Nathan, who was to be my direct line manager. I had to prepare and give a five-minute presentation on water safety. I was nervous as I had never had to do one before. It went really well and I got full marks for my presentation.

In October 2010, I completed a two week, full-time work placement at RoSPA researching child drowning abroad. I really enjoyed it, it was a great experience being back in a work environment and it made me more aware of how parents and young people are unaware of how many drownings occur. I was the first person in Europe to carry out this research. The research is now being used in schools making children aware of how to stay safe in and around water.

Now I have a different outlook on life and have pushed myself out of the world I was in when I thought life couldn’t go on anymore.

I am now currently a youth worker at Fairbridge and a volunteer at Safeside and I am hoping to become a full time, paid youth worker in the future.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Fairbridge and the opportunities I have had to put my life back on track.

Jenny Spink

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