Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a champion on the U-turn phase 3 work-readiness programme. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a champion on the U-turn programme.

“Everyone falls, the only difference is champions get up,” Matshona Dhliwayo

The first time I read Dhliwayo’s quote was when I received my Christmas gift from U-turn (all the Champions received Christmas gifts with a personal message from their caseworkers). This quote resonated with me, and my story as a Champion at U-turn.

On the U-turn journey I have learned not to focus on the falls but rather on the progress I have made in getting back up again.

I love how, as Champions, at every milestone there is a celebration on the Phase 3 Work-readiness programme, we celebrate every time a Champion steps over the line from Foundation Stage, and again as they progress from Growth Stage to Exit Stage. The ultimate celebration is our graduation into Phase 4 independent employment. Each time the Champion is honoured with speeches from the caseworkers, fellow Champions and U-turn staff, as well as delicious  cakes and snacks spread beautifully on the table.

As a Champion I am reminded that every milestone I reach needs to be celebrated. There might not be cake or speeches, but I can mark the moment in my own special way. For example, after I moved into my new home, I wrote a poem “No more homelessness”. Here are a few lines from the poem:

God gave me the keys to my own Buckingham Palace.

Opening my flat for the first time felt like I was back in London.

Walking the corridors of Buckingham Palace.

Having the keys to my own home is better than seeing Queen Elizabeth II’s jewels and throne room.

Now I have a place to enter the throne room of God without limits.

As I reflect on the past two months I only have gratitude towards God and U-turn. First I moved into my own apartment and then I became employed.

What is amazing about being on Exit stage is that when you are employed and have your own place, the support does not end. Exit Stage is the safety net for new beginnings. I have worked with my case worker and counsellor during the Foundation and Growth stage on past hurts and new coping mechanisms. Now I have to apply what I have learned.

I see previous sages as the training wheels for the Champion to learn to ride the bicycle of life again. At Exit stage the training wheels come off but the champion does not yet ride into the sunset. They maybe ride around the block of opportunities with their Life Coach watching from a distance,ready to assist if they need guidance.

As I now ride my own bicycle of life towards graduation into independent employment, I have to remember to be patient with myself. Sometimes I have to stop myself from comparing my life and what I had before homelessness with what I currently don’t have. I am not homeless anymore and that is an achievement. Even if I don’t have everything I would want, I have my own apartment. I have privacy, after two years of yearning for it. Every morning I prepare to go to work, and I pray that God will bless the works of my hands and give me the wisdom to do my work. I thank God that I know there is support for me. I thank God that I work with a team that helps me along the way, when the ride gets a little wobbly. 

Join me next week as I continue my journey on Exit Stage.