A week in the life of Sue
in the Community
Sue became homeless soon after she got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as ME). She was forced to spend a year in bed from 2002-3 and had lost her job and home (she could no longer pay her mortgage). She came to Caring Hands for help, and now she has somewhere to live. She continues to come to Caring Hands to give back to others. She still suffers from CFS, but has learnt to cope. Here she tells us what a typical week in her life is like:
“This has always been Worship Day for me, ever since I was seven and the vicar knocked on our door and invited us to church. Much to my Mum’s disgust, I wanted to go – so the Vicar called for me every Sunday and I went along. I now go to King’s Church in either Gillingham or Chatham, have lunch there, then rest afterwards to set myself up for the week.
“I come to Caring Hands for lunch – I look forward to that because I’m not able to shop and cook for myself due to the CFS, so getting a nutritious hot meal fulfils a really basic need. I used to go shopping and wonder what I’d come in for – CFS is physically draining, and I can’t waste what little energy I’ve got. Caring Hands is not just a drop-in centre, where I go to get a meal. They make appointments, take calls for me, and remind me when I’ve got to go places – it’s my lifeline, an integral part of my support network. And because I have been through homelessness, I have empathy with others there, and offer them support in turn. I was served, and now I serve, and that’s how it should be.
“On Monday afternoons I’m currently taking the METcic course in maths skills in the workplace at Caring Hands (thanks to a grant from Kent Community Foundation) – it’s quite intense so I need a rest after that!
“After lunch, I go to a prayer and Bible Study Group at King’s Church, Gillingham in the evening. At the moment we are studying gospel of Mark with Pastor Chris Gill – it brings it to life, we discuss the stories and see how they apply to our lives today.
“Wednesday starts with breakfast before the METcic course at Caring Hands. I’m really enjoying the Action Planning and Employability Skills. The discussions really bring out people’s personalities – this week we were talking about job-hunting and figuring out who you are as a person and what you want out of a job, based on the book ‘What Colour is my Parachute?’. We were talking about our likes and dislikes in work colleagues: what drives you nuts about your workmates, and what kind of people you work best with, what are the traits in people that make good leaders. It gives us an insight into other personalities on the course – how they think, and what they feel about things.
“Lunch is at Caring Hands, and every fortnight in the afternoon there is Project Creative Hands – an art class run with Nucleus Arts that takes place at Caring Hands.
“Thursdays is games day at Caring Hands – we play card games or board games. It’s fascinating watching what people’s reactions are like when they lose. Staff and volunteers join in. One of the volunteers, Pria, brought this balloon-puncturing game. You build an apex and put a balloon inside. Then you take turns to throw a dice and turn the probes which go into the balloon, then see who is first to burst it. We had real fun with it.
“Friday I have lunch at Caring Hands as usual, then I usually rest in the afternoon.
“I rest all day on Saturdays, which means real rest. No radio, no TV, no distractions. I read the Bible and sleep. Caring Hands is closed so I tend to eat snacks (CFS means I can’t concentrate long enough to cook something).
“It may sound a quiet life, but compared to what it was before when I could literally do nothing, it is brilliant. I have learnt patience, tolerance, and always to see the positive angle. There always is one, no matter how bad the situation, even if you can’t make sense of it at the time. I have a very peaceful life. I’ve got a bed, a roof over my head, and every day I get fed – that’s a blessing.”
Opening Times: Monday - Friday | 9am - 4pm
15a-16 New Road Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6BA.