Well Updates

A Volunteer’s View

I first came into “The Well” back in September ’09. I instantly loved the people I was working with, volunteers and clients.

I can still remember my first client, a gentleman who wanted to change electric companies. I used to think that was stressful!

Returning to The Well in October last year, was fantastic. It is like a big family here, and I felt instantly that I really never wanted to leave.  So with encouragement from Rhoda and a few others, I started finding out about the possibility of starting an internship at “The Well” and here we are today!

Since October, I have had some very interesting people to work with. One man came to me because his computer had been accusing him of being a terrorist, and he couldn’t understand why.  It was a virus!

To the couple who were owed money from their bankrupt lawyer. After being asked by one of the “big men” (who was very nice, I hasten to add) at the Scottish Law Society, if I was their new lawyer –  he was slightly surprised to find out I wasn’t – we finally managed to secure quite a sizeable cheque, plus compensation for them!

The sense of satisfaction from this job is something else, but the other side of that, is the connection you make with some people, which leaves you wanting to cry over what some are going through. Other times though you can be left pulling your hair out from the language barriers/cases that go round in circles/and replacing passport forms 3 times in 20 minutes because you’re using pen, and you weren’t given correct information the first time!

Anyway, I better stop my rambling and get back to work. Otherwise I’ll be here all day talking about how wonderful “The Well” is. One thing I do know though is, I wouldn’t be loving this job half as much, if the people I worked with weren’t  so wonderful!

 

 

How things change.

In 2004 when the EU accession countries were allowed to travel freely across Europe for work, many Slovakians arrived in Govanhill, many have settled here and made Glasgow their home.

Relations between the settled Asian community and the more recent Slovakian community, have at times been very strained – with neither really understanding each other, and both barely tolerating the other.

This morning I was on Allison Street – two streets up from The Well.  The Asian Bookshop was the predecessor of The Well, but was sold and The Well opened.  I could see it looked different and had flags in the window, and on closer inspection observed that the front half of the shop is now an Eastern European grocery shop, with The Asian Book Shop occupying a very small corner at the back.

I guess the current economic climate has a way of bringing people together, who would otherwise not even speak to each other.

 

The joys of English

Sometimes people think that they have enough English not to bring a friend to interpret for them. I have to say this happens most often with the Eastern European Centre Users more than any other group.

This morning I was trying to help a lady who had not received her tax credits yet. After two lengthy phonecalls to Tax Credits, two of which I asked for a Slovakian interpreter for, I was beginning to think this was a case for the MP and was looking up his surgeries times etc.

Then I tried Tax Credits again and decided to speak myself this time – oh if only I had done that the first time!!! He told me that his office couldn’t deal with it as it had been passed unto another office for further information.

I asked her about this, had she received a letter from them? Yes! She then produced a letter from her bag. Received on the 13th February. She had come here and was told what she had to do about it, but hadn’t done it, and now just dead frustrated and angry that she hadn’t got any money yet.

I had already been with her for almost an hour, and if she had just given me that letter at the beginning, she could have been out of here in less than 10 minutes.

That was followed by an Afghan gentleman who was adamant that the City Council had the dates wrong on a letter they had sent him. I asked him to bring the copy of his form in – sure enough the City Council had the date right.  He then tried to blame us – after all we had filled in the form. I said to him “The question was when did you start renting the house? and you have said in 2003” He said “Oh I thought it meant when did I move in.”

Then I had another Eastern European couple.

“Are either you or your husband carers for anyone with a disability?”

“No”

“Are any of your children disabled?”

“No”

“Why does your husband not claim Job Seeker’s Allowance?

“He cares for disabled son.”

……….

 

 

 

Now we know.

In the second half of last year we changed the way we recorded the information about the centre users.

What an interesting revelation that has been!

For example we now know that in the last quarter of last year 65% of the centre users came to us by Word of Mouth – which is after all the highest recommendation. Only 4% came because they had been passing and so dropped in. I think the area we need to work on is encouraging other agencies to refer people to us – this is currently less than 1% of our total.

The ratio of men to women coming to The Well is very close, with the men edging the lead with 43% to the women’s 42%, and children accounting for 15%. I often smile to myself, as children who have been coming to The Well for years with their parents, then start coming in their own right, we help the 2nd generation of Well users:-) 

The largest ethnic group who used The Well last year, was once again the Pakistani Community with a total of 56% being Ethnically Pakistani. The rest of the sub-continent has been overtaken by those from the Middle East, now 8% of the total. Eastern Europeans are now easily the second largest user group of The Well with 25%.  This is probably a true reflection of the area and just how much it has changed in recent years.

The vast majority of our clients live in the G41 & G42 postcode (81%), but it’s also clear folks travel to The Well from all over the city and indeed beyond. 

So yes it’s made for fascinating reading – at least for me! And it all goes to show just how much people totally depend on The Well.

 

 

October update

Some churches joined in on Samosa Sunday, and so raised the profile of The Well in their congregations. The feedback from the various congregations who took part in Samosa Sunday has been very positive, with many people saying that they now have a greater understanding of what The Well is all about.

So far I know that well over £2000 was raised from the various offerings, so that is encouraging.

Recently in The Well we’ve had an increase in the number of Slovakians using our service. Crossroads always ran a drop-in for the Slovakian community twice a week, in the office next door to us – but that has been shut since the beginning of September. I’m not sure if it is going to reopen, and I know we certainly feel the challenge of a having a whole different language group and culture to deal with. We’ve been helping Slovakians for many years, but on a very small scale, and always the people who came to us before, could speak English, but the folks who are coming to us now have got virtually no English. There is so little you can do if someone can’t even tell you their date of birth!

The Bubbles Parent and Toddler group, which meets in Govanhill Free Church on a Wednesday afternoon, desperately needs more regular help. We are grateful that Nikki is willing to give her time, whilst she is looking for a job, but we need more women – if you know anyone who could help please do get in touch with us.

Today I met an Iranian artist, his work is beautiful and he has some displays coming up in November. If you have time to check out his web-site, I’m sure he would appreciate it:

www.aziz-anzabi.com

Ok I think that’s it from here!

Frustrations

About four years ago a man first came to The Well very worried about an apparent overpayment that he had received from Income Support.

We followed it up on his behalf, and he was eventually able to produce evidence that he had gone to Job Centre Plus when he had said he had.  Job Centre Plus confirmed that this should close the case.

Life could now resume for the family without the stress of a supposed over-payment.

In March of this year I could hardly believe it, he had received a letter from them demanding immediate payment for the overpayment!

We have done everything that we can think of, including writing to the Secretary of State for DWP, but so far to no avail. They admit that he has the evidence that he went to the Job Centre Plus to discuss his benefits – but not that he informed them of the change in circumstances. They continually refuse him an appeal, saying he is out of time.

Finally last week, after several lengthy conversations with the debt department they agreed he could submit an appeal and they would consider whether they would allow an appeal or not. I looked back over all the information and discovered that they had changed his name and said he informed them on the 3rd June 2007 of this change of circumstances and they continued to pay him until the 25th June.

But the really interesting thing is that the 3rd June 2007 was a Sunday . . .

I await the next stage with bemusement.

 

“We did it!”


 

We watched the weather forecast avidly for about 4 days, and decided that there was little difference between any of the days, and so decided the challenge would start on Tuesday 19th July.

The team met for a cooked breakfast at 9.30 – it was a lovely morning  and our team was made up of the two of us, Malcolm & Jim – who did the driving, yes we needed two vans, and David and between us we had 4 dogs!. The dogs all made friends with each other in our garden and then we set off for Fort William. The weather forecast was very mixed for the next 24 hours – but certainly when we left Glasgow it was beautiful. We stopped at the Green Wellie and I even decided I needed to buy new sunglasses, as I had lost my old ones and I just might need them. (How wrong can you be?!)

 

Finally we arrived at Fort William and that was it – the start of The Three Peaks! At 3.30pm we set off and the three guys joined us for the first part, with the four dogs were eager to get going! After about 1/2 hour we parted company, and Grace, Jess, Tazi & I continued on our upward trek of Ben Nevis. (The tourist track)

The view disappeared at about 2000 feet and we walked in the cloud for the remainder of the climb. The top was bitterly cold and although we took a quick lunch we really didn’t want to hang around.

After so long of in the mist, it was lovely to finally catch sight of something other than white cloud!

We were delighted to arrive back in the car park at 8.30 – 5 hours after we left it. I said to Grace “both you and I know that I would not have done this in 5 hours if I hadn’t been with you – my natural time would have been 6 hours, and yours probably 4, so 5 hours is a good compromise!”

Coming off Ben Nevis in 5 hours meant we had extra time to relax, to go into Fort William and try to find toilets and then get something to eat. The public loos were locked and the Chippy had run out of chips! We did eventually succeed – and then started the drive down to The Cobbler. The intention was that we would sleep for a few hours – but I think the most that happened was that we dozed. Tazi was totally unsettled and I think Jess was the only one who managed to sleep!

We had set our alarm to get up at 3.00am and planned to have a cup of tea before we headed up the hill. The midges made sure that didn’t happen:( I now know what the plagues must felt like. So off we went at 3.20am. The fine drizzle meant that we were wearing our waterproofs, and soon felt like we were walking in our own personal sauna – but because of the midges we couldn’t stop to take them off. No fabric could cope with those conditions! I think it’s fair to say that both Grace & I felt fairly low at that point – we realised we were in for a muggy day, and there would just be nothing pleasant about it at all.  It was truly a challenge, and possibly without the commitment of doing it for The Well we may well have given up and gone home.

Finally after the forest we were free of the midges and able to be released from the saunas.

Tazi has a very strong sense of smell, and before I could stop him, he picked up the scent of a deer or something, and disappeared over the river and into the mist. When he is so focused he doesn’t even hear his name being called, and for 10 minutes we had no idea where he was or if he would come back. He finally did, much to my relief, but that meant he had to stay on the lead the rest of the time – just to add to the challenge!

I have now climbed The Cobbler 3 times and 3 times I’ve had exactly the same non-view.

 

I also remain one of the people who has never got to the very top of The Cobbler. Don’t know if I ever will! (For those who don’t know, you have to climb out on the rock behind Grace and through what is called ‘the eye of the needle’ – not sure I have that head for heights, there’s quite a drop from that cliff.)

We arrived back in the car park at 7.00am and woke the guys up – well one of them was already up. As we were changing out of our wet clothes (again), Malcolm very kindly cooked breakfast for us:-) What a welcome surprise that was. Thanks again Malcolm.

The drive round to Rowardennan was too short and before we knew it we were ready to start the final peak. Tazi was banned from Ben Lomond – as it is usually the sheep capital of the world!

Grace & I had decided that we would allow ourselves 5 hours to do Ben Lomond – we were tired from climbing two hills already, and no sleep. We set off at 10.10 and soon found ourselves in  . . . . low cloud cover.  One of the real wee pluses was meeting 2 guys who had been told what we were doing, and they stopped to encourage us – that helped keep me going! At one stage I was literally forcing one foot in front of the other, but I knew the end was close, and then it was the final ascent. Together we walked to the Trig point, and I turned to Grace and said: “We did it!” Grace replied “Yes, but we still have to go down!” I said “I don’t care, I don’t have to climb another metre up – down is fine!” Grace took out her shelter (‘hotel’ as she calls it) and we had a nice cosy lunch at the top.

 

After 20 mins we started our descent, I could finally enjoy seeing other people trudging up through the miserable conditions – knowing that was all behind us. I had found my extra reserves and told Grace “I know this is not true, but right now I feel as though I could climb another hill!” Grace’s response? She laughed, we both knew this was impossible!

We arrived back in the midge infested car park at 2.30 exactly! We had completed the three peaks challenge in 23 hours to the minute!! We had walked through drizzle, and cloud for 13 hours. We had climbed a total of 3,202 metres (10505 feet). Finally I understood why nearly all of the training we had done had been in the most appalling conditions – for at least on the day we were not surprised by them.

We probably ended up choosing the worst 24 hour period of the week and I really felt sorry for the three guys, they were more or less trapped in the vans because of the midges, but bless them they didn’t complain, but it also meant that our plans for a bar-b-que and celebration at the bottom just didn’t happen, and after a quick goodbye we set off for home, a nice long bath and bed! It’s not often I sleep round the clock, but that night I did.

So that’s it! It’s over – and I now feel that I’m fit enough to do it!

Thank you to Malcolm, Jim and David for being our willing support team. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Thank you to Grace for agreeing to do it with me – as you know I learnt so much from you! And also to Interserve Scotland for giving Grace the time to do the challenge with me.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored us – your support kept us going, and made it worthwhile. (At the time of writing over £3000 has been pledged – I will update the final total when I know it.)

Lots of people sent us messages of good wishes, before, during and after the challenge –  thank you, and to all who prayed for us, we were very much aware of that help too.

We are both thankful to God for giving us the strength and well-being to be able to take on such a challenge.

 

Bog walk

Grace and I decided for our final serious training before the big day we would do the Campsie Fells – the whole ridge, all 15 miles of it.

This has been on Grace’s bucket list for years, and finally she had someone mad enough to agree to do it with her.

We met at the Glengoyne distillery at 7.30am (I’m so looking forward to NOT having to get up at 6.00 on Saturday mornings!) parked one car there and happily drove to the Tak Ma Doon Road – I was blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.

Jess & Tazi seemed to have learned the importance of not just running off from the beginning of the day and conserving at least a little of their energy!

Not long after we reached our first peak, there was no path and we arrived in tussock capital of the world. All the training guides for doing treks or three peaks said you should leave a path and try to walk over tussocks, as this would increase your stamina. Well Saturday must have increased our stamina infinitely! I lost track of the time, but I think out of the 7 hours and 15 miles that we walked, 5 hours and at least 10 miles were over tussocks, heather and up and down peat bogs. Gortex boots are brilliant, but even they could not hold out against the bogs, and we both ended up with exceedingly wet feet. (Maybe the fact that at times we sunk up to our knees, might have had something to do with it!!)

Grace excelled herself at the end, I chose the easy option of walking round Dumgoyne, Grace & Jess ran over it! Indeed they arrived back at the river just about 5 mins after us. My only consolation was that she did not arrive before me!

On arrival at the car, we realised that we had left our nice dry socks and shoes in the other car which was parked 15 miles away. Ah well never mind, at least we were on solid ground.

I now know just how tired I’m going to be when we do the Three Peaks for real. I’m just glad that we are doing three Scottish peaks and not the official three peaks.

The next update will be the last one. We have no more training planned, just now hoping for dry weather on the 19th & 20th July.

 

Arran – Memory Marker

Grace & I had set Monday 4th July to do a full day’s training for The Three Peaks.  On Sunday Grace sent me a text and said “Would it be too radical to go to Arran to do Goatfell and rest of ridge?” Exceptional weather calling for serious memory marker?!”

I agreed that was a great idea. So we met at Central Station on Monday morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed – and that was just the two dogs:)

Fantastic day, and off we set from Brodick to walk up to Glen Rosa, up the valley and unto the ridge. The two dogs were in serious doggy heaven – no sheep to worry about and they could just run, and they did.

We climbed up over Beinn Nuis, unto Beinn Tarsuin, where we had our lunch, and on a very steep slope, poor Jess was sliding down the grassy slope at one stage. From Beinn Tarsuin we made our way to Cir Mhor.

Getting to Cir Mhor took us much longer than we had expected, lots of scrambling and as Grace says “technical walking” – which I’m not used to. We found the path off Cir Mhor, or at least thought we had! The huge rock slabs of over 2 meters high had other ideas, and eventually we had to give up, make our way back up and find an alternative route of Cir Mhor. I wished I’d had my camera to hand at one stage, as I helped Tazi up to Grace, who then lifted him up. He must have been terrified as he was gripping unto to her for dear life! His front paws round her neck and his back paws round her waist! I think even if she hadn’t been holding him, he would have stayed on himself anyway!

This wee delay meant that we could not make it from the Saddle back to Brodick in time for the last ferry. Oops. Now there was just the challenge of walking back to Brodick and trying to find somewhere to stay that would take two dogs. The Glenartney Guest House had a twin room, and willingly allowed Jess & Tazi to stay too. What a relief! They even provided food for the two dogs.

We virtually ran back down the hill to the wee restaurant and managed to get in for the last food order at 9.00!

We certainly made memories that day!! And were so thankful for the kindness of the guest house owners, we had to leave before breakfast was served on Tuesday, but they left us all we needed for a cold breakfast before we got the ferry back to Ardrossan at 8.20.

I never appreciated a toothbrush so much as on Tuesday morning.

After I got back I looked up some of the guides of the ridge that we had done and read this:

“Arran’s 4 Corbetts are sufficiently close to one another to be climbed together, but Goatfell is popular as a single peak and is described separately.  The Three remaining peaks lie on a long winding ridge that starts with Beinn Nuis (729m) then goes N to Beinn Tarsuinn, Cir Mhor and finally Caisteal  Abhail. Cir Mhor is a more comact hill with with three ridges, NNW to Caisteal Abhail, WSW to join the A Chir ridge of Beinn Tarsuinn and E to a bealach. (The Saddle). All three ridges are well served by paths, but the descent from Cir Mhor to the saddle is very steep and should not be attempted.”

 

More training

After a month of not being to get to the hills for one reason or another (torrential rain, conferences, injuries, ill-health, other commitments – to name but some of the reasons), Grace & I finally ignored the depression of another wet Saturday in the west of Scotland, and got back into training. We spent Saturday afternoon on the Campsie Fells. Grace being Grace, we couldn’t possibly go up the gentle slope rising from Crow Road carpark – no we went up the front of the Camspies – approached from the Lennoxtown Road. At times it felt we should really be using ropes!

Being on The Campsies on a ‘driech’ day gave Grace the opportunity to teach me some navigational skills – as we trudged our way through bogs and slime. Reaching the intended fence on virtually a  straight line, using clumps of grass to guide, gives a great sense of achievement.

The two dogs, as ever, did at least 4 times the work that we did – and both thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon.

Psychologically it was good to get back unto the hills, even just to give us the boost that we needed, after a month of really restricted training.

We decided to move the challenge back one week, having lost that month, and Grace being committed to SU camp at the beginning of July. That decision was also a relief, as I for one was certainly beginning to feel the pressure of not being able to train during May – now I’m really looking forward to it again, knowing that yesterday put us back on target.