“I have worked for The Hamlet Charity for just over 10 years. My journey began at the age of 17 years old when I got involved through a Norwich City College placement in 2008. I was studying for a BTEC National Diploma in Health and Social Care and was told I would have a work placement at The Hamlet. I remember sitting down with the placement officer who told me what sector I had to work with; ‘Adult Disabilities’. I thought; what does this mean? – Will they be young or old? Will they be people who just sit in a chair and not capable of anything? I didn’t know what to expect and I was petrified. My biggest worry was about how to communicate, and would I be doing it in the correct way. I didn’t want to get anything wrong. I was scared and wondering what people would be thinking of me. It was an overwhelming feeling! Once I got past my first fears though, I just remember thinking how amazing it was and what a wonderful atmosphere I had entered. I got to know the students a bit more and was able to have fun and build wonderful relationships with them. The staff were all so supportive and patient. I really felt listened to and so appreciated for the work I was doing. I loved my placement so much, that I decided to continue by volunteering. I did this every Wednesday for about 8 months. I then worked at the Summer Playscheme which in those days was still based at Ella Road. This was an amazing few weeks which led me to getting a fulltime position as a support worker for the adult service in 2009.”
Stacey goes on to explain how she uses those experiences from her early days at the charity to support new staff members coming to work at The Hamlet… “It’s ok to be overwhelmed and have those scary feelings when you first work with our students. I try to share my history with new staff members and tell them it’s ok to sit back and observe and see how other staff interact with the students. Observing is just as good as getting involved.
Once you get to know the students the fun and the relationships begin. Seeing what a difference the staff make to make things better for students is a wonderful feeling. Everyone looks out for one another and are there when you need them. It’s a really positive environment to work in and knowing that at the end of the day I have gone home and made a difference in some small way is the best thing. Me being a part of making it possible for students to achieve something is still what makes me come in to work every shift. It’s magical.”
Stacey shares some of the challenges she has faced… “One of the challenging things is not always being able to have the resources you need to support the students in the best ways. Budget restrictions sometimes get in the way and make you realise how crucial it is to have supporters. Volunteers, fundraisers and donators are such an important part of the work we do and make a real difference.”
‘’Another thing that can be difficult is when we have to say goodbye to a student. We really are like one big family. Everyone just slots in … students, staff and volunteers alike. It doesn’t matter how long you have been there as we all help each other to manage with the day to day. Saying goodbye is hard but we all realise it is another part of what makes The Hamlet a magical place. I have seen students again outside of The Hamlet and they still remember and hold that time in a special place.”
I can almost see Stacey blushing as I ask her about all the other things she has done to help support The Hamlet. She really goes the extra mile as a staff member…
“I’ve always been keen to get involved and show my support. I worked with Sue* when we had a toy library and did bank work at children’s service supporting on playschemes at the weekend when they were short of staff... Yep! I did the sky dive back in 2014 and a group of us climbed Snowdon to raise money. The Lord Mayors procession was particularly memorable as I dressed up as ‘Johnson’ when we had the mascots! I seem to remember it being sweltering hot! Funny when I look back! It’s those things that really help you to become part of The Hamlet family and history.”
When asked if Stacey had anything else to share for someone who might be thinking of applying to work at The Hamlet or become a supporter she said: “The building is full with some wonderful characters. I love the laugher and the joking. Hearing happy noises from everyone is one of my favourite sounds. Ella Road really is not Ella Road without the people in it. No day is the same. You don’t know what things will be like and this makes it exciting and vibrant. It really is my happy place!”
A big thank you to Stacey for sharing her Hamlet journey with us. It’s people like Stacey that make The Hamlet what it is today.
*Alternative name used