A man who lost his job, partner, and home, and saw his confidence decrease so much that he wouldn’t look people in the face has now begun work as a relief cycle mechanic at a social enterprise scheme run by The Salvation Army.
Mark Wheatley, 44, of Barrington Close, Swindon, lost his job as a retail manager in 2011. Within a six month period of trying to find work his relationship with his partner broke down and he found himself homeless.
The council directed Mark to The Salvation Army’s Booth House Lifehouse in Swindon where Mark was given emergency accommodation before being given a room at the Lifehouse within 24 hours.
When he first came to the Lifehouse, despite finding a warm and friendly welcome, he would stay in his room and shy away from social integration.
Mark said: “It was awful. We joke about it now but the person I was two years ago is completely different now.
“At first I was nervous and scared, and hardly spoke to anybody, I had very little confidence at all.”
However, within a few weeks the father-of-two began volunteering at the Recycles scheme, as he realised he needed to do something.
Recycles gives those living at Booth House Lifehouse, in Spring Close, the opportunity to learn new skills by refurbishing old bikes and doing repairs for people in the community.
Mark began by volunteering on the retail side of Recycles and gradually started to learn cycle mechanics.
Rick Bartlett, a Recycles cycle mechanic, said: “He didn’t have any interest in bikes at the beginning, just the retail side. He slotted into retail and then slowly we gave him bikes to build and repair.
“It turned out he was a good mechanic and so we put him through the Cytech bicycle maintenance industry standard qualification.
“The changes I’ve seen in Mark – it’s almost like two different people.
“He came to us quite down on his luck and quite depressed.
“He is now confident and moving forward. It is a total change around.
“This job can be quite challenging but it is stories like this that makes it worthwhile.”
The Salvation Army gave Mark the opportunity to complete an NVQ Level 2 qualification in engineering and he now is employed by the church and charity as a relief cycle mechanic and lives in a housing association flat in Swindon.
Mark said: “The Salvation Army is an incredible organisation. They support vulnerable people and if you are willing to put in the effort The Salvation Army will help you to turn your life around.
“The Salvation Army do so much work that people don’t know about. They help people who are in need get their confidence back by not only listening to them but also helping them in practical ways.
“I am really proud to wear my Salvation Army shirt home from work on the bus.”