Community Engagement Support Worker

Jo Marsden is our Community Engagement Support Worker who supports customers at Trinity Apartments – our purpose-built Extra Care service for people with a disability in Solihull, near Birmingham.

Getting to know... Jo Marsden, Community Engagement Support Worker

Jo Marsden is our Community Engagement Support Worker who supports customers at Trinity Apartments – our purpose-built Extra Care service for people with a disability in Solihull, near Birmingham.

How long have you been in your current role?

I started working at Trinity Apartments in March 2017 as Community Engagement Support Worker.

Could you explain the role and how you work with customers?

During the 18 months in my role, I have developed what we see as an ‘ideal’ process for newcomers. As residents come to Trinity (I like to see them before they move in, if possible) I offer support explaining that for some, moving into our community is a life-style choice which they make as they recognise and acknowledge that they may need care support in the future.

For others, it may not have even been their choice. They may have been moved because they couldn’t return home after a period in hospital, for example. Whatever their circumstances, they may suffer a sense of loss and bereavement as they move into a new season of their lives. I like them to feel that someone understands that situation.

Whatever their circumstances, new residents may suffer a sense of loss and bereavement as they move into a new season of their lives. I like them to feel that someone understands that situation.

Jo Marsden, Community Engagement Support Worker, Longhurst Group

As they move in, I send them a ‘welcome to your new home’ card with a letter inviting them for coffee so that we can chat and start to get to know each other. I’ve found this to be most helpful and believe that residents have too. We then meet and I explain who I am, what my background is and a little about my role. This is when I start to build a picture of who they are, their history and what makes them tick.

Depending upon their capabilities, I signpost them to activities and groups which run in the area and I tell them all about the things we have going on in our own community at Trinity. As much as my time will allow, I like to check on them as time goes by to ensure that they are settling in and offer an ear to those who want to talk and try to find support they need. As a member of a local church, which is very active in the community, I have access to some very useful resources!

Jo Marsden, Longhurst Group's Community Engagement Support Worker at Trinity Apartments, our purpose-built extra care facility near Birmingham

Jo Marsden, Longhurst Group's Community Engagement Support Worker at Trinity Apartments, our purpose-built extra care facility near Birmingham

Seeing people with a smile on their faces is so rewarding. Seeing them develop new skills and having the confidence to get out of their comfort zone gives me a real buzz.

Jo Marsden, Community Engagement Support Worker, Longhurst Group

What are the highlights from the last 12 months that you’re particularly proud of?

I think that probably our biggest achievement is the way we’ve created a slowly growing community of people who want their lives to be rich and fulfilling. I’ve said ‘our’ because the residents have to want to be part of a community in order to do so. We are doing this by bringing the local community into Trinity and taking Trinity into the local community.

On Thursday afternoons, you will find Rachel Holland from Solihull Christian Fellowship who comes along with her bag full of lyrics to play piano for Trinity Singers. We sing a great range of songs and have even started singing in rounds (great for the brain) and changing lyrics to fit a couple of songs around Christmas for this year’s Christmas concert.

Friday mornings are brilliant. We have an arrangement with a group called Home from Home (HfH) Childcare. They have been coming into Trinity for a year now and in April they approached me about bringing into Trinity ‘Moo Music’ (a professional provider of music and movement for Early Years children) to do some chair exercises with the residents alongside the children in their care.

Moo Music is expensive and I don’t have a budget, but the arrangement is that we provide the physical space for MM to carry out the activities with the children and adults and HfH childcare provide the funding. The result is fascinating to watch as the different generations come together for a time of fun and fellowship and also exercise without effort. It’s wonderfully touching to see the older people and those with disabilities coming together with under fives who don’t see disability/age difference.

I think that probably our biggest achievement is the way we’ve created a slowly growing community of people who want their lives to be rich and fulfilling.

Jo Marsden, Community Engagement Support Worker, Longhurst Group

Saturday mornings are also wonderful in our art workshop. Inspired by a book of paintings by a young girl with autism, we are taking on the challenge of painting using different techniques. One of our residents was determined that she couldn’t paint but copied a picture of a cockerel which was so good that we framed it and put it on show in reception!

Residents created a wall display which stated that we should ‘keep your heart open to dreams, for as long as there’s a dream, there’s hope and as long as there’s hope, there’s joy in living’.

As much as possible, we try to do activities that are purposeful and not just for the sake of it. In preparation for the Royal Wedding earlier this year, we made ‘save the dates’ for each of the residents, telling them the date of the wedding and advising them that we would be having an indoor street party and be celebrating together.

We then made masses of red, white and blue bunting and flower arrangements for the big day. We dressed the dining tables as they would have been for a street party and we all dressed up in our Sunday best and enjoyed a wonderful cocktail reception, followed by lunch while watching the wedding together. It was hard work but so worth it!

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Seeing people who come to live at Trinity nervous, anxious and sometimes a bit scared, find new ways to live their lives purposefully, leading to improved mental health.

One particular lady, who has memory problems, has definitely improved since she arrived. Another resident, who has Huntington’s Chorea, now spends more time during the day in the communal lounge than she does in her apartment watching the television.

Seeing people with a smile on their faces is so rewarding. Seeing them develop new skills and having the confidence to get out of their comfort zone gives me a real buzz.

Trinity is unique in that it accommodates people from late 30’s to 104. Some have physical problems with sharp minds, others have mental health challenges with no physical issues.

By working together we make a whole! I am hugely proud of the residents I serve at Trinity.

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