"We can learn a lot about ourselves through other peoples’ stories"

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A woman with bobbed brown hair smiles at the camera with a bluebell wood behind her.

It’s important to me that everyone feels heard, acknowledged, and validated.

I’m a Communications Officer at Southdown and the key purpose of my role is to tell the stories of Southdown to people within and outside our organisation. It’s something I’m really passionate about and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do this every day.

I’ve been working in this role for 6 years and whilst I’m technically based in Lewes, I see the whole of Sussex as my office! I have the unique experience of being able to witness the breadth of the organisation, its impact in all corners of Sussex, and how the services all come together to create what we know as Southdown. 

I’m really fortunate to be given a lot of autonomy in my job. Unless there’s a deadline looming or I need to respond to something immediately, I’m in charge of my diary which I absolutely love. The sense of freedom it gives me, and the ability to go out and about really brings a lot of joy to my day.

There is no typical day which is perfect for me - I love variety, I love not being desk-bound, and I love to learn every day. It’s fun to meet different colleagues and clients each day!

The Communications Team is a small team and we have to be quite responsive to what’s going on across Southdown - our roles are always expanding in response to new services and contracts. Time is my main challenge. Southdown’s reach is vast and there are a lot of stories to tell. But it’s also lovely to know I won’t ever be bored!

My week typically involves creating content for our website and social media channels, arranging and conducting interviews with clients, staff, and volunteers, helping to build our bank of images with film and photography, and working with my team to make sure our website, publications, and marketing are all up-to-date and reflect the ever-changing landscape of Southdown. I also sit on the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Group – something I feel strongly about and an interest I developed in my previous employment.

My greatest love in this job is the Southdown Stories project. This is where I interview colleagues and volunteers about their work, and current and former clients about the support they’ve received. Oftentimes these stories are shared in written form or in short films.

Colleagues in different services will contact me if they have been working with a client who is keen to share their personal story and I will then arrange a time to meet them in person. Pre-Covid we’d often meet in a local cafe, their home, or a Southdown building. Since the pandemic I’ve been primarily based at home and most of my interviews have been conducted over the phone, video, or email.

We’ll spend an hour or two together and talk about the circumstances that led them to Southdown and the impact that support has had on their life. That’s the best thing about my job – being able to connect with someone, listen to their story, and find the treasure in their words that I know will make a difference to someone reading their Southdown Story. 

We can all benefit so much from listening to each other without judgement. We can learn a lot about ourselves through other peoples’ stories. I’ve learnt so much about what it is to be human, and the resilience and generosity of the human spirit.

It’s a real pleasure to be able to create a safe space for someone to open up and tell their personal story with comfort and ease. It can also be a lot of fun. 

I love being able to craft someone’s words and experiences into something that I know people will respond to. It’s important to me that everyone feels heard, acknowledged, and validated. I think that’s what we do really well at Southdown.

I studied Social Anthropology at undergraduate and postgraduate level so working with people, recording their life stories, and then finding ways to share them is a dream job!

I used to volunteer for oral history projects and when I’m not working for Southdown, I work as a freelancer recording individual life stories and working with other organisations to help tell people’s stories using multi-media including audio. I’m also a coach, helping people to explore new possibilities and create change in their lives. Basically I love working with and connecting with people - drawing out those special qualities that make them, them! 

Before I came to Southdown I worked for a city council in their social housing department. I really feel this experience has given me a good understanding of the challenges many of our clients face and it enables me to connect with colleagues working in a variety of services. In many ways, my role at Southdown is a perfect marriage of my different interests and experiences.

I’m really proud to be working for Southdown and to be able to help build an incredibly broad bank of stories that can be used in so many ways. Reading the stories and watching our films, you get a picture of what it’s like to live in Britain today and what it’s like to be human.

Our stories not only help validate someone’s experience and demonstrate the benefits of seeking support, they also challenge social stigma, support our recruitment strategy, show our colleagues how valuable their work is, and help Southdown demonstrate its excellent service provision to commissioners. 

I’m proud that I’ve been trusted by clients, colleagues, and volunteers to tell their hugely personal stories. I’ve had clients describe the interview process as part of their healing journey and recovery. I’ve had clients whose estranged family members have contacted them and rebuilt connections after reading their story and finally understanding their experiences and challenges.

In nearly all my interviews clients tell me that Southdown saved their life. I think it’s so important to share how vital support can be to an individual and to the community as a whole. Our workers really make a difference to thousands of people’s lives and I feel incredibly privileged to be able to witness this.