I have been waiting for the right time to begin putting my learning and experience into a report for my Winston Churchill Fellowship, today’s the day. This time in 2017 I had had my interview in London on the 4th of January which to my mind was cringe worthily bad! 20 minutes of machine gun questions and answers among hours of negative thinking and not believing I could do this. I was so convinced my application wouldn’t succeed that I failed to tell my husband until a few days before the interview.
Fast forward to late February and I receive the letter to say I had been awarded a travelling fellowship to learn about Collegiate Recovery Programmes in America. I had experienced the concept briefly on a previous trip and it had really struck a chord. Why didn’t we support people in recovery from addiction on campus was a question I kept asking myself and others. I couldn’t come up with any reason other than we just hadn’t tried it. There are generally support structures and societies for diverse groups within Universities but not it appears for the many students who identify as a person in recovery from addiction.
The opportunity to spend 5 weeks in total with a number of programmes across America was a perfect opportunity to see and feel whether this was a ‘thing’ that only fit with the US culture. I never got that feeling. Students described the same issues and challenges that a person in recovery in Middlesbrough face every day. They told me again and again that a supportive peer community on campus made a huge difference to them. It afforded them the ability to socialise together, study, hang out, attend recovery meetings and access support when needed. All made the difference between studying in an abstinence hostile environment successfully or risking relapse and drop out.
Returning to work I felt more determined than ever to make this a reality, without the experience of the fellowship I might not have taken the leap of faith and sought the support from our board of trustees at Recovery Connections. Progress so far includes the inclusion of a Young People’s Recovery Lead within our team, a sober society at Teesside University supported by us, another North East University working with us to pilot a Collegiate Recovery programme and the opportunity to share my learning at various events and strategic groups. All achieved within 3 months of returning and in addition to the other exciting opportunities with Texas Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University mentioned in my previous blog posts. https://wordpress.com/post/collegiaterecoveryinuk.blog
If you have an idea or passion that could benefit society, think about applying for a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. As a voluntary sector we are often those organisations that fill a much needed gap which contribute to making our communities strong, resilient and forward thinking.