Recognising a need for personal change

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I love to include topics related to business and people change and how those changes can make a real difference to themselves and others.

With that in mind I have invited a lifelong friend of mine Nicholas Sanders to share his employment story and how it has transformed his own life and that of others in the last few years.

In this first of a short series of articles Nicholas (pictured below) talks about his self-employment roots and his subsequent migration into voluntary work.

Nic building in Guatemala.

“When I was a child all I ever wanted to do was follow my Dad into the family business.  It was nothing special, a small hardware shop in Barnsley Town Centre, called TW Brown.

In my later childhood I helped out, on Saturdays and during school holidays.  I realised Dad had made a decent living from it over the years.  So as jobs were not so plentiful when I left school in the early 1980’s, and I had no other idea of what to do, I went to work for Dad.

Barnsley Town Hall

The Town Hall in Barnsley is just a short walk from where the TW Brown shop was located. 

For the next 20 years I was fairly happy and content.  Then the introduction of Sunday trading laws and practices, out of town shopping and the internet revolution brought significant changes to things and disrupt some of our more traditional ways of working.  I was running in bigger and bigger circles faster and faster just trying to stand still.  We had made some smaller changes with the times over the years and a dip into the ‘online’ markets thought of as the next step.

However, my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I had more or less accepted defeat was inevitable so it was time to get out while I still had the choice.  We, I, had made some reasonable money, looked after it and so I had breathing space to decide what next.

I knew someone who was travelling and I decided I wanted to give that a go too. As a single middle-aged bloke I didn’t know how to do it.  The Tsunami in the Far East in 2004 gave me the idea of voluntary work and someone else gave me the idea of trying Camp America.

I decided on a special needs camp and I went to the recruitment fair in London, January 2006. I was hired by Camp Northwood, a camp that specialises in children and young adults with learning difficulties.

northwood 2008 024

My job was to be with older campers, trying to teach and guide them in independent living. Camp wasn’t voluntary but not well paid.  I reasoned that if I couldn’t handle working in America I had no chance of making it in a country that didn’t speak English.  Plus the special needs camp was the element of giving back, something I am passionate about.

I chose Northwood because I was impressed by the director, Gordon Felt and he was daft enough to offer me the job.  On reflection I wasn’t sure I would have hired me at that moment in time, so to Gordon I am truly grateful for believing in me.

I set off for Northwood in upstate New York at the end of June 2006. I was terrified!

I can’t write too much about camp, for confidentiality reasons. However anyone with children looking for somewhere and something different to do, I highly recommend it.  I loved my time there and got some great feedback about my successes there too.

I learned a lot about myself during that time of my life and it gave me the confidence to try something new.  Blogging is a new venture for me too, something different, and next time I will share some of my experiences during “Next Stop Guatemala.”


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