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Using learning to contribute to the community

Terry Shiels has used learning to help regain his confidence after suffering a stroke and going through a divorce. His new found confidence and desire to help others has enabled him to flourish through his involvement in community groups and fundraising activities. Read his story here, told in his own words:

Terry Shiels
"I suffered a massive stroke in 2010, which left me totally paralysed down my left side. I spent the first 2 and a half years in rehabilitation, learning to walk again, though this now takes great effort. I have also had to learn to do everything one handed, which has been a big challenge. On top of this my wife and partner of 22 years and I divorced last year.

"I have always been a very active person. Prior to the stroke, I had been self-employed as a gardener and handyman and before that I worked in the retail sector. My then wife and I were amateur ballroom dancers and competed on the amateur circuit locally and nationally.

"To help deal with the events of recent years I decided to take up learning again. I'd always had a keen interest in computers and had built up skills over the years, but held no qualifications. I decided to look at what courses were available at the local adult education centre in Alfreton and found the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) course, which I enrolled on and even managed to complete ahead of time!

"At the same time I decided to realise a lifelong desire to help others, particularly, dealing with stroke so I joined Amber Valley Stroke Group in Ripley. I started off as an ordinary member, attending meetings and outings. It was really good for me to meet new people and those in similar situations. It wasn’t long before I was invited to join the committee, which initially I found rather daunting as I had done nothing like it before. I soon found myself liking it and having a role in steering the group. I then became Vice Chairperson and then took on an additional role as Treasurer. The confidence I had gained through my computing course really helped with this and I feel right at home with the role.

"I set up a website and Facebook page to attract new members of stroke survivors and their carers, and to challenge the perception that stroke only affects older people, when it can affect people of any age. The website and Facebook page take a lot of time and effort and I have to be careful not to wear myself out as I suffer from severe fatigue as a result of the stroke. However, it is really rewarding to be able to contribute my newly updated skills.

"In recent months, I have been raising funds for a very special trip for the stroke group members to Carsington Sailability, a charity that gives disabled people of all ages the chance to have a go at sailing. To help fund this I have recently organised two fundraising activities: a stall on Ripley market and a coffee morning.

"At the same time, I have been volunteering with a Parkinson’s group at Ashbourne, helping with computers and technical issues and have started producing and distributing their monthly newsletter. I am also a volunteer befriender with Amber Valley CVS based in Ripley. We use the local community transport to pick up members from all over Amber Valley, subsidising the cost using local authority and community foundation grants.

"Going back to learning has given me great confidence in myself at a most crucial point in my life, but more importantly it has enabled me to help others in ways I could not have imagined. I have got as much out of it as those I have helped."