Leaving rehab after a lifetime of heroin addiction, homelessness and prison, I had no idea what my future would hold. I had never heard of Erasmus, NIACE or the Learning and Work Institute Wales. I had no idea that I was to become a qualified teacher, that I would win the Inspire! Tutor Award in 2015 or that I would spend time travelling around Europe as an Ambassador for Adult learning!
Stripped of hope and a new beginning
18 Years of addiction and homelessness had stripped me of any hope, I honestly thought that was my lot – that I would end my days on the streets either through overdose or through illness. So, to be sitting on a plane bound for Ireland in 2019 as part of an Erasmus+ Mobility visit, reflecting on how my life was turning out you’d forgive me for pinching myself, checking it was all real!
Moving out of “limbo land”
Often when I share my story I talk about a period of time following rehab that I found myself in – I call it the “Limbo Land” – the space and time between being accepted by ‘normal’ society and leaving the old society of drugs and crime behind. The feeling was one of never quite feeling like I was in the new ‘normal’ society.
As I sat on that plane going to Ireland, to take in the Aontas Awards, their equivalent of the one I was a winner of in Wales, I realised that it was one of those moments where I thought to myself, “I am actually here, I am actually a normal member of society” pardon the cliché but I felt that I had arrived.
The Erasmus + Mobility journey didn’t end there. Soon I was flying my way to Slovenia and then on to the Netherlands.
Seriously, I feel like pinching myself as I type those words. Me? An ex addict and ex offender – being invited to be an ambassador? For Adult Learning? For the Inspire Awards, for Wales? For the Learning and Work Institute? WOW! It blows me away – and THAT for me is the evidence of the power of Adult Learning and to be on the way to see how they do it in other countries was the icing on a very big cake!
Erasmus + Study Visits
The Erasmus visits to each country were simply AWESOME! We travelled with colleagues from across the Adult Learning sector, students, winners, tutors, managers – inspiring people each and every one of them. There was no us and them – we were together, enjoying the journey and learning about how they celebrate adult learning and involve learners in their organisations. We were welcomed with open arms by people who are involved in what we are so passionate about; people who have now become good friends.
Fresh ideas, new friends, living life
Following each visit, I came home with new ideas, new strategies to try out at work. I have new contacts in Europe now that I hope to work with this year on a joint project.
I have experienced new cultures and ways of life. I witnessed first-hand how an Erasmus visit was life-changing for one particular chap and saw his confidence rocket as the trip went on.
Seriously, I cannot thank the people who made all this possible enough. Thank you for an experience that for me personally was an experience that has helped me realise that at last, I am well out my limbo land and living life to the full! THANK YOU – DIOLCH!