MA Social Work student Melissa Carter secured a placement with Help for Heroes Plymouth Recovery Centre in her first year. This was the first time that the charity had offered a placement for MA Social Work students at the centre and Melissa was placed within the welfare team as a key support worker.
The support provided at the centre is holistic with their focus on five main pillars of 'medical, mind, body, spirit and family'. As a key worker Melissa was the catalyst for the adaption and changes of case work recording within the centre as well as supporting sports recovery residential weeks and art therapy trips for the centre's service users. According to Melissa:
"The hardest challenge was understanding military language and culture. I had not anticipated how different this would be between military and civilian cultures. At the end of every meeting I'd come out with a list of sayings and words which I'd have to check the meaning of, as I had never heard of them before. However these have now stuck and I still use some of them now."
Despite the challenges that Melissa faced, many great memories were made during her time at the Help For Heroes Plymouth Recovery Centre.
"I think the highlight was supporting a group at the Catterick Summer Games where we came 2nd out of the four national Recovery Centres. I was especially proud to be part of the winning wheelchair rugby team!"
Melissa’s placement gave her an extraordinarily valuable experience which helped develop practical employability skills towards her future career goals. She had no previous experience of working with adults as service users, especially predominately male service users, and her placement gave her a thorough understanding of their needs, especially those from a military background. She developed knowledge of the benefits of alternative therapy to aid confidence and improve mental health including through sport, art and singing. As a welfare key worker Melissa developed her skills in holistic, ecological assessments of service users’ needs and awareness of local resources within the organisation and in Plymouth.
Upon finishing her placement with Help For Heroes, she was offered a paid summer job with them to continue her work and continue gaining experience in the workplace. She then transferred these skills to her second year placement with Plymouth City Council where she now works with parents and children, many of whom have military connections.
Reflecting upon her placement with the Help for Heroes team in Plymouth, Melissa said:
"My placement was just fantastic! I had the privilege of meeting some incredible service users and staff, and I was able to gain a huge amount of experience. I not only developed my employability skills but my practice as a social worker, and I was made to feel like part of the veterans community."
"The advice I would give to anyone looking for student experience through volunteering, internships, part-time work or graduate jobs is to ask questions, show enthusiasm, take chances by stepping outside your comfort zone, and don't be afraid to bring and share new ideas!"