Geraldine was Trust Leeds’ first pilot borrower, receiving a loan of £650 back in November 2018 to assist in making her business dreams a reality. We recently caught up with Geraldine to hear about her plans for the future and to share her inspirational story.
“I wanted to just heal people – I’m a people person.”
A natural born carer, Geraldine is a central part of a large family, frequently travelling to and from Birmingham to assist in the care of her mother, siblings, five children and twenty-two grandchildren. Generally considered a positive attribute, her caring nature turned against her when she became badly ill with chronic stress:
“One day I collapsed in town and was taken to hospital. After two years of tests and investigations I was told I have chronic stress. The doctor explained that this could be even worse than heart attacks as a medical condition.” Having finally received a diagnosis, Geraldine needed a way to channel her stress and emotions into a positive outlet. A psychologist suggested art therapy: “I saw a psychologist and she was really helpful but told me to take the stress seriously as I was crying a lot. I was already taking tablets and she asked me if I wanted to do art therapy”. A three-month course of art therapy at LS14 Trust helped Geraldine to untangle her mind and think strategically about a plan for the future: “After the art therapy course for twelve weeks, it did me so much good and I could see choices and answers, not just a brick wall.”
Geraldine stayed on at LS14 Trust as an arts and crafts volunteer, enjoying the opportunity to give back to the place that had helped to restore her confidence and helping others to find theirs: “I helped people to be sociable and to do things. It’s unconditional, I feel gratitude and that’s what I get back.” Geraldine improved her reading and writing and used these skills to take hand massage and hand healing courses. She watched YouTube videos as a method of self-teaching hand massage techniques, but without a qualification and insurance, Geraldine could only practice her massage skills on friends and family.
The qualification was expensive, and Geraldine worried that this would halt her business plans. How to take her new-found confidence, positively reclaim her caring nature and turn it into a lucrative and fulfilling business venture? This is where a loan from Trust Leeds came in. With the help of Viv from LS14 Trust, Geraldine built her business ideas before being introduced to Liza at Trust Leeds: “I told [Liza] all about my plans and we wrote a basic plan and worked out what I could earn, costs and how this would fit in with my carers’ benefits and with the universal credit.” By borrowing £650 from Trust Leeds, Geraldine was able to pay for an accredited course in Indian Head Massage, Body Massage and Aromatherapy Massage: “Because I’ve got the course, I have the right standard of proficiency to practice. And I joined the Association of Beauty Therapists…and the loan also paid for the insurance.” Trust Leeds helped Geraldine to produce a clear business and repayment plan, allowing the loan to seem less daunting and the repayment achievable.
Geraldine’s last monthly payment of £54.17 was paid in November 2019, now she’s well on her way to expanding her business and she has grand plans for the future. She recently got a commission from a carers charity to hand massages for those they signpost to her – free for the carer in need. “My ambition is to build my own business. To buy a house and then a minibus so I can take my twenty-two grandkids out.” Geraldine believes that she is doing what she was always destined to do and hopes to eventually be able to come off benefits and live a financially independent life. In Geraldine’s own words, “the sky’s the limit.”
Now, despite the difficulties of sciatica, Geraldine has regular clients and plans on learning to drive as a way of taking her business mobile. She has a space at LS14 Trust where she helps people dealing with mental health problems, loneliness and stress, through offering massage and company. “People are vulnerable”, says Geraldine, “and need a bit of help to get out of their comfort zone. I can help by giving a healing massage.”
The picture shows Geraldine in action – she was commissioned by Trust Leeds to offer free hand massages at this year’s Self-Reliant Group peer network gathering.