The “Voices of the Friends” had a chance to speak at the Friends of Valkenberg Trust AGM this year with service users and volunteers taking the stand with staff, to share their experiences of recovery from mental illness.
The Friends hosted their AGM at the newly refurbished historical buildings at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital on Wednesday 27 July 2016. Along with others, volunteer Robyn Raymond of Rondebosch shared her experiences:
“My work as a volunteer showed me that anyone can be affected by mental disorder; bakers, teachers, receptionists, young people, older people….. I have also had the immense privilege of watching people heal and transform themselves from week to week. Each week, personalities bloom and people open up. And that’s incredible. We are not nurses or psychologists, but in many ways, we play a small role in that transformative process and it’s incredibly humbling.”
A number of service users also shared some of their journey and the projects they are working in. One of the service users working with Friends had this to say:
“Friends of Valkenberg is such a supportive environment. The help they give is not only emotional and psychological, but also practical. When I had nothing at all, they gave me clothes - I was able to wear a smart suit to interviews. They provided support in arranging my Learnership (through the Skills Development programme) . When I have an interview they always give me encouragement, and they try to motivate me so that I don’t give up trying to make a good life for myself.”
Ms Raymond summed up an important message on closing:
"I have learned to value my own mental health and the importance of my support structures. Regardless of what is happening in my own busy life, I always leave Valkenberg feeling rejuvenated, lighter and full of hope. I am inspired by the courage, bravery and strength of the patients and staff I meet as well as by the willingness and perseverance of the volunteers I have met and work with."
Friends of Valkenberg Trust