Your stories

Building your skills for a brighter future
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Instagram
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Alison Davison came to Step Forward Tees Valley when her husband died.  Since then she has rediscovered her lifelong love of poetry and is now hoping her books will be available in local libraries this year! Read her story. 

  • Some of our Redcar participants have worked to improve their confidence whilst also celebrating International Women's Day 2020! You can read their story here.

  • A partcipiant from Middlesbrough has shared his story with mental health for our Time To Talk Day blog. Read his story here.

  • Charlotte from Scunthrope move to the Teesside area and needed our support. ​Read her story here.

  • A Middlesbrough participant, who has been working with one of our health link teams, "I feel my overall health and wellbeing has improved. My confidence in my decisions has improved. I feel more able to talk to people, less self conscious, more relaxed in a social environment, and overall happier and more in control of my life.”

  • With our help, Christopher has turned his hobby into a job! Read his story here.

  • Lucy is a very different person to the one I met last December and it so pleasing to see the transformation – she is so positive and happy with her new life. Her future goal is to work or even set up a support group for people facing the issues that she faced and overcame. Lucy is inspirational. If she can do it anyone can with the right help support and direction. I firmly believe that she will achieve her dream.” Read Lucy's story here.

  • David from Redcar had debt problems that were stopping him looking for work. With our help he now has a job! Read his story here.


  • Gill from Redcar is getting back control of her life after years of domestic abuse. Read her story here.

  • Ruth from MVDA: Ruth runs many of our craft sessions. Read her blog here.

  • A Stockton participant: "I wanted to pass on my eternal gratitude for all of the help and support you have given me.  I joined the service at an extremely vulnerable point and a very low point.  The support you have provided has meant more than words can say. At a time when I felt truly worthless and undeserving you treat me with dignity and respect.  You have gone above and beyond the call of duty and I have made a huge amount of progress.  Without your hard work and understanding I would very likely still be in a dark and vulnerable mental state.  Thank you so much for everything!"

  • Jimmy from Redcar had worked all his life but following the death of his mum he suffered depression and ended up homeless and dependent on alcohol. Read his story here.

  • Paul from Redcar was helped back into work through volunteering and confidence building. Read his story here.

  • Kenny from Middlesbrough hadn't worked for 12 years due to ill health. He is now volunteering and thinking about his next career move. Read his story here.

  • James from Stockton: "Step Forward Tees Valley has really helped me because the programme picked me up when I was down and supported me to move back into work. I am very grateful for the support I received on my journey." Read his story here

  • A participant from Hartlepool gained employment. a house and her own car after years of unemployment. Read her story here.

  • Andrea from Redcar wanted to be financially independent and, with our help, she now has a full time job. Read her story here.

  • Dawn, a single mum of two, from Darlington "Thanks to Step Forward Tees Valley and Jodie I have found my confidence and feel prepared for getting a job”  Read her story here.

  • Tracy from Redcar, with our support,  has gained the qualifications she needs to get the kind of job she wants. Read her story here.

  • Wesam, originally from Dubai, is using her language skills to gain work experience, and with our support, help others. Read her story here.

  • Christina from Redcar has boosted her confidence and found lasting friendships thanks to her work with Step Forward Tees Valley. Read her story here.

  • Glen from Middlesbrough has become a Step Forward ambassador and is determined to help others the way the programme has helped him. Read his story here.

  • Gillian from Redcar was her husband's carer and was unsure how to move on with her life, with our help she is looking forward to the future. Read her story here.

  • Daniel from Redcar has muscular dystrophy but with our help he feels ready for self employment. Read his story.

  • Paula from Stockton has set up her own business with our help. Read her story here.

  • Duncan from Darlington: "I like to try and do things for myself but Step Forward encouraged me to accept the help and I know I still need help now and again" Read his story here.

  • Daniel from Hartlepool: "It’s really helped me and helped push me in the right direction." Read his story here

  • Denise from Redcar "From where I was to where I am now, I am a different person. I’m still not 100% but Step Forward has really helped me. Getting out and about, socialising and getting involved, it’s helped me tremendously." Read her story here.

  • Naomi from Darlington struggled at school because of dyslexia but now she has a job! "It might only be part-time but I’m getting paid and it’s good experience. I want to work full-time eventually and I’ll keep going until I do. I’m a proper trier – I’ll keep going until I do!" Read her story.

  • Lynne from Stockton was struggling with depression but now she is learning new skills and looking forward to the future. Read her story here.

  • Participant from Redcar: "Through a conversation with a friend you offered your assistance to help me with Universal Credit. I couldn't have managed without your guidance. I will be forever grateful and look forward to continually working with you to get me back on the path of normality."

  • Sue from Darlington suffered a mental and physical breakdown because of wok stress but now she is supporting her community by volunteering. Read her story.

  • Seb from Redcar has found the support he needs. Read his story here.

  • Alan from Redcar, who has Down Syndrome and learning difficulties, is enjoying volunteering and helping his local community. Read his story.

  • John Paul from Stockton: "I am feeling a lot better and feel like I have more purpose. I am going to keep building on my skills. I would like to find a job and I feel more able to get one. I feel more positive about the future." Read his story here.

  • Kerry from Redcar "Step Forward makes me feel a bit more secure and safer. If I need my navigator, I can phone at any time. She’s always there for me. She makes me feel comfortable." Read her story here.

  • Susan from Darlington is not letting her epilepsy, stammer and lack of confidence hold her back anymore - she's volunteering and making a difference to her community. Read her story.

  • Marie Jane from Hartlepool was feeling isolated since she arrived n the UK from the Philippines. Read her story here.

  • Andy from Redcar "My mental health has improved and I have the confidence to pursue new adventures!" Read his story here. 

  • Mum of three, Michelle from Darlington suffered from anxiety and depression "Step Forward Tees Valley has made a big difference to my life. I now feel I have a future and I am doing something great for me and my kids.” Read her story.

  • Mark from Middlesbrough struggled with depression and a lack of motivation but thanks to our help he's moving on with his life and feels more ready for work. Read his story.

  • Naomi from Darlington struggled at school because of dyslexia but now she has a job! "It might only be part-time but I’m getting paid and it’s good experience. I want to work full-time eventually and I’ll keep going until I do. I’m a proper trier – I’ll keep going until I do!" Read her story.

  • John from Hartlepool: "This is the first time that I have had paid work as previously I had only been a volunteer in the past." Read John's story here.

  • Tracey from Redcar: "I was given all the information I needed. The staff were very informative. There was a great variety of volunteering positions to choose from, something for everyone and the courses  are tailored to individual's needs."

  • A participant: "Thank you for getting me back on track and supporting me. Thank you for getting me to find my self esteem and being there when I need you. You are the best!"

  • Roberta from Middlesbrough: "Since joining Step Forward I have met lots of new people and done things that have been fun but have helped me in lots of ways. If someone was thinking about joining Step Forward I would say go for it! Read her story here.

  • Martin from Hartlepool: "I suffered with anxiety, stress and depression and this meant I was struggling with direction and social interaction. I also needed support in being able to interact with multiple people." Read how Martin has turned his life around.

  • Rob from Redcar: Rob's marriage was breaking down because of his mental ill health but with Step Forward's help he has rebuilt his marriage and his life. Read his story here

  • Sammy Jo from Hartlepool:  Sammy has worked on her feelings of isolation and lack of confidence and feels more determined than ever. Read her story here.

  • Thomas from Middlesbrough had seen his learning difficulties and mental health concerns as a barrier to work but thanks to our help he's ready for anything! Read his story.

  • A participant's husband: "Thank you for helping my wife and being there for her and supporting her through hard times. She’s happy again and I see it every day and it makes me happy.”

  • Jayne was too proud to accept help but was struggling to heat her home and eat properly. Read how we helped her turn her life around.

  • A Redcar participant: “Thank you for looking out for me. I really needed you to confide in.”

  • Terry from Hartlepool: With our help Terry is hoping to launch his own board game. Read his story.

  • Guy from Skelton has turned his back on alcohol and with our help has a full time job. It just goes to show when you believe in someone they can achieve anything!  Read more here.

  • Viv's story: Mental ill health, social isolation and domestic abuse were holding Viv back but she is working to turn her life around. Read her story here.

  • Katie's story: From a life of addiction and chaos, Katie now has a job. Read her story here.

  • Jimmy from Redcar: "I would like to thank Lorraine (my navigator) and Step Forward for all the help and support I received. Before I met Lorraine I had no income and no permanent address. However, due to her hard work and effort I now have both. I would recommend your service to anyone who was in my position. Thank you for everything that you have done for me."

  • Tim from Hartlepool- "I would recommend the programme to any one suffering from social anxiety problems as it has really developed my confidence and job opportunities." Read his story here.

  • Tony's story - volunteering has turned Tony's life around. Read his story here.

  • A Darlington participant: "The staff have been very supportive and have encouraged me to become more involved in activities which has led to me having more confidence and independence. This has led me to think more clearly and being able to plan ahead without any fear of being stressed. My mental health has improved dramatically.

  • Claire from Redcar: "Since I’ve started volunteering at Ormesby Library I feel so much happier. Getting out of the house and having a routine has given me something positive to focus on. My confidence has grown so much over the last few months and, serving customers has improved my communication skills. I’m looking forward to what my future holds and would like to say a big thank you to my navigator Lorraine, and my volunteer coordinator Rachel."

  • Rachel from Hartlepool:  Rachel has overcome mental health issues and found a job! Read her story here.

  • Leanne from Saltburn: Despite suffering from anxiety and feeling isolated, Leanne is now taking part in a wide range of activities and feels part of her community Read her story here.

  • Community hero volunteers who helped out a project in Guisborough: “This day has made me feel needed” ; “Staff from SFTV have been amazing and understanding” ; “I have spoken to lots of new people”; “It has given me a chance to talk to the elderly and try care work”;  “It has been nice to interact with people of different ages and needs”; “My first experience of volunteering and I have enjoyed it”; “Given me the chance to talk and to make someone else smile” ; “It has got me out”; “A lovely day with awesome people.” Find out more.

  • Helen, Redcar: "Before I started volunteering my self esteem and confidence were very low. My navigator Lucy put me in touch with Rachel and together we looked at local opportunities. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and that’s when Rachel suggested the Mind Café. I filled in the application form and handed it to the manager, and a couple of days later the manager called me and invited me in for a chat. I have now been volunteering for three weeks at Mind Café. To begin with I was washing up at the back of the kitchen and now I’m preparing food and serving customers. Volunteering has given me a purpose and made me think about my future. My confidence has improved and I feel needed again."

  • Wolviston Football Club "Thank you for the sterling work your volunteers did today at our ground. The group of people you brought along to carry out the work were first class and not bother at all. They worked hard with enthusiasm, responsibility and a smile on their faces. We appreciate greatly the work that was carried out seeing as we are a small, aging committee and find that type of work difficult to allocate time to. We look forward to further dates in the future."

  • Yasmine hadn't worked since having children "I feel like I have got my confidence back. I had so many skills and abilities and I had forgotten about them. Read her story here.

  • Anthony, from Redcar, talking about his navigator Sally Ann: "You should give Sally a pay rise! She is amazing and has helped me so much. I couldn't thank her enough  for everything she has done for me." 

  • Sara is originally from Pakistan and has been living in the UK for 20 years "I have never felt this independent and free since I was in Pakistan.”
    Read her story here.

  • Camila is working towards setting up her own business thanks to our help. Read her story here.

  • Ewa, from Poland: "Thanks to Step Forward Tees Valley I am ready to start the next chapter in my life." Read Ewa's story here.

  • Middlesbrough participant who has now found work: "I feel all the staff are exceptional at observing people and understanding the needs of the individual. I have never been rushed with anything and given the time and steps I needed to prepare myself."

  • Redcar participant: "Little steps will eventually take me where I want to be"

  • A participant: "I was over anxious and unable to function. However, with your encouragement and guidance I have become more able to cope with the decisions I need to make and improved my self-esteem."

  • Redcar participant: "It doesn't matter what's been written in your story so far, it's how you fill up the rest of the pages that counts!"

  • Darlington participant: "Before working with my health link worker Danielle, I was over anxious and unable to function. However, with her encouragement and guidance I have become more able to cope with the decisions I need to make and improved my self-esteem"

  • Redcar participant:"I am more confident"

  • Tracy, Middlesbrough: “I have started to feel happier and is nice to know someone is at the end of the phone if I need a chat"

       Read her story here

  • Stephen, Hartlepool:  "I would like to say a massive thank you to Step Forward Tees Valley, and especially Lisa who offered me kindness and support"

       Read his story here

  • Redcar participant: "I enjoyed attending the confidence building course as it has reminded me of skills I thought I had lost."

  • Glynis, Redcar: “Thank you Jane for helping me find my way, your kindness and patience will never be forgotten. I would recommend Step Forward Tees Valley to anyone”

       Read her story here​

  • Fiona, Redcar: "Thank you so much Step Forward Tees Valley and Jackie for believing in me. Using the computer was a great coping mechanism for my stress and anxiety. It gave me something to focus on and I found it really interesting"

       Read her story here​

  • Redcar participant: "I would just like to say that the short time I have been with your organisation has boosted my confidence so much. I have come on leaps & bounds plus sending out positive vibes to everyone I come across. I have such a brilliant navigator, Jane, I couldn't have had anyone who I feel such a connection with, she is truly outstanding in her own right! You all do am amazing job but Jane really deserves the recognition! I have so much respect for her it's over whelming! Thank you all for being there for those that need you all, Step Forward is the best!"

  • Kelly, Middlesbrough "I wanted to say how amazing Step Forward Tees Valley is. Everyone is so kind and helpful especially my navigator. I am going to miss everyone!"

  • Simon, 25, from Hartlepool "It’s nice to be able to give something back and even better to see the impact you are having on people’s lives"

       Read his story here​

  • Craig, 27, from Redcar & Cleveland "Thank you Step Forward Tees Valley"

       Read his story here

  • Redcar participant: "You have given me the motivation to continue this path ahead for looking for work’

  • Sonia, 35, from Stockton “Thanks to Step Forward Tees Valley and Sarah, I feel happy. I would like to finish my occupational skills and then look at working with animals”

       Read her story here​

  • Nicola, 52, from Stockton “I’m so glad I found Step Forward Tees Valley. In four months I have come so far, thank you”

       Read her story here​

  • Karen, from Stockton "Thanks to Step Forward Tees Valley I have found my confidence. I have been welcomed and made to feel special and am looking forward to the next part of my journey”.

       Read her story here


  • Tracey, from Middlesbrough “I really enjoy coming to the gym, I can use all the equipment now and it makes me feel good. I’ve enjoyed everything about being on the Step Forward Tees Valley programme and thank everyone for helping me make the changes to my eating habits to control my diabetes. I have loved the community heroes’ sessions, they have made me feel like part of a team. Even my family see a difference in me, I’m happier and more positive about life.”

       Read her story here

  • Karen from Redcar & Cleveland is working for the first time in 20 years. “My navigator Tracey supported me to get my life back on track. I have gone from being low to being happy again." Read her story here​

  • Paula, 46, from Stockton “I am now training to do a job I love and I have so much more confidence”

       Read her story here​

  • Hannah from Redcar & Cleveland "Thank you Step Forward Tees Valley"

       Read her story here​

  • John, 32, from Darlington “Step Forward Tees Valley has helped support me to overcome many obstacles I had in my life” 

       Read his story here​


  • Terrace, 52, from Darlington “Since joining Step Forward Tees Valley I have got my confidence back and feel more positive about my future” Read his story here

  • A participant: "I needed someone to talk to. I live with my two children and don't have a lot of adult conversation or anyone to talk to about any problems I have. "

  • A participant: "Thanks to you I am able to control my worrying, my sleep pattern has improved and I am feeling more hopeful about the future."

  • A participant: "Step Forward has given me confidence, self awareness and self worth."

  • A participant: "My navigator accompanied me to the doctors to discuss medication and we then met up regularly over coffee to chat and talk about any problems I was having which was a huge support."

  • Allison, Hartlepool resident, who has started  going to an arts group to boost her confidence and is now looking at work placements: "I want to thank you for your help. The work you do is fantastic. I feel better in myself because I am getting some support and direction as I felt lost.  My confidence and self esteem was very low but it is improving and I now have some hope that things may get better.  From around the age of 28-30 years I had a number of episodes of being quite ill. If I had not retired early I would have lost my job. It has taken two years to gradually recover and I now understand that I am quite vulnerable to stress, hence a change in vocation."

  • A participant: "I feel more confident and open to make conversations with people and make decisions. I have confidence to go out more and socialise. My thoughts have also improved."

  • A mum of a Redcar participant: "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the wonderful service you provide. My 32 year old son has suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression for many years. He has receive various treatments and counselling over the years but due to his panic attacks he would fail to attend appointments. With the help and support Jane has provided to him he is now on regular medication attending counselling sessions and receiving general help and support from her.
    "People of my son’s age seem to have been forgotten about and lost in the system, it is fantastic that this age group now has some help, support and guidance. I can’t believe the change in my son since he began with Step Forward Tees Valley a few months ago. He has grown in confidence and although he still has some ways to go he would never have stood a chance without the help of Jane and Step Forward. She has managed to get him to do all of the thing I, as a mother, have tried to do for a very long time.
    "Thank you so very much. I hope many more young people will continue to receive help and support from his marvellous service and wonderful Jane. Thank you for giving me my son back."

  • A participant: "My life has improved 100% and I can start enjoying life again!"

  • A participant: "This is the best thing I've done and has helped  me tremendously. It has improved how I think about myself, my confidence  has improved and my wellbeing."

  • Hartlepool participant: "I was very low and constantly anxious before I was on the programme with Step Forward Tees Valley. My navigator, Lisa, helped me find the motivation to move forward and start my own business. Lisa introduced me to Enterprise Revolution who gave me great advice. I’ve started my own fish and chip shop and haven’t looked back. For the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to the future."

  • Mark, 48, from Darlington volunteers at the Tees Cottage Pumping Station at Broken Scar. Read his story here.

  • A participant: "I am grateful for all the help I have received. I feel more confident in things I do and am I able to mix in now bettter than before."

  • Redcar participant: "When I joined Step Forward Tees Valley I was in rehab, having lost my home, estranged  from my wife, £50,000 in debt and totally devoid of any happiness. You have helped me in so many ways - from dealing with my bankruptcy; volunteering with the British Heart Foundation; transgender issues; alcohol problems; bus passes to help me get to AA meeting; referral to Mind; possible education courses and much more. Never once did I feel like a number who was just to be dealt with. I felt comfortable and at ease with you at all times. I truly believe that without your non judgmental manner and commitment to deliver a result for me I would have never made it."

  • Participant from Darlington: "I just want to say a big thank you to my navigator for all the help she has given me to get a job. I start work tomorrow and I just wanted to say thank you for all the support!"

  • Participant from Saltburn, speaking about volunteering: "Thanks for a great day , I got a chance to meet a few new people and feel useful again doing something worthwhile. Not only did I feel like I was helping others but I also was helping myself at the same time. Looking forward now instead of back."

  • A participant from Darlington "I would like to thank Step Forward, and, especially Rachel from the Darlington office, for all your help and support in helping me find the confidence and self belief in myself and my abilities. There can never be enough words to convey the gratitude that I have for your organisation and those that work within it."

  • Jeff from Hartlepool is in his 50s but had never worked. Working with his navigator he has built his confidence and skills and following his love of cooking he is now on a catering course. Read his story here.

  • A participant from Stockton (translated from the participant’s comments in her native Spanish): "I want to thank the whole Step Forward Tees Valley team for the unconditional support they have given me. I remember the first day I arrived at the office - I thought I was just going to get help to get a job – I never imagined that my navigator, Sarah Appleton, was going to give me so much help. Sarah knew how to listen and understand me, knew how to give the time that my soul cried out for - because I was completely alone - my children were with me but there was nobody there to support me until Sarah came into our lives. Sarah helped me to feel that I am a person like any other - and to understand that even if it is different here and there is a different language, I have skills and that I can get to do many things. Thank you for your patience Sarah. There is no way to give back what you have done for me. Thank you to everyone for their time and dedication, for the courses and training they gave me and to everyone who played an important role in everything that had to do with me. Thank you so much for everything, with all my heart! Even in Spanish, I can’t find the words to describe how wonderful you are and the excellent help you gave me. You are magnificent!

  • Malcolm, Hartlepool: "The project was helpful in every aspect and I enjoyed working with Emma, my navigator."

  • Jason, Hartlepool: "The service provided is beneficial on many levels - work information and courses available, benefit information and connecting to other services that are beneficial for progress. The support from my navigator, Lisa was also very helpful."

  • A navigator: “David had no digital skills and no confidence but since working with me he is using a PC every day. I can already see how much his confidence has grown. David wouldn't even look at a PC when he started with me and now we are talking about how to register with job sites and sharing CVs!”

  • Diane* suffered with anxiety and depression after a former colleague  made an  attempt on her life and she was forced to move towns to live with her daughter and son in law. Diane was unable to go anywhere by herself and didn’t go out. She attended her first meeting with Step Forward in a tearful, nervous state. Diane and her navigator had a few meetings where they chatted about her situation. She was then introduced to a health link worker who could provide specialised support. In just five months, Diane has progressed to the stage where she is attending all appointments on her own and is travelling out of town to attend a stress management course with MIND. She is taking pride in her appearance and has even invited her navigator out for coffee! Diane is now working with Changing Lives to build her confidence and hopefully find work.

  • Glyn from Thornaby joined Step Forward Tees Valley after his wife died. We have helped him to live with his grief and he is now volunteering as he starts to move on with his life. Read his story here.

  • One of our participants has been singing the praises of our Darlington team. He said that the whole team is excellent - lovely people who have a good sense of humour and are patient with him and his mental health issues. He said the team has been supporting him to do activities and look at different avenues, building his confidence and introducing him to new things. He really enjoys his appointments and loves working with the service.

  • Chris*, 47, from Redcar, joined Step Forward Tees Valley in January. Since then she has seen huge improvements to her health, her self confidence and her prospects for a brighter future.
    Read her story here. 

    You can also hear her talking on Zetland FM here (from 10.30 mins).

  • "We are delighted are with Step Forward Tees Valley and the support being offered to our customers. In particular we are pleased that two of our participants have praised  the support provided.  We have noticed a significant improvement in our  customers' outlook." Thornaby Job Centre Plus advisors.

  • "Before Christmas, Liam said he planned to spend all Christmas Day in bed as he had no one to spend the day with and no access to TV. Step Forward Tees Valley arranged for him to attend a Christmas lunch organised by churches in Billingham. Today Liam said it had made his Christmas and without the support he probably would spent the day crying. He has thanked Step Forward Tees Valley and said it would not have been such a good day without the support."

  • A participant said: "I have nothing but praise for my navigator. My life is changing for the better and people can clearly see the difference in me. My navigator is using me as good promotion for other participants which makes me proud."