Brian Griffiths' Award
The Brian Griffiths Award was established in memory of the late Brian Griffiths, a former Orbit Board member and Chartered Institute of Housing President, who dedicated his life to helping others. In his honour, this annual award celebrates tenant engagement and involvement with Orbit services which have led to transformational change for the customer. This category is for customers who have transformed their lives and exceeded all expectations - we have been truly inspired by all of the entries. Now, they need your vote!
Have your say on who will be this year’s winner - read their stories and choose your favourite. The winners will receive prizes up to a value of £1,000.
Voting closes on Sunday 2 August so make sure to submit your entry before then. The winner will be announced on this page, live, on Friday 14 August.
As a result of suffering domestic abuse, Cassandra had to make the difficult decision to leave behind both her accountancy career and home. She did this to ensure the safety of her children and herself and due to her husband working from home, literally had a couple of hours to escape with the clothes on her back.
When she was offered an Orbit property, she was living in a women's refuge and had nothing to make her new house a home. Single-handedly, she was juggling locating a new school for her children, arranging a new tenancy and supplying furnishings and white goods for her new home. This was in addition to managing her debts and her own mental health, all in a place that was completely new to her and her children.
She engaged with all help that was offered to her from the women’s refuge and from Orbit to set up her new home. Commuting between her new home and the refuge was in itself incredibly challenging.
She has actively engaged with all partner agencies during a very difficult time. She made a brave decision to move away from her former abusive partner and has made several positive personal changes and is looking to keep progressing.
Once the lockdown situation improves, she is planning to look into getting herself integrated into the community through volunteer or part-time work then looking into self-employment and wants to try moving her career from management accountancy into practice.
Tracey Stroud, Nuneaton
Tracey went through a difficult time in her life and her family ended up rejecting her due to her substance misuse. As a result, she was left alone without anyone to support or care for her. She followed a friend from rehab and was soon back on the drink and using crack cocaine. Tracey was coerced into taking out several short-term loans which grew into a large debt.
Moving to an Orbit property in May 2018, she engaged with Tenancy and Money Coaches and was referred to Breathing Space, Orbit’s Mental Health Support Service. Tracey contacted the Recovery Partnership herself for addiction support. However, she felt overwhelmed by the numerous debts and bailiffs pursuing her, whilst combatting her addictions. The stress affected her mental health and addiction recovery. She said she had never felt so low, helpless or worthless.
Tracey wanted to clear her debts. She engaged with the Money Coach and applied for Bankruptcy. The Insolvency Service approved the application, writing off debts totalling £38,000.
Tracey said, “Orbit’s support was invaluable, and after 18 months of hell I have my life back and feel like me again”. She wants others to know there is a way back, saying, “It’s not the end, it can just feel like it is – but it really isn’t. It can be hard, but you can do it”. She explains, “I have been lucky to get all this support and build my new home, and I am very proud of myself. I am ready to take my own journey forwards now. Thank you for giving me back my life.”
Tracey has completely turned her life around remaining clean and dry for over 12 months. She is managing her finances, and is now volunteering with Change, Grow, Live, and the British Heart Foundation.
Jane Smith (character name for identity protection), Felixstowe
Jane is continuously inspiring people with how she manages to show resilience and a positive attitude after experiencing violence and abuse, homelessness and injustice – all at a young age.
Jane fled her family home due to honour-based violence, which left her homeless with no support network, and hugely vulnerable to exploitation. However, since moving into her Orbit home she has engaged with every offer of support provided to her. She has used these programmes to build her knowledge and confidence in sustaining a tenancy and is a brilliant example of what the right support at the right time can do.
Jane has a passion for helping others and her goal is to work with young people who are afraid and alone just like she was. From sleeping on the streets at the age of 20, she has fought to access opportunities to improve her prospects and wants to educate others and make sure people know that they are never alone.
She is now happily thriving in her Orbit home and has just finished her first year at university studying Psychology & Early Childhood Studies, and has a fantastic future ahead of her.
Samantha Huckle, Milton Keynes
Due to childhood abuse Sam found comfort in alcohol, which led her into dangerous situations. Sam went on to suffer with mental health issues such as self-loathing, a lack of self-respect, and depression - leading to suicidal thoughts and some attempts. She was constantly looking for love with the wrong people and this led to domestic violence.
Her finances were also in a mess as she would take loans out and borrow from friends/family. This led to her having fear and anxiety about what others thought of her. Sam felt like a victim. She lost her home and found herself in temporary accommodation, her children were removed from her care and she had addictions to drugs and alcohol and mental health issues. Many times, Sam sought help; she had tried doctors, asked friends to help counsel her, and started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but because of her deep rooted trauma it was too painful to revisit those memories, which led her back to drugs and alcohol.
Nina Starr, East Sussex
Nina is a single mum, her daughter's father passed away in September 2019. She gave up work when her daughter was born, and now an Orbit employment and skills coach has been working with her on what the future could look like: “She came to me with the brilliant idea of selling pre-labelled jars and home storage solutions. She wanted to become self-employed because this gave her the freedom to be there for her daughter whilst also being a role model to her.
Since then, she has turned her creativity and time in lockdown into something amazing. She has been making face masks, with 3 layers of material, a nose mould and extendable ear straps. She has made these and given them out for free to her local care home, GP surgery and her daughter’s nursery – giving away around 80 so far!
She and I are now working on her having 2 elements to the business - the pre-labelled products and the face masks and she even has ideas to personalise them without compromising the fabric! She will be self-employed very soon and will be successful for sure!”
Ayse Yilmaz, Erith
Ayse completed secondary education, soon after became a single parent with two children, one of whom requires special learning support. As well as being a mum, Ayse is also a carer for her father who sadly had to have his right leg amputated, leaving Ayse to take on the family responsibilities as well as her supporting her siblings from a young age.
Ayse approached the Orbit employment support team with the hope of gaining a job that would work around her family life. From this point, Ayse was referred to Counselling Matters to support with her mental health, and was offered various employment options, interview skills sessions, job searching skills sessions, CV updating tips, financial support referrals, confidence and motivation through Orbit’s employment courses and access to customer grants. Ayse developed a tailored action plan to reach her personal goals, attending a Voyager session (Confidence & Motivation), and self employment start up sessions with her coach.
Working with the employment team, Ayse was able to gain qualifications to start working as a self-employed mobile eyelash technician. Her confidence, self-belief and overall wellbeing has improved greatly, and she is expanding her knowledge and experience to keep growing as an individual and to keep providing for her family.