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What does it mean to be a Five Rivers residential worker?

Written by Chelsea Bryan 

Women with Child

What does it mean to be a residential care worker? What do you do all day? You get to play all day? How hard can it be? Questions that I get asked everyday by people who do not understand my job. Although it’s not really a job, or certainly not one you do for money – it is a way you choose to live your life.

My best memories are often from the worst times, the days you walk through the door, throw your hair on top of your head, take off your jewellery, throw your bags into the study and crack on. On-shift, you might not get time to think, or even take 5 on some days. Sometimes, you go home and might feel exhausted, physically and mentally.

I guess the reason I come back every day is, because what makes me feel as I just described above is actually a tiny human who has nothing, a tiny human who is unable to feel, who is unable to communicate, who is unable to allow themselves to be loved.  A tiny human who has a strong belief that they are totally undeserving of absolutely everything. A little person who has to protect themselves, who is entrenched in shame, who’s only response is to fight, flight or freeze, who’s brain perceives the world as a constant threat, who believes that your sole purpose of existence is to hurt them in the worst imaginable way, just like everyone else has, a little person who’s world has crashed down around them as they have never before experienced a safe and healthy attachment. Yet I have the power, the drive, the passion, the want and the ability to love unconditionally, the ability to heal others and the ability to change a life – how lucky am I.

So yeah I get to play but I also get to love, I get a whole new family, I get to laugh (a lot!), I get to watch children experience things for the first time, I get to do on adventures, I get to watch them grow, I get to watch them change, I get to watch them process their past experiences, I get to walk hand in hand with them whilst they learn to develop trust, I get to cry when they do something simple for the first time – that super proud look on their face that melts my heart, I get to be proud of their every achievement. I get to fight for their rights, I get to challenge others to understand. I get to wake the children up on Christmas morning, I get to see their faces when Santa has been. I get to create the memories that they will never forget and will last a lifetime, eating their pudding before dinner, jumping in the car in PJ’s and going for doughnuts, going on their first holiday, swimming in the sea, performing in the west end, being able to say ‘I know I am safe’, being able to say ‘I know I am loved’ – and that makes it all worth it.

My proudest moments, my proudest achievements are watching young people move on, move on to their forever families with an ability to love and be loved. I will always remember the name of every single young person who I have had the absolute pleasure of loving – their footprints forever imprinted on my heart, changing my own life and making me a better person. I love what I do every day and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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