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Our Story- Sylvia


As a child I was abused sexually physically and mentally. I’ve been through it. I can say it now with no emotion. It’s a statement.

Then I married an abusive partner.

It’s when I came out of the marriage that I broke down. My children were taken off me and in to care. I wasn’t able to look after them. I could do the day-to-day washing, ironing, cleaning but I couldn’t be there for them emotionally. I ended up at Shelton Hospital.

The start of a 10 year recovery

When I was at Shelton, I was able to come out on day release and I was told to come to this day centre in Oswestry. When I arrived I noticed that it had an Age Concern sign outside and all I could see as I walked in was Old People. Why have they sent me here?

It was a ‘Designs In Mind Day’, a day a week when they would run art and craft projects. I met Jo and boy did I give her a headache. I was so quick. I’ve finished what shall I do now?

I started to build up knowledge and skills in a whole range of mediums. Jo would tell me I was good but I didn’t know if she was saying that just to benefit me. (I know now she would never say it if she didn’t mean it)

So I decided to go to college. They have no vested interest to tell me I’m good if I’m not.

Learning Again

The thing is I needed time to grow up. I had missed all of that. At Shelton I was allowed to be a child again- I could have tantrums and act up. I could be uninhibited. Now I was ready to go to school.

I did an Art and Design course and came out with a Distinction. I was accepted and wanted to do a degree, but that was something I was never going to be able to afford. They said to me- with what you do at Designs In Mind you are probably over qualified anyway.

So I went on to Liverpool John Moores University to do Workshop Training. I learnt through drama there. This was when I got really stretched. I was so out of my comfort zone. It was so interesting learning about how to adapt different workshops to different people.

Designs In Mind

When I finished my training Jo said that she had secured 3 years of funding from MIND to run Designs In Mind independently from the NHS. She wanted to me to be involved. This was very scary for me as I had been on the dole for a few years. It was a big step. We had three years funding and I was now going to get paid monthly- I was used to managing my money week by week. I had a lot of support from Enable to get me through that part.

It felt very empowering to be working- to know that someone is going to pay you. They value me- it was a big boost.

“You could have anyone Jo- You want me”

I didn’t have a job title. There was just me and Jo doing so many different projects. We would learn things and pass them on, running workshops for 16 members over 3 years. Then Gabi came on board and then Kath and Designs In Mind grew.

I am now Studio Manager. I love it because I am giving something back to all those people that helped me. But the best thing is seeing people blossom, from tight buds to open flowers- I was a part of that and it feels good.

I’ve had a lot of perfect people at the perfect time. Jo took me under her wing. I had the most wonderful Community Mental Health Nurse- Wendy. She was very matter of fact- didn’t take any shit. Even when she was in the hospice dying of cancer- she wanted to know how I was coping with it.

What happened to me was a symptom of something that happened before. I don’t want to be a victim I am a survivor. Now I have my family around me again. I feel so lucky- they could have turned against me. Their lives haven’t been easy but I was and am there for them when they need me.

“I gave them quality not quantity”

Their friends say to them- gosh your mum is a good grandma.


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01691 655 140

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