Sarah Blythe has been nominated by Liza Kellett of Trust Leeds. Sarah says: “For health reasons, I can’t work and I’m on benefits since my husband was made redundant. I’ve learned lessons and now I’m debt-free and discharged from bankruptcy.
Our SRG is a group of ladies who come together once a week. We run it ourselves and no one tells us how or what to do within our group. It’s the first in Leeds but SRGs are also run in Glasgow and Manchester. Each one is based on the group’s shared interests and skills. For example, one runs a food kitchen, another runs a laundrette. Our group is creative and likes making items so we make homemade gifts, kids’ gifts and other items which we sell at local galas.
Being part of the SRG means being our own boss as part of a team, able to say we can do this. We save money weekly and use this money to buy items to make gifts/stock to reinvest back into group. We have a range of people within the group: mums, the elderly and people with additional needs but we are one little family – a fairy family! I love meeting new people in the community and sharing information about other things I do.
Who have you helped?
“I’m 38 and have been married to my husband John for four years and we’ve been together for ten years. I have two sons, aged 16 and 8. They have got different dads but John has taken my older son Kyle on like his own. He is his dad in way that counts (his real dad is involved but not much). My youngest is on the autism spectrum. He’s going thought CHAMS at the moment to get a full diagnosis.
I had a gastric bypass five years ago and lost 12 stone. I have three slipped discs in my lower back and onset of arthritis in my hip, which is crumbling. This has been going on for four years. For two years, I hardly left house only to go to shop and appointments. I really struggled mentally – it felt like life had stopped and this was it for me.
Then I took my son to a Valentine’s event at the LS14 Trust and loved how I was made to feel part of something. I volunteer there – to keep myself sane! I initially started out by helping at weekly events and was taken on as volunteer receptionist, by answering the phone and little help with computers.
18 months on, I run front desk, help people with job searches, write CVs, offer advice on benefits ) and help fill forms or explain how things work (I’ve been on training. I do food bank vouchers and also sign post people to events and information in local area.
The LS14 Trust ran a group called ‘Stitch Up’, which was basically a knitting group showing us how to knit. It was fab! We sat around learning a new skill and met new people. When it was coming to an end, we said we would love to start our own group so the Trust asked if we would like to meet Liza to talk about SRGs.
I wasn’t there when she came to meet the group but heard all about it and thought sounded interesting. I was told was 10 week course. We started slow, making sweet cones at a coffee morning and built up from there. We were even offered a fair.
I’m also a Governor at the school, involved in the PTA arranging events and about to become the Chair of our Scouts group. So I’m kept busy.
“Our SRG, the Glitter Fairies, has a mix of people but we are one fairy family. We’re all creative and like making items so do homemade gifts and go to local galas and do kids games too. We save money weekly and use this money to buy items to make gifts/stock to sell and re-invest back into our group.
It’s helped me build my confidence and given me a new focus. I always dreamed of starting my own party planning business, and with the group I’ve seen more that I can do it, and now I’m setting out a business plan and feel ready to launch soon. I’ve done several parties for friends for free, and even have a booking for a real paid event – only £10 but that’s my first business earnings.
If I need some money to buy kit, I can borrow from my Self-Reliant Group, or from Trust Leeds. They all know I’ll pay it back, and anyway I wouldn’t dare not to and I wouldn’t let them down. The SRG to me means being our own boss as part of a team, being able to say we can do this. And doing it.”
What have you learned? Any challenges?
“I was declared bankrupt in 2010 and have been charged with benefit fraud. It happened when my husband moved in. He worked nights so wasn’t there overnight. We didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. I was taken to court and was given 70 hours community service.
I see this as a blessing now as it made me take head out of sand regarding my debts and face them head on. Eight years on, I’m debt free, discharged from bankruptcy and lesson learnt. I am on benefits but only this year due to my husband being made redundant last year.
For me this has help build my confidence and show me I’m not defined by a illness. I am more than a bad back. I am a strong woman with a lot to offer.”
“We’ve realised that we needed games not sweets and have made profit by end of summer. We are moving into a Christmas range now but we’re not looking just for gala events. We looking to branch out and sell our range on Facebook. We trying to find our fit in the world and trying different things.“
Why we’re sharing these stories
An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!