Swindon AdvertiserBike scheme helps to turn life around (From Swindon Advertiser)

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Bike scheme helps to turn life around

Swindon Advertiser: The spokesman – Mark Wheatley The spokesman – Mark Wheatley

FROM homelessness and isolation back to the fold of society, Mark Wheatley’s life was turned around by the Salvation Army after losing his partner and house within six months of being made redundant.

Losing his job as a retail manager in 2011 was the start of a downward spiral for the 44-year-old. Within six months his relationship had broken down and he soon found himself without a roof over his head.

He was directed by the council to the Salvation Army’s Booth House Lifehouse where he was given emergency accommodation before being allocated a room.

Within a few weeks the father-of-two began volunteering at the church and charity’s Recycles scheme where he gradually learned cycle mechanics.

He was soon offered the opportunity to complete an NVQ Level 2 qualification in engineering.

Three years on, he is now employed by The Salvation Army as a relief cycle mechanic and lives in a housing association flat in Barrington Close.

Looking back, Mark still struggles to recognise the person he had become when he first came to Lifehouse.

“It was awful,” said the father-of-two. “We joke about it now but the person I was two years ago is completely different now.

“At first I was nervous and scared, and hardly spoke to anybody, I had very little confidence at all.”

At his lowest ebb and robbed of his last shreds of self esteem, Mark was unable to look others in the face.

“The Salvation Army is an incredible organisation,” he added. “They support vulnerable people and if you are willing to put in the effort the Salvation Army will help you to turn your life around.

“They help people who are in need get their confidence back by not only listening to them but also helping them in practical ways.

“I am really proud to wear my Salvation Army shirt home from work on the bus.”

Recycles gives people at Booth House Lifehouse, in Spring Close, the opportunity to learn new skills by refurbishing old bikes and doing repairs for people in the community.

Rick Bartlett, a Recycles cycle mechanic, remembered Mark’s first day on the programme.

“He didn’t have any interest in bikes at the beginning, just the retail side,” he said. “He slotted into retail and then slowly we gave him bikes to build and repair.

“It turned out he was a good mechanic and so we put him through the Cytech bicycle maintenance industry standard qualification.

“The changes I’ve seen in Mark – it’s almost like two different people.

“He came to us quite down on his luck and quite depressed. He is now confident and moving forward. It is a total change around.

“This job can be quite challenging but it is stories like this that make it worthwhile.”

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