Stories of Lives Changed

Russell’s Story 

Russell had a history of gambling, which started out as simple slot machine fun but turned into a daily life of gambling after his marriage broke down. Over a period of a few years he lost his job, his home and he accrued more and more debt. Russell ended up living in a derelict house with no water, no electricity, no toilets, no heat and no hope.

With mounting debts and unpaid fines, Russell realised that he needed to break this cycle and change his life. He had heard of CAP Debt Centre and after encouragement by family he made the decision to approach Vineyard Compassion. This was not easy for Russell, as he had to face up to his problems and take the brave steps to ask for help. One Monday he eventually made it to Vineyard Compassion to get help, and was supported through Foodbank with an emergency food pack, other essential items and received benefits advice. By the Wednesday he had his first CAP debt counselling appointment to deal with the debt issue and on the Friday he began our supported volunteering work programme in Link Logs social enterprise (attending 3 days a week ever since). Russell was sorted out with temporary housing until a few weeks later he was given the key to his own apartment within Compassion Housing. Russell is now employed for 15hrs/wk within the Link Logs social enterprise as a way of getting paid work experience on his CV and has recently completed his forklift license. He knows he has a long journey ahead but because he is supported in many different ways by Vineyard Compassion. He now has the hope of a new life, with the resources to tackle the underlying cause of his problems.   Russell says: ‘Before I came to Vineyard Compassion I really was in a hopeless position, but through the Hope Centre I’ve found hope!’


Shaun’s Story 

Shaun was an independent man with a job in the printing business.  He lived on his own, paid his way and loved sport.  Then one day all that changed when he had an accident at work.  This resulted in Shaun having chemical burns to his body and eyes.  Although he can manage his skin condition and his eyes have partly healed, he lost his job, his home and ended up living in his car for 18 months, until that broke down too.  

He was alone, homeless and suicidal.  A friend by chance saw him sitting by the river as he considered ending his life and he stopped with him and offered him some practical help. He also told him about Vineyard Compassion and how they had helped him in the past. 

Shaun took the steps of contacting Vineyard Compassion and got to talk to a staff member. He got immediate access to the food bank and was assessed for the Compassion Housing project.  A friend offered Shaun the use of a caravan and when a Vineyard Compassion flat became available, he moved in.  Shaun was given support from our CAP Debt Centre manager, he completed the Steps to Employment program and currently he is part of the RESET program, a social supermarket with other wrap around support services.  

Shaun now volunteers at the Hope Centre 3 days a week.  He helps in the donation centre and with the clothing bank.  He is enjoying the sense of community with other volunteers and staff and is developing some good friendships. Shaun now says, “I am looking forward to a future, that I had previously given up on.  I have found an inner strength, a belief in myself and a trust in other people.” 

Long term Shaun hopes to have paid employment again and have his own home.  He wants to be in a position to help others.  Presently he loves being part of the Vineyard Compassion volunteer team and making new friends in this environment. He says that because of the help he has received he now feels supported, safe and comfortable.  


Joanne’s Story 

Joanne moved to Northern Ireland 5 years ago, after living a life where she suffered physical and psychological abuse from her husband.  He was a drug dealer, who used their family home where they lived with their 3 children, to supply drugs to other dealers. 

Joanne developed anxiety, depression and attempted suicide. She then turned to drugs and alcohol herself before realising that she needed to get out of this downward spiral.  She moved to the North Coast, where she had previously visited friends on holiday. However, she continued to take drugs and party.  

Until one day she realised that her life needed to change, that she still had family that cared for her and she needed to be there for them too. She had heard about Vineyard Compassion through Causeway Coast Vineyard Church and contact them for help.  

Joanne entered the Link project, a supported volunteer program.  Through this project Joanne got access to CAP debt Counselling, this gave her a free solution to her debt and she will be debt free by the end of this year.  This lifted a worry and stress from Joanne, as she knew she was taking charge of this part of her life.  Joanne said “I felt anxious but the team put me at ease by explaining the process to me.  The staff and volunteers were friendly, supportive and didn’t judge me”.  This meant a lot to her in helping her to move forward. 

Joanne also had access to other services such as the Foodbank and our Emergency Essential packs; this helped meet some of her physical needs. After some time it was decided that Joanne would benefit from a residential program, provided by a partner agency.  Joanne entered this program for 8 months.  This program helped her deal with her anxiety and depression. They also helped her unravel other feelings that were deep inside and this helped her find a freedom. 

On return, Joanne felt more able to deal with life situations.  She now volunteers in the Donation Centre and Compassion Cafe at the Hope Centre.  She says, “I am looking forward to the next part of my journey.  My life before Vineyard Compassion and after is like night and day.  Old friends say I am a different person, like I feel brand new.” 

Joanne’s hope for the future is to help others find freedom from whatever is holding them back; she wants to continue to volunteer within Vineyard Compassion and undertake training in areas that will help her, help others.