Hello, my name is Samantha Nye. I moved to Darwen several years ago for a fresh start in life. I had to wait for my children to be transferred to their new school, which took some time. My mental health started to deteriorate a few months later. I had been working as an online travel agent and so I did not have many face-to-face interactions with other people and I missed that.
So here I was as a lone parent with four children in an unfamiliar town. I had no family or friends around me apart from my partner who did not live with me. He tried to balance his life around me, work and his child. I did feel isolated and lonely, and wondered if I had made a mistake moving here. It was a completely different experience from what I was used to.
I joined some local groups to try and get an idea of what was going on in and around the area.
I needed to try and turn this around because I knew I had started to suffer from anxiety and depression and it was affecting me daily. After visiting the doctor, I was prescribed some medication. I tried them for a while, but the side effects were awful. I stopped taking them and decided I needed to be out there in the community. It was for this reason that I enrolled at university to study applied psychology (counselling & health) to help myself and others in the future.
When I started my degree, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia by an educational psychologist through my university. This was a relief to me because I knew something was not right with me. I was struggling with handwriting, processing information, retaining it, and recalling it at speed. The diagnosis helped me get support during my degree. There were times I wanted to quit because I had to work so much harder to get my grades and it was draining and stressful at times.
Whilst I was at university, I set up a commercial cleaning company as a way to earn more money, meet new people and for my mental well-being. So, it ended up with me doing a degree, working, and caring for my children. It was an extremely difficult life to balance everything, but I did it and I graduated with a 2:1 bachelor's degree in 2021. It was one of the biggest challenges and accomplishments of my life. I was immensely proud of myself!
When the pandemic hit us I realised through some groups I had joined that some residents were struggling to get support for things that we often take for granted. These were simple tasks to me such as collecting groceries, and prescriptions. But they also felt lonely and isolated which was a familiar feeling to me. I knew I could help and wanted to help and so I did just that. I contacted these people privately and got them the support they needed to make their day a little bit better.
In October 2021 I founded Darwen Community Helpers. I created a page on Facebook so people could message me directly if they needed support. For me, it was a wonderful way to meet others but for them, it was an accessible way for them to potentially get support and it was confidential. Since then, I have supported residents with food, personal items such as sanitary towels, and items for their homes. I have accompanied some to health appointments and talked with them on the phone to be there when they feel sad and lonely. I have signposted them to other organisations for help if I was unable to. I organised a day trip for families to light water valley in Ripon, other community events, weekly well-being classes, a healthy eating on a budget class and an exercise class. I was the first person to set up a donation point for the residents in Darwen to donate to the Ukraine crisis. You can check out my website for further information on what I have done. Along the way, I have had some help from amazing volunteers that have helped me to make a difference.
I received some funding from the national lottery to help pay for the weekly well-being classes and the platinum jubilee afternoon teas that I provided to the local community. It has been an incredible journey so far.
In July 2022 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This came as a big shock and so it meant I had to reduce the amount of work I was doing while I went through my treatment. The physical work I was doing in the community had to stop for a while because I was exhausted while I was going through the treatment, and I was still working and trying to provide for my family. I could not get any financial support, so working was my only option. This caused my health to not improve as quickly as it should have. My diagnosis made me realise just how much I wanted to continue helping others.
In December 2022, six days after completing my radiotherapy, I set Darwen Community Helpers up as a community interest company. I knew this is what I wanted to do and where I needed to be. This is my dream!
It was then I knew I had to find a way to be able to raise money to help me continue doing the work I have. I reached out to my community, and I asked them for help and my goodness they did not disappoint. The people in this town are like no other. They are so welcoming, friendly, kind, and generous even if they have little, they are so willing to help others.
My idea was to have items donated so that I could sell them at a lower cost and use the money to secure a much-needed community hub. The hub will provide a variety of services such as warm space, focus groups, well-being classes, low-cost meals, a food bank, and a baby bank. These are just examples of some of the plans I have currently.
As well as the community hub we will have a store where residents can become a member and receive reduced discounts on items that we sell. This will ensure that people have access to affordable clothing that they need for themselves or their children. The donations have been coming in thick and fast by the community that I have now had to put them into a storage unit until I can get some premises.
The aim is to make it as easy as possible for people to have the basics that humans need to survive. The cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on people's lives and finances. I hope to reduce the anxiety that some people are feeling right now.
As well as providing easy access to food and clothing the goal is to reduce isolation and loneliness this will be achieved through the classes I put on. I have been running a diamond art class weekly for 13 months and it is popular with residents. I have a waiting list for others to join.
I understand what it is like to feel lonely and isolated. And I would like to change that for others. We have an amazing community and I have so many volunteers ready to help me achieve my dream of helping others out of the situation that I was once in. I have tried applying for grants to help with this project, but I have been unsuccessful on a few occasions. So now I am going to try my best to raise the funds needed to have a base in the community.
I am going to be walking up to Darwen Tower every day throughout May, June, and July. Darwen Tower is situated 1200 feet (372 metres) above sea- level. For some people, this may seem to be an easy challenge but for me, it will not be. I will have to fit in walking up to the tower every day around work, kids, travelling, and hospital appointments. My recent health condition has caused me to have problems with my back, so this challenge will be difficult for me to do.
I am extremely passionate about helping others in my community. Please donate what you can whether that is £1 or £10 every donation counts. If anyone would like to join me on my trips up to the tower come rain or shine, then please reach out to me. I would love some company.
I am just one woman on a mission to help others in their time of need.
IN ADDITION TO NOW HAVING THE COMMUNITY SHOP. WE ARE IN DESPERATE NEED OF STORAGE SPACE FOR DONATIONS.
As always I thank you for your continued support! Let us make this HUGE challenge a success together!
Lots of love, happiness, and good health.
Sammy Jayne xx