A thank you card in gratitude for help and support received from The Salvation Army does not cut the mustard for a motor mechanic from Openshaw. Tom Robertson, 58, takes on the challenge of a lifetime in October when he joins a group on a five day China trek.
Tom and the Trek China group will enjoy breath-taking views over the Yanshan mountains, picturesque watch towers and a hike towards Heaven’s Ladder on the Great Wall as they raise vital funds for The Salvation Army.
A motor mechanic by trade, Tom found himself in difficulty in 2012 when he was laid off by the company he worked for as work dried up. With no job he was soon evicted by his landlord and spent time sofa surfing and walking the streets. He found a place at a B&B hostel and says, “It just wasn’t a nice place to be. I started to take drugs and I had no hope. There were no jobs, it was a hard time. But, then things started to change for me.”
Inspired by the birth of his first grandchild, Tom decided to do something to change things.
He continues, “My first contact with The Salvation Army was when I was volunteering at a Satcol shop in the Ardwick area of Manchester. It was working there that brought me back to reality. No one had given me a chance for a long time until I came into contact with The Salvation Army. I was treated as a human being. I spent a few years volunteering in the shop and during this time I worked on transforming things with a lot of help from Captains Jon and Jane Bishton, The Salvation Army officers at Openshaw. Drugs are very much in my past now, and that’s because I have hope.
“The Salvation Army opened a new corps and Satcol shop in Openshaw and I was offered a paid job. It felt amazing that someone was willing to pay me for my work – that I was valued. It’s not been easy, it’s been a long journey but the support I’ve had has been amazing.
Tom decided to start fundraising for the charity after he saw The Salvation Army's work with Emergency Response Services in action when a big fire broke out in Openshaw in October 2017 close to the church where he now worships.
“When the fire broke out I felt I needed to help but didn’t know how. Then I was given the chance to serve on The Salvation Army emergency vehicle. I jumped at it and really enjoyed serving on the refreshment van. It was so cold and dark and it was clear to me that the emergency services really appreciated the food, drink and listening ear we were offering,” continues Tom.
“I have experienced for myself the work that The Salvation does to help people in need, whether that’s people experiencing homelessness and addiction like me, or firefighters on the scene at a major incident, and I want to give something back. I’m aiming to raise lots of money for the emergency response vehicles.”
Living in fairly flat terrain, training for the challenge has required some improvisation and Tom’s daily climb up 240 steps to his twelfth floor flat is perfect practice for the climb up Heaven's Ladder on the Great Wall of China!
Coffee mornings and a quiz night have taken Tom halfway to his fundraising target and with more activities planned, including a games night, there’s plenty of opportunity for the Openshaw community that means so much to Tom, to have some fun and help him meet his goal.
“There have been some deep dark days of depression, but I am part of the community again, helping at the church and on the emergency response vehicles,” says Tom.
You can support Tom by donating on his Just Giving page.
The games night and local events are advertised in local shops.