By Peter Richards, from the Ravenswood Neighbourhood House.
Peter’s story also appears in “It’s a Starting Point“. Thanks to Peter and Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania for sharing it on the BLB.
What’s important is being able to help people, the ability to help people. Because now that I’m right I’ve got a lot of life experiences, and now if somebody says they’re a bit down, I don’t have the certificates or anything, but I’ve got the ability to talk to people.
To tell you the truth I didn’t know the Neighbourhood House was here and being a gardener for a long, long time, I had a lot of vegetables left over from my garden. I’ve only got a very small back yard, but it’s always growing. It was the next door neighbour—I was talking about all the spares, mostly tomatoes, pumpkins and such, ’cause I got them into gardening as well, and she told me about the House. She got the number for the House and I rang them up and asked them if they’d like all the spare vegetables. Well they jumped at it. Two ladies came up and they picked them and invited me to come down to the House.
Having had depression pretty bad for quite some time I didn’t want to mingle but after several trips up there to get vegetables, I sort of thought “yeah I’d come down there and then shoot home” sort of thing, safety you know, and it all started from there. I was scared shitless, I was, I was scared shitless. I was worried I’d come in, somebody would say something and I’d jump in the car and leave. That’s how bad it was. When I got paid, I’d just slip down to the shopping centre pay my bills, get food and bang I’d be home. I mean I knew my neighbour, and my neighbour over the back fence, and that’s it. I mean I did my gardening. That’s when I really got stuck into the alcohol badly. But that was the extent of my outings, talking to my neighbours, I was quite comfortable with them although I didn’t explain my situation to them. To actually go out was a big thing, and to come down here and spend a day, wow—unreal. That would be about three years ago, it would have been about February-March that they first came and got the vegetables and I’d come down and go home again and whatever. The two women they said “just come down and meet some people” as I’d already told them what was sort of going on after a while; well, not straight up but I’d told them after a while of visits. They said to just come down and mingle for a while, even if just for half an hour and then go home.
“Just come down every now and then,” that was the start of it.
I was just coming down for half an hour and as soon as I was uncomfortable I’d disappear. And gradually it got longer and longer ’til I was here 2 or 3 hours, ’til it was a couple of days a week and now it’s every day. Now I don’t like being inside, it’s the exact opposite. Gradually I’d get to meet people, find out who they were, what they did. Then I’d started doing little bits and pieces around the house. Like Mr Meet-and-Greet, that’s one of the ones I’ve taken on myself, going down to get Second Bite, bringing down my own vegetables of a Monday. Generally tidy up and put things away and whatever. Then I was invited to join the Board. By this time I’d sort of got myself going reasonable.