HEALTHWATCH Essex Mental Health Ambassador John Wills has been shortlisted for the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directory of Social Change.
In addition to being an Ambassador with Healthwatch Essex, the 51-year-old from Brightlingsea is the manager and lead bushcraft instructor of Greenpath Ventures, which offers outdoor activities to disadvantaged people. He is also Project Lead for AARCA (Assisting Adult Recovery from Childhood Abuse), which offers a recovery workshop programme for adult victims of childhood abuse.
“I am very humbled to be nominated for such a prestigious award,” said John. “I cannot thank enough, those people and organisations who have helped me so much over the years. Although this nomination is for what a single person has achieved, none of it would have been possible without the support I have had from others.”
Healthwatch Essex has a number of different types of Ambassadors, including some specialising in areas such as mental health and learning disabilities. Ambassadors are volunteers who help Healthwatch Essex collect and represent the voice of people in the county in relation to health and care services.
What makes John’s story truly inspiring is that despite a catalogue of extensive achievements that include co-founding two charitable organisations, managing an award-winning charity, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes and survival training in the Sahara, Amazon and Arctic (the latter two after breaking his back), his drive and personality hide a traumatic and troubled past.
From the age of eight until he was 14, John was the victim of sexual abuse by a close “friend” of his family. At 16, when John first sought help from his GP, his doctor’s advice was to simply “pull his socks up”!
As a means of escape, John used alcohol and drugs and spiralled into depression and mental illness. At 27, he sought further help and entered into three years of therapy. He then enrolled himself on a therapist training course and, after qualifying, began voluntary work with the charity HEAL. John went onto manage the charity and under his leadership it was awarded the Queens Award in 2007.
Healthwatch Essex Chief Executive, Dr Tom Nutt, said, “Like many of our Ambassadors, John brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge that is invaluable to a charity like ours that exists to give a voice to the people of Essex.
“His passion for helping people overcome the sort of difficulties he knows only too well is what marks him out and we’re urging people to vote for John. He has made such an outstanding positive contribution to our community and helped so many people rebuild their lives, this sort of recognition is the least he deserves.”
You can show your support for John by taking part in the online public vote, which can be accessed via the DSC website at www.dsc.org.uk/events/lifetime-achievement-award/. Get your vote in by 23rd January.
If you might be interested in becoming a Healthwatch Essex Ambassador, check out further details at www.healthwatchessex.org.uk/get-involved/.