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// Your FirstPort Team

Sarah Howard shares her story of being a Development Manager and Trainer

We are thrilled to be sharing the story of Sarah Howard, our Development Manager and Trainer.

To mark her ‘workiversary’, Sarah takes us on a journey through her last twenty years of working at FirstPort, what she loves about her job and some of the more recent achievements and challenges she has faced.

As I reflect on twenty years as a Development Manager, I look back on amazing memories and achievements.

I can remember my first week at a site in the New Forest, I was sat in front of the residents’ committee as they expressed their doubts on whether I was right for the role and if I would be around for long. Fortunately, I was made of sterner stuff, this drove me to prove myself and prove their doubts wrong. I worked with the residents to put in place a plan for the development and, before long, I was fully accepted as their Manager.

I have come across the most amazing characters. I have been part of people’s journey through their retirement years and met wonderful families too.

Effects of COVID-19

Covid-19 has been an eye opener, as our usually amazing social life at Homepoint House has disappeared and left us with the challenge of how to keep residents feeling part of a community and not isolated. We have done letter box quizzes, an Easter egg hunt, clap for keyworkers, weekly fish and chips and we are currently fundraising for Macmillan Coffee morning. During this time, I delivered everything that came into the building shopping, parcels, papers and the mail. I would even sit outside flats if someone needed a chat and hopefully, made sure no-one felt alone.

Being a Development Manager uses so many skills. We are property managers, social workers, administrators, a friendly ear, and sometimes a counsellor. We are there for people’s worst moments and we help to build communities. We support mental health and keep a careful eye out for changes in our residents that could mean something is wrong. We are often the first to spot the start of dementia and we support families to get the right help for their loved ones. We deal with health and safety, fire regulations, RAMS and insurance, and all with a friendly smile as we may be the only face some residents see.

Becoming a Trainer

In 2016, I also had the privilege of becoming a Trainer. I love helping new managers start their FirstPort journey. I also enjoy supporting my Area Manager in building our team which is not easy as we are all lone workers. I feel passionately about supporting the team and making sure that everyone feels they have someone to turn to, and so I was thrilled when FirstPort decided to have trained Mental Health First Aiders within the company. I quickly applied for this role and explained that I have dealt with mental health in the past with my daughter as she has borderline personality disorder. When she was 15 my father, her idol, passed away and she took an overdose. I was blindsided by this and it made me have a passion for helping people to be able to talk and get the help they need.

The Mental Health First Aider course was amazingly hard and wonderful at the same time. It gave us the tools to have the conversations that can make such a difference to our colleagues and residents when they are at their lowest. It is especially vital now as mental health services are stretched beyond capacity. I have even set up a Facebook page and a website to give people somewhere to talk and have the conversations that signpost them to the help they need.

Accepting a role as a Development Manager was the best move I ever made. It has made me strong, taught me patience and made me feel I can achieve anything I put my mind to. It has challenged me and pushed me to always be the best version of myself, knowing that every day is different and that I make a real difference every day for our customers and colleagues.

I look forward to where my journey heads next.

For more information on our current roles, click on the link below