Brandon business woman’s praise for charity after help with depression

Rowena Harvey from Brandon

Rowena Harvey from Brandon - Credit: Archant

A business woman from Brandon has praised a charity for making her dream of running her own family research business a reality.

When Rowena Harvey experienced severe depression five years ago, she had to give up her job in administration and there was a point when she thought she would not be able to work again.

But thanks to the support of social enterprise Papworth Trust Workwise, Ms Harvey was able to re-build her confidence and pursue her dream of setting up her own business, RJ Family Research. She helps people to trace their ancestors and find out about their family history.

Recounting when she first had depression, she said, “One day I couldn’t get out of bed; I could have just walked away from the world.

“My head shut down. I couldn’t remember how to cook. I couldn’t remember how to spell, which was ridiculous as I have an O-level in English. I was scared of the doorbell and the telephone. I only felt safe at home.”

She was referred to Suffolk Mind and then introduced to Papworth Trust Workwise, a social enterprise in Bury St Edmunds that supports people recovering from mental ill health to gain new skills through work-based training.

Ms Harvey attended a motivational goals course to re-build her self-esteem and set herself some positive and realistic targets.

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When she mentioned her dream of running her own genealogy business to Workwise’s staff, they encouraged her to take the concept forward and write a business plan.

Two years on from launching RJ Family Research, the company has helped numerous people to trace their family tree and she said she is finding the venture very rewarding.

She says, “I love family history and genealogy. The staff at Workwise were very encouraging and gave me the confidence to take my business idea forward.

“Workwise helped me to look at the things I could do. It’s hard when you feel you’ve lost everything to do with you, but I was able to start accepting things and believe in myself again.”

“So far things are going really well. I get a great deal of achievement from helping people to learn more about where they come from and how it has shaped who they are.

“It is fascinating piecing everything together. One customer discovered she had a great uncle that nobody in the family had spoken of. And another found that having been adopted, they had siblings they had never met.”

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