In The Spotlight With Brian Jones From The Moses Project
Tell us about your role at The Moses Project
My official title is Chairman and my main role is to steer The Moses Project through the many storms facing any young charity that is growing fast to a secure future. I have a small, but fantastic team of Directors/Trustees around me to help guide the Project. However my roles are varied. I am the lead support worker and I love been hands on with clients, whether it be taking them out to an event i.e. bowling, walking, a day at the Seaside or being their advocate at housing meetings, doctors appointments, Court attendance plus others. I am also the Trainer and I oversea the training and put together many training packages although my wife, who was a Senior Nurse, has now come on board and she will slowly take over the training. We have around fifteen volunteers and each one is trained, some are given specialist training due to their roles.
How did the charity start?
I suppose it has its roots back in 1998/1999. My wife, Stella and I were helping out on a Christian Coffee Bus that used to park in Stockton on a Thursday night and Middlesbrough on a Friday night. Funny really looking back over, I did not want to do it – my wife sort of forced me! She put our names down to help out and I was to drive the bus. I argued that I did not want to be involved with ‘those people’. How wrong I was! We had to go on a training course and we met many people who had changed lives because of this bus and how this bus had links with Christian Rehab. I was really touched to hear some terrible stories. I met many lovely, precious people, badly damaged in their childhood and youth which set them on the wrong path and no one cared for them. They were lost and turned to drugs / alcohol to hide their pain. Take away the addiction, deal with their hurt and pain which takes away their anger and beautiful butterflies emerge. Sadly the bus stopped soon after through lack of funding and support. Stella and I carried on working alone. We made many mistakes but we were fast learners. We soon learned that middle age men were the forgotten people. We found many living in terrible conditions, even skips, either drinking or taking drugs until they had an early death. Stella and I came across a lost world, a forgotten people, Men who, for various reasons, had become disengaged from society – some had really good jobs but through marriage breakdown or redundancy had turned to drink. They had nowhere to live and ended up in some terrible, broken down bedsit. We had many males stay with us and saw many change. We saw what an amazing difference love makes to someone. In our ‘street’ time we saw quite a few lives change, even to someone going to university in Newcastle. This person is happily married now with children.
In 2010 I put together a business plan. I have done many business plans before but this was quite difficult to do. My old style of business plan was about showing you were better than the competition and how much profit you could make. This was about helping people and not making a profit but changing lives. Over 18 months I gathered a small band of people to help. Along the way I had many who laughed at my plan and received abuse off some, but I was focussed and determined. Stella went back to work full time as a Nursing Sister and we not only lived off her wage but some of her earnings went into the Project. In February 2011 I did a Power Point presentation to the leaders at Rivers of life Church, Bowesfield Lane, Stockton. I showed them what The Project was about and asked for the use of their hall. This was to be for two days a week for 18 months after which we would move to a small house in the town. How wrong was I again? I underestimated the demand and how badly people needed help. We opened the doors on 1st September 2011 and the people came flooding in. Within months we had nearly 1000 people on our books. This shows the state of men hidden away too scared to come out. The Moses Project was like a beacon in the darkness. Men came forward with horrendous stories. Men in their 40’s and 50’s abused by their carers whilst in children’s homes. Men in their 30’s who at the age of 7or 8 were drug dealing for their parents. The very people who are supposed to look after and protect you were doing the damage. We quickly opened four days a week and 4.5 years later are still here. We need a large centre, not a small house.
What are the biggest challenges to the charity?
Simple – funding.
Many people believe that we receive monies from the Council or Government. We don’t receive a penny. We don’t want to become a commissioned service where we would have lots of money but lose our freedom. It works because we have our freedom. We can tell the clients we love them, we can hold them whilst they are sobbing, we can laugh with them. We love our freedom and it works. We rely on donations only. We do have support from Sir Peter Vardy and the Vardy Foundation, Jonathon Ruffer at Auckland Castle and Albert Dicken. We have many members of the public who donate £5 or £10 a month. This is amazing and we really need more cash donations per month like this. Then we could really change many lives. We also receive food and clothing donations from the public.
What are your biggest achievements for the charity?
Changing lives without a doubt! Yes, we have won some awards, but nothing is more rewarding than seeing someone whose life was ruined by addiction, back with their family and back in work leading a ‘normal’ family life. We have had many success stories and we have ten people in Christian Rehabs at present plus another eight waiting to go. This year we will see many more change lives.
What did you want to be when you were at school?
Certainly not this! In my very young days, a fireman. I had no real ambition at school. My Dad was in business. He had a few shops and market stalls and I thought I would join him, but my Mam had other ideas!
What was your first job?
Trainee Legal Executive. Not my choice, my Mother’s! She was determined that I ‘achieve’ something in life so she stopped me from joining my Dad. She did it with the right heart but, whilst I enjoyed going to Court, overall it just wasn’t me. However, whilst I didn’t realise at the time, this learning curve really put a sound foundation in my life. No training in life is wasted, of course my Court time has come in useful now as I spend quite a few days a month at Court.
What job would you like to have other than your own and why?
Truthfully, I could not wish for a better job. I am really fulfilled and it is a great honour and privilege to be allowed to speak into people’s lives. I did not ask for this role but I couldn’t pick a better job
What do you love most about working in the North East?
The people. They are really open and friendly. I love Stockton, it’s my home and where my heart is. See my answer below. Sometimes in the summer Stella and I may drive to Saltburn or Whitby on an evening, have fish and chips and come home. From Stockton to another world in 30 minutes! WOW amazing!!
What do you love most about living in the North East?
Parmos! You can’t buy a Parmo anywhere but Teesside! I love the diverse culture and the diverse scenery. From industrial to open countryside to seaside all within a thirty minute car journey. The North Yorkshire Moors are only a short hop away – then the fantastic coast line with all its history (thinking of Robin Hoods Bay, Staithes, plus others) It’s a great area to take clients out for the day. Many are amazed at what we have on our doorstep.
What do you do in your down time away from the office?
Down time? What is that? When I am away from the office I often have one of the clients with me or I am going to see one of them. Stella and I have three children and now eight grandchildren which keep us busy. We often have some of the grandchildren to stay, particularly on a weekend. I love being with them and I try on a Saturday afternoon to dedicate that time to them. As a Christian we go to a lively church on a Sunday morning which has an amazing Children’s Centre. I often leave early and pick up some clients who may want to come with us. I must point out that this is their choice, we never force our Christian views on clients but many of them want to ‘escape’ their horrible lifestyle for a few hours. As I stated it is a lively church with a ‘noisy’ band.
What’s your number one piece of advice for anyone in business?
Keep focused on your vision and NEVER GIVE UP. Many people will give you advice, always listen but never take your eyes off the goal. Some advice will sadly make you drift from your goal. In business you will come across many hurdles, stand firm, and work through them.
The Moses Project is very much alive and its aim is to change the way addiction is treat in Stockton. Housing is a major issue and I can’t understand why so many people are pushed into hostels without the correct care. Money is the first focus not people. If we had a person centred hostel or home then money will take care of itself. A holistic view needs to be taken so the person is cared for from housing to medical to legal. Heal the course of addiction not just the addiction and many thousands of pounds will be saved. Teach them how to live and how to look after money.
Our main immediate focus is a new building where we can house clients in a ‘pre rehab’ situation to prepare them for rehab. We also want to open seven days a week and do some evening work. We have seen a building but need £600,000 to purchase and transform it into a ‘Life Changing Centre’
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