Meet Patricia Clark, Astriid’s Head Candidate Coordinator

Patricia Clark, the Astriid Head Candidate Coordinator, is the person you want in your corner when you’ve hit a rough patch. Strong, resilient, and fun, Trish will never give up until her mission is accomplished. Here is her story, in her own words:
Much of my adult life has mainly been taken up with teaching and bringing up my own three children; both of which had their challenges.
The most challenging time for me was, combining study for my degree part-time, working full-time as an educational needs assistant whilst being a mother of three young boys. This was all very demanding. However, I remained focused and gained a First-Class Honours Degree in Childhood Studies from Huddersfield University. Following my teacher training, I worked in a handful of primary schools. That was until I became ill.
In 2014, I became very poorly and took a considerable amount of time off work. It was a mystery, what was happening to me? All I knew was, I could do nothing. The doctors could find nothing. After four months, I returned to teaching but struggled until eventually, I had to wave the white flag and leave the job I had worked tirelessly hard for, was something I was passionate about and was very good at. Dabbling in other areas of education, eventually, I walked, I say walked; shuffled away from the classroom on 7th January 2019 and got into bed…………for three months! I was suffering from a severe loss of mobility, fatigue, tinnitus, painful joints, and a head that found it difficult to string two sentences together. The continual fight against whatever illness I had, resulted in an end to my career as a primary school teacher, only to be introduced to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.). Not a fair trade…. or so I thought.
Panic set in. I was a mum, a house owner, a partner. What was I to do? What does a teacher do, if she doesn’t teach? I was in an awful place. I couldn’t take my children out, I couldn’t cook, clean, (not a bad thing), I worried about not being a good partner, a friend, a sister, a daughter. I honestly believed things were slowly going to drip away and there was nothing I was going to be able to do about it. I thought I was going to be left with nothing.

Why did I join Astriid?

That is until my mum rang me to tell me she had heard a gentleman talking about a charity called Astriid, on BBC Radio 2. He was talking to a lady who was describing symptoms that my mum had heard me describe. I swiftly registered in the hope of finding something! I spoke to Steve Shutts, Astriid’s CEO, explained my situation, cried a lot. Steve managed, somehow, to help me see how many skills I had; skills that were not just used in teaching but could be transferred to other areas. He helped develop in me the skills and confidence to take on a brand-new role, within the charity itself. Things were looking brighter. I thank my mum for introducing me to Astriid…..with two Is!

What is my role within Astriid?

My role within Astriid is Head Candidate Coordinator. It is my job to welcome everyone who signs up to Astriid and bring a human touch to the Astriid community. I chat with candidates to get to know them a little better and learn more about them, the difficulties they face, but most importantly, look at all the things they can do. I describe the different services Astriid has to offer by way of support, and together we work out what support is needed to address their difficulties, achieve their goals and help them on their journey towards the working world.

Why do I love my role?

Having chatted, laughed, cried, helped and made friends with so many people, I cannot thank them enough for sharing their stories with me and allowing me into what have and are difficult, emotional, painful, sensitive chapters in their life. When a candidate agrees to chat with me, they have no idea what to expect. They are, when all said and done, taking a giant leap of faith. So, to know, by the end of our call, I have made people laugh, feel listened to, understood, feel valued and relaxed enough for them to tell me some of the struggles they are going through, is humbling, often hard to hear but most of all, an honour.
I am desperately passionate about people seeing and celebrating all the things they can do. To know I have helped build enough confidence to orchestrate positive differences in candidates’ lives, support them in reaching their potential, and reignite their passions, makes me happy. The reward is something I find hard to describe. I love talking to people. I love hearing their stories and I guess through an element of coaching and mentoring, listening and guiding, along with an injection of enthusiasm, understanding, and trust, I have built some strong relationships over the past few months.
Turns out, I am pretty good at it, too! As Head Candidate Coordinator, I now have a very small, but brilliant, team of coordinators. This trade seemed to be paying off.

What is it about candidates that moves me?

Their determination. Their perseverance. Their skills, talents, sensitivity, humour; the list goes on, but mainly their thanks. I will never get my head around the thanks, praise, heartfelt comments and sense of surprise that someone has helped them. It brings me to tears. I will never be able to just take that. The people I speak to have been through a tremendous amount of emotional and physical pain and suffering; loss of identity, family, friends, jobs but here they are, thanking me.
I am very lucky to be in this privileged position. In the time I spend talking to these amazing people, I can forget about my diagnosis. I feel like me again, and I feel it is I who should be thanking them. And I do.
Best trade I have ever made.
Patricia Clark, the Astriid Head Candidate Coordinator, joined the charity in 2020.