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This is how it all happened...By Simon Warde


So 15 years ago I went backpacking and quite frankly it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I was working in the IT department at Centrica (British Gas) in Staines at the time. I had been working there for about 5 years albeit in a few different roles and teams. The roles there had served me well, although had started to feel very uninspiring. Working more in the back end of IT, you didn’t really have that connection with how your work benefitted the customer and therefore this created some disconnection. Although there was purpose to the work and a need for it, I never really experienced a sense of emotion with those it effected.


At this time I was house sharing with a couple of friends in Hampshire. Although I had lived in different places, they were all around a similar geographically area. I had a lot of goods times for sure, although it had all become a little stale. I had also become increasing more aware that there was a big old World out there that I wanted to see more of, so I made the decision to go backpacking on my own.

I lived a bit of a hermit life for a while and attended only a sprinkle of social occasions, as I simply saved and saved and saved. I made a plan of where I wanted to go, how long the money would last and went into STA Travel to book my tickets.

I handed in my notice at work and about two months later left. When walking out the door (although a leaving do immediately followed) I knew for certain that I would never return there and when I did return home it would be for a different career, although at that point I had no idea in what. I just had a sense that I wanted to work with people more and feel that what I did had a benefit to others.


Messy leaving do aside, over the next week I said farewell to friends, family and hopped on the first of many planes. I could ramble on about all these amazing experiences I was very fortunate to have and how grateful I am, however that’s not the purpose of this blog. While travelling I met new people every day to the point that there were times I just needed to wander off on my own like a lone cowboy for a few weeks on end. Saying that, meeting all these people was a complete blessing and what I considered to be a gift.

One evening I was staying at a hostel on farm land in Australia. I got chatting to a lady who was a Carer back in England and we spoke for hours on end……that was it….this was my calling…..this was the perfect opportunity to make people lives better.

When I returned from travelling, I just took any temp work I could find for a while and was generally sent to a different work place each week by the job agency. I then saw a job for a carer’s position and I applied, was interviewed and awarded the job the same day. Pleased I was, but after about 12 hours the realisation set in that financially long term it was going to leave me a little stuck, so I subsequently turned it down.

I’d started seeing someone while travelling and she had been working in the Social Housing sector. She understood my needs and explained how this work would be a perfect fit. I then applied for a role as an Allocations Officer in Rushmoor Borough Council and with no prior Social Housing experience, she helped me prep for the interview over a weekend. I wasn’t successful in the role as I was up against those with plenty of experience, however was informed that I was second choice and this spurred me on.


I then applied for a role as a Housing Support Officer at Windsor Housing Association and that I was successfully in. It did mean that my wage had almost halved prior to travelling, however this wasn’t what was important anymore, as I knew I would feel truly satisfied and this was a complete fresh start….a reset I guess.

So if there is any moral to this blog, it is simply that starting to work in Social Housing did very much fulfill my needs, as I was working directly with the customer daily and it was now clear that my actions had a positive impact on others. I experienced how my actions could make someone’s day and that I could genuinely help people.

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Hi David,


Thanks for your kind words.


It's been a really pleasure to have met you and I am fond of your sense of humour.


We'll be speaking more soon, as we have lots of Great Estates updates for you. A meeting will be setup to discuss.


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Hello Brenda,

Yes I worked at Windsor Housing Association (now part of Radian) for a couple of years, then a housing association called Places for People in Hounslow. During this time moved to Oxfordshire and a couple of years later applied for Tenant Involvement job at OCC.

We never regret the day you filled in the TI form either and it's been wonderful to get to know you over the years........how lucky we are.


We are also the lucky ones to know you all and it's always so interesting to learn about people's past and as you say, the many obstacles people have gotten over. Provides us with great admiration.


I am glad that I had that very conversation in…


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I have to say before having read this the few times have met you and spoke and mentioned my area of work. In my mind I had thought how good you would be in the care sector. The interest you showed for people and how chatted just suggested to me that you would be a great carer and up to manager even in the area. If you had come up for interview during my time I think you would certainly have been offered the job!


I think your interest in people comes out so though maybe a loss for the health and social care sector it is a win for us and you being in position you are now.

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So Simon we learn more of your past history. For us 'doing our bit' in Tenant Involvement we get to see how events changed your path into Social Housing which I presume then led into the world of Tenant Involvement in Oxford.


I, for one, never regret the day I filled in the form to get involved. I have met some people who have overcome obstacles in their life and admire them for how they have coped. I made friends who sadly are no longer with us and some that I still have the pleasure of seeing at various events. I like to think that the City Council Team are amongst those friends (even though I don;t know some as…


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