John wins! Ambassador given lifetime achievement award

One of our Mental Health Ambassadors, John Wills, has been awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directory of Social Change (DSC).

The honour, which was voted for by the public in an online poll, is awarded to an ‘individual who has made a major impact on their organisation/community and has devoted their time and energy to achieving sustained positive change over the span of their working life.’

John is the manager and lead bushcraft instructor of Greenpath Ventures, which offers outdoor activities to disadvantaged people. He is also Project Lead for AARCA (Assisting Adult Recovery from Childhood Abuse), which offers a recovery workshop programme for adult victims of childhood abuse.

“I have been totally taken aback by the level of support I received and want to thank every single person who voted for me, I am truly grateful and honoured to receive this award,” said John.

“I was very humbled to even be nominated and shortlisted for such a prestigious award, so the fact that I have gone on to win it is unbelievable! I only hope that in receiving this award it helps show people what can be achieved by someone who is given the right support and encouragement.”

John’s story is one of overcoming enormous difficulty. Between the age of eight and 14, John was the victim of sexual abuse by a close ‘friend’ of his family. Following the abuse, he drifted into drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness. He managed to turn his life around with the help of SurvivorsUK, a London based charity that works with male survivors of child abuse.

He then trained as a therapist and began volunteering for HEAL, which was a support group for adult survivors of child abuse in Colchester. John went onto manage the charity and under his leadership it was awarded the Queens Award in 2007. He then continued his charity work co-founding Greenpath Ventures and AARCA.

John hopes winning the DSC award will help raise awareness of adult victims of child abuse and encourage others to come forward and seek the help they need. “I was fortunate enough to find the help I needed through SurvivorsUK,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of other men across the UK who do not find the support they need, which is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.”

Healthwatch Essex has a number of different types of Ambassadors, including some specialising in areas such as mental health and learning disabilities. Ambassadors are volunteers who help Healthwatch Essex collect and represent the voice of people in the county in relation to health and care services.

John is now writing a blog of his experience of surviving abuse to help other victims: