Shirley’s Journey back to work and back to herself


FROM being unable to leave the house to supporting others to get more active and confident, Shirley has come a long way since she first walked into the Dovercourt hub. 

Shirley Barrell is one of Community Voluntary Services Tendring’s (CVST’s) physical activity volunteer and community connectors.  

But before she started working with CVST, Shirley could barely leave her house – not even to cut her front lawn. 

Shy and with a lack of confidence Shirley was worried when her friend invited her to join CVST’s Crafty Hub in the Dovercourt and Harwich Hub.  

But she did it – and since then she hasn’t looked back. 

She said: “I was worried when I first went to the hub because I was quite shy, had no confidence and I didn’t like the way I looked. 

“But coming into CVST has really helped me. 

“I became a volunteer with the friendship group, which I was really proud of.  

“At first, I wasn’t sure about it, but it was lovely helping. 

“We would have events and I would get up the front and dress up and they all loved it.” 

Slowly Shirley’s confidence grew and grew. 

And now she is a paid member of staff. 

She added: “Becky, CVST’s physical activity co-ordinator, said I should apply. 

“I wasn’t sure but with Becky’s support I did it, and I got the job. 

“I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy” 

But, at first Shirley had some bumps along the road. 

She said: “When I started working with CVST, there was a couple of times in the job where I didn’t think I was good enough.  

“I nearly gave it all up a couple times. 

“But I listened to Becky’s advice and I carried on. 

“And I’m glad I carried on because I absolutely love my job and I love what I do. 

“I still can’t believe what I’m doing – it’s brilliant.” 

Since working with CVST Shirley has been able to create a range of walking and cycling groups and individual sessions to get people involved, learn how to keep fit during the different seasons and build their confidence.  

Organising different events like a taster day event that allowed people to try many ways to exercise and learn ways to be more health in a variety of talks.  

With the new confidence she has been able to start driving again and even brought herself a new car.  

After 30 years Shirley is now back to herself again and helping people who, just like she was two years ago, need a little extra support to get back out in the community and outside getting active. 

She has also been joined in the job by David Cole, who has joined the HILL team as a Physical Activity Volunteer and Community Connector. 

Both Shirley and David’s roles have been funded by Active Essex’s Local Delivery Pilot. 

They are available to help residents in the Harwich area to get more active, whether that is to gain more confidence and join a friendship group or a physical activity class, or to have a one to one meet up. 

There are individual and group walks, Box Fit sessions, cycling either in a group or one to one, and more. 

For information on the services CVST provide visit or call 01255 555 115. 

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