Having started out with a degree in English and Religious Studies I first worked for a charitable research centre which supported human and religious rights of people in Communist Lands, and gave me the opportunity to travel extensively. I next worked as a Community Fundraiser for a UK charity. These roles involved presentations and administration, but wanting to be more ‘hands on’ I did a course in counselling skills.
This led to me working as a Support Worker for people with learning difficulties and those experiencing mental health problems. I added to my skills with courses in First Aid and Non-violent Crisis Intervention, an HNC in Mental Health, and gained an SVQ 4 in Managing Social Care Teams. After working as Assistant Manager for teams in Dunfermline and Cupar, I worked for Express Group Fife, and ran local groups in North East Fife which provided safe meeting space and therapeutic activity for people living in the community struggling with mental health issues such as schizophrenia and dementia.
In that role I began to work closely with other local service providers including Cath Carter, Parish Nurse for St Andrews and Mel McGill, Community Psychiatric Nurse for the elderly in North East Fife. We realised that while Group work with a particular demographic was helpful, it was limited and there was little integration. We wanted to provide a more comprehensive and inclusive service for our local community; in spite of its affluent appearance, it includes many people who are socially isolated, are struggling to make ends meet, and those experiencing mental health problems.
As a member of the Ministry Team at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, St Andrews I started running a weekly free Community Lunch from the church as well as a Christmas Lunch for anyone who would otherwise be alone or struggling in some way, and the church appointed me Outreach Worker to build on this.
… and that is how the idea for a North East Fife Community Hub and Café was born.
Mhairi Owens is a community worker living in Fife, Scotland. She tutors in Poetry with the University of St Andrews International Summer School and writes in both English and Scots. Her poems have appeared, or are pending publication, in various anthologies and journals. These include Cyphers; Glasgow Review of Books; Ink, Sweat and Tears; Obsessed with Pipework; Poetry Salzburg Review; Prole; South; Southlight; Strix; The Moth; The North and The Rialto. Her poem ‘Shiftin’ won the 2019 Wigtown Prize.
She worked at the Community Hub with Jill.