Community award for inspiring addicts worker brian

October 28th, 2016

They live in a lost world, forgotten people excluded from society and battling drink, drugs or mental illness.

But thanks to the selfless actions of Brian Jones, many once desperate men have managed to break the grip of addiction and turn their lives around.

Brian and his team at the Stockton-based Moses Project have undoubtedly saved many lives, as addicts who faced the prospect of an early death have undergone remarkable transformations.

Now Brian become the latest winner of a Teesside Hero award, presented by the Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.

He received his award in a surprise presentation from Foundation supporter Joanna Wake, of Stockton-based RAW Digital Training.

Joanna said: “There have been some phenomenal transformations. Many more would have passed away if it wasn’t for Brian.”

Brian, previously nominated for an Evening Gazette Community Champion award, said: “I was amazed at winning this award. It fully recognises the great team that I have around me.

“We have many volunteers who work hard at changing lives and I have a small but strong team of directors and trustees who help not only guide the project but also me.”

Brian, 63, a Stockton father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight who has been married to wife Stella for 40 years, previously worked in retail, so this was “a complete change of direction”.

He said: “Stella and I love what we do. Seeing changed lives is the best thing that can ever happen. Honestly it is the best reward you can have.”

It is not the first time Brian and the team’s work has been recognised.

In 2014 the “incredible impact” of the Moses Project was commended with a special award from Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Moses Project was launched in September 2011. Before that Brian and Stella helped out on a Christian coffee bus that used to visit Stockton and Middlesbrough.

Since then it has helped many hundreds of men and has just celebrated its fifth birthday

Brian is the project’s chairman and lead support worker and is supported by a dedicated team of volunteers.

Those they help usually live in chaotic circumstances and are suffering the consequences of long-term self-abuse, homelessness or mental illness.

Based at the Rivers of Life Church on Lightfoot Grove, Stockton, the project offers daily support, mentoring and food for men who have become disengaged from society.

Hot meals are cooked every day by volunteers and food parcels are provided to those in need. Warm garments are also distributed.

But putting food on the table and clothes on people’s backs is just one piece of the jigsaw.

It also provides a safe environment where they can talk about problems, receive one-to-one support and practical help with things like housing, benefits, doctors or hospital appointments.

The men they work with range in background and need. Many of them are middle-aged. They live in hostels, bedsits or on the streets, with no family support or friends.

Brian said: “In my time we’ve come across these forgotten men just living in terrible conditions, in skips, shop doorways.”

Some had good jobs before they lost their way through redundancy or marriage breakdowns, while others had horrific starts in life and have become trapped in an endless cycle of addiction.

With the men mainly isolated from society, it’s rare they’ve been asked about their past or had someone spend time to get to know them.

Brian and his team are often the only people to listen to their stories, to hear why these men turned to alcohol or drugs to hide their pain.

Brian said: “We treat our clients as family members to build a trusting and life-changing relationship between us, using this as a platform to build up their self-confidence and self-esteem.

“A tough love approach which encourages them to feel valued and become re-engaged in society as empowered and responsible citizens.”

Brian tries to broaden their horizons and introduce them to positive lifestyles and activities, including regular team-building events.

As well as winning a trophy and meal voucher for two at Mohujos Mexican restaurant, Brian also received £1,000 for a Teesside good cause of his choice. He has chosen, unsurprisingly, the Moses Project.

To nominate an unsung community champion as a Teesside Hero, visit the Get Involved page here.

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