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She Means Business- Next Steps Learning For Life

Whether you have a busy lifestyle, or fallen on hard times, it is so easy to mask your feelings and power through life unhappy and stressed.

Rae Farmer has dedicated her life to helping supporting people who are emotionally and/or mentally unstable struggling to get their lives back on the right track! When she found herself out of work, she took the risk of setting up her own organisation Next Steps- Learning For Life and it’s certainly paying off and helping more people than ever in the North East.

Read on for an exclusive interview with Rae, as she tells us how rewarding it is to help people in need, how important it is to support others and how she’s taking the business plunge again, setting up a charity, Bounce Back!

Why do you feel it is important for people to have the support from organisations such as Next Steps?

I believe it is important for people to have the support of Next Steps because learning about feelings, how they feel, how they look and how we can manage our emotions, is vital to finding a more balance way of living. There is much discussion in the media and in political circles just now about the value of emotional intelligence and the place it has within our society. For us at Next Steps, learning for life is exactly what we do. How we handle what life throws at us and how we bounce back we believe is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life. 

Next Steps promotes the teaching of Emotional Resilience. What is Emotional Resilience and why is it important?

Emotional resilience (ER) is being able to adapt to stressful situations or times of crisis, without lasting difficulties be it emotional or mental. Without (ER) we find ourselves really struggling to bounce back from those tough times and a good majority of us take a lot longer to return to our existing life or find a new version. Many of us find ourselves overwhelmed and unable to focus on our day-to-day lives. This can result with us stepping out of society, friendships, relationships, even employment!

So your question was why is ER important? Well it’s for that very reason! There are far too many of us not engaging with life, with society, family, employment. We’re unable to manage day-to-day and need a path through the overwhelming emotions that we have. Learning about ER and how we can help ourselves rather than giving away our control or giving up on ourselves, we are able to understand what’s happening and find a way through more clearly than before.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

I love my job because it’s not a job, it’s my vocation. I thoroughly enjoy working with people face to face and seeing the change in them over the time we are together. It’s seeing the depression lift and the sense of achievement and understanding ascend. Seeing people seeing themselves and their abilities rather than only focusing on their disabilities or negative experiences.

What is Next Steps proudest achievement?

Consistently working within schools, community centres, and for charities. Being asked back to deliver more learning opportunities and create new ideas.

You worked for many established companies such as Save The Children and WEYES before setting up Next Steps. Why did you want to set up your own company?

June 2013 I found myself without employment. For the first time in my life myself and my family had to access state benefits, with my son on free school meals. This lasted approximately a year. During this exhausting, traumatic time I found that there were limited employment opportunities for the skills set that I have. I also found a state benefit system that left me depressed, hopeless, unsupported and demoralised to say the least! I got to a point where being on benefits was having a major impact on my mental health and scarier than taking a leap of faith and setting up my own business. October 2013 with amazing support from family and friends Next Steps – learning for life began its’ adventurous journey.

A lot of your work is aimed at young people. If a parent approached you and was worried about their child, what advice would you give them?

You’re right! So far three quarters of the work that Next Steps has delivered has been with children and young people. However, my background is a mixture of working with adults and children. If a parent asked my advice I would listen and see how I might be of assistance, or how I might be able to sign post them to alternative support. This is something that happens a lot of the time as I volunteer for Newcastle Adoption Team as an experienced adopter. I find many parents ask me for my thoughts and my experiences. However, there have been times when I have ensured that the parent is sign posted to specific safeguarding agencies.

This year you have been accepted onto the School of Social Enterprise programme. What will you learn from this and how will it help Next Steps?

I am really excited about this opportunity and eager to meet my colleagues and mentors. I applied to the SSE because I am also volunteering with a team of others to set up a new charity called ‘Bounce Back’. I hope that the skills, knowledge and experience I gain from the SSE will develop both Next Steps and Bounce Back.

You’re setting up a charity too? You’re a woman on a mission! Tell us a bit about Bounce Back!

The charity is currently working towards registering with the charity commission. We intend to deliver learning opportunities about emotional resilience through the medium of creative arts. We have a strong team of 10 trustees who have varied backgrounds from the world of banking through to a children’s author. Bounce Back is currently fund raising to be able to set up as a charity. New legislation demands that all new charities have £5,000 in their bank account before being able to register.

How do you stay happy in body and mind?

I love walking and spending time with our new dog ‘Luna’. I joked when we got her that she was my ‘mental health’ dog, like a guide dog for blind people, but to help me get out and about and improve my mental wellbeing through exercise. My family and friends are 100% supportive and I always have a listening ear to sound things out with and talk things over. I’m a big believer in talking through your feelings and preventing circumstances from escalating through knowing yourself well enough.

What does the future hold for Next Steps?

The future is bright for Next Steps – learning for life, we continue to exceed our existing business plan with opportunities for collaborations and new developments. We are extending our geographical area due to requests from charities throughout England. Next Steps really has been my next step into creating a business, which is and will continue to financially support my family whilst enabling me to spend quality time with them too.

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To find out more information about Next Steps- Learning For Life check out

Website: www.nextsteps-learningforlife.com

Facebook: Next Steps – learning for life (Gateshead)

Twitter Account:@nextsteps76

Next Steps won a competition this year with Virgin Media Pioneers, the prize was to have a promotional short film made by Virgin Media. The completed film can be viewed via the next steps face book page.

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Or To find out more about Rae’s new charity or to donate please email bounceback.thecharity@gmail.com


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