An Environmental Science student, Lewis Smith found himself in the Keele University library, hunting for an internship. With the desire for environmental work pacing through his mind, Lewis made a timely discovery. Mondrem were also in the library that day, and when he heard about the Nurture internship, Lewis was consumed by a narcotic allure.
“I came along to an internship meeting at the Keele University library and I found out about Mondrem and the Nurture internship. And when I saw it, I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
“I then looked into the company and found out about the community work that Mondrem and Wayfinder want to do, such as supporting people with mental health issues. It just seemed to combine my current working life and my current degree. The care and support aspect and the environmental aspect fitted perfectly for me.”
It was this slick blend that sold Mondrem to Lewis and he recalls his first impressions of Mike, Mondrem’s Director, and Lucy, Mondrem’s Client Projects Lead.
“When I met Mike and Lucy, I found them to be very genuine and passionate about what they do. That they’ve managed to set up a company that matches their ideals and their personalities so closely reflects entirely upon who they are.”
But beyond those rosy first impressions, Lewis also tells me about his first two weeks at Mondrem: “I’ve found that with the staff as a whole there is this very close-knit community.”
There is this very close-knit community.
Lewis has more than just a passing interest in the natural world. He is fully engaged with his surroundings and last September, Lewis gained some invaluable experience.
“I went and did a conservation week up in Dundreggan and it was based on the rewilding project they’ve got going on in northern Scotland. I was introduced to all aspects of rewilding there, such as the removal of invasive species and the planting of native ones. At Keele I carried on finding out more about rewilding with the Wildlife Society, doing small-scale rewilding projects on campus.”
But life for the 28-year-old hasn’t always revolved around rewilding. Like many fresh-faced teenagers, Lewis’s career began with work in his local pub.
“I started off working in a local pub, which I did for 5 years. I then ended up with a telesales job in Nottingham, so I moved city and county – it was a spur of the moment decision which I did when my parents were on holiday so it was a bit of a shock for them when they got home.
“Then I went into retail, but I soon decided that it wasn’t for me. I already had care experience, so I decided to utilise that and get a job in care. I started off in community care where I used to work 17 hours a day, 5 days a week. I’ve stayed in care roles since then. I’ve cared for people from numerous backgrounds with numerous different mental and physical health issues; predominantly dementia.”
Working in care is both physically and mentally demanding, but Lewis’s can-do attitude is impressive. And even though joyous moments are difficult to capture, Lewis does find satisfaction in his care work.
“There are times when you do think about just how satisfying it is. Where I am at the moment, the people don’t have family that visit often, so as a carer, I am their main point of contact and I form a significant part of their support network.”
But Lewis stresses that job satisfaction in the care sector differs from place to place.
“At other places, there hasn’t been as much time to feel job satisfaction. At one place we had 55 beds in the home and on night shifts we had 4 members of staff. So, most of the time if I’d done something that I might have felt happy with, I was too busy dealing with lots of other things.”
What Lewis says here resonates with stories that frequently emerge from those who work in care. It’s deeply frustrating, but Lewis knows it’s unlikely to change.
After a lengthy break from education, Lewis decided that it was time to pursue his environmental interests. He’s just finished his first year at Keele University in an Environmental Science degree.
“The first year covers most of the earth sciences. There are aspects to do with sustainability, geology, geography, basic biology, ecology and others. It sums up the earth sciences with a few little extras thrown in.”
Most of us are connected to public services. And Lewis is no different.
“My Mum has been an NHS nurse for the last 16 years, so I know countless nurses. Also, with working in care for so long I’ve met lots of nurses. And quite a few of the carers I work with have also worked within the NHS. One of my lecturers is a councillor for Newcastle-under-Lyme and a councillor for Alsager has given talks to the Wildlife Society.
“The last few months have highlighted just how much work the NHS does do, but also how much stress it’s under. It’s often taken for granted.
“It’s not so much a case of good staff and bad staff, it’s more a case of adequately staffed facility compared to completely understaffed facility. A lot of the time, public bodies go by the lowest legal limit of staff that can be employed, not the adequate number of staff.”
This makes the work of public servants stressful. Faced with the constant demand to cut costs, public services are often run to the detriment of those working within them.
“With regards to care work, I’m motivated by the understanding that if I don’t do it, then nobody else will. If things don’t get done for people with severe dementia, then it could end in the loss of life. These people need care; it can never just be left for later.
If I don’t do it, then nobody else will.
“Having an ideal in my head helps to motivate me, like the ideal of a place of happiness. Focussing and working towards that ideal is helpful.”
For millennia, civilization has understood progress to be the extension of control onto the natural world. Mastering the forces of nature and imprisoning our environment has caused lasting damage.
Lewis feels compelled to push back against the destructive forces of urbanisation, focusing his energy on rewilding.
When I ask him about his passions, Lewis has a very simple response.
“It’s one of those things you can sum up in one word: environment. That contains everything that I’m passionate about. It contains most of my hobbies.”
We’ll continue sharing the stories of our new starters over the coming weeks. Make sure you’re following Mondrem on both Twitter and LinkedIn for daily updates.