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Phil Hankin has come a long way in the past 14 months. From a down-at-heart-and-body person who has been through jail, alcohol abuse, family disruption, depression, anxiety and harrowing electroconvulsive therapy, Phil has worked his way back into society, and into himself.
He and his two teenage children are living independently. He sees a bright future for them all. He’s got a car. He’s turned his hobby into a home-based income earner, scoring his first wholesale deal recently. Life is pretty good, he says!
Much of Phil’s achievements have come through accepting an invitation to take lead in his recovery via the Federally-funded Partners in Recovery (PIR), coordinated by Aftercare Facilitator Adam Dreyer. PIR uses a holistic approach to connect people experiencing severe and persistent mental illness – and their carers and families – with the services and supports they need.
“PIR is like my family – it’s heartening to be acknowledged and appreciated,” Phil said.
Phil’s determination through leatherwork skills he learned as a teenager from his father has also helped him shape his own future. His love for leatherwork remained dormant for decades but a couple of years ago in prison, he took lessons which reignited his passion.
“Leatherwork keeps me busy, and my mind creative and active. When I got out I found a starter kit at Cash Converters,” Phil said.
Adam presented a case to PIR’s Flexible Funding Committee, which approved a voucher enabling Phil to purchase tools and material and expand his opportunities. Phil set up a workshop on the kitchen table where it remains.
Phil is now cutting, shaping, sewing and stitching shoulder bags, tobacco pouches, key rings, hairpins and tee holders, mostly to his own designs. Three of his eye-catching women’s handbags were sold by a mate to colleagues at work.
Adam, his PIR Facilitator said, “Phil’s resilience and confidence is growing each week; he’s quite the entrepreneur and is becoming more assertive. He recently fronted a retail shop and seized the initiative to get the ball rolling.”
“The manager at the tobacco shop liked what she saw and bought two on the spot and agreed to hold another two on consignment”, beams Phil.
“I am visiting other places, talking to managers or owners, leaving my business cards. I feel good, getting positive feedback and endorsements of my products.”
Phil is full of praise for his psychologist. “He’s easy to get on with; I am very comfortable opening up and talking about stuff. He’s been of great assistance, helping me to reduce my anxiety and clear away the clouds.”
Adam: I encouraged Phil to reconnect with one of his passions and involve that at the core of the things he does that makes him feel well. We worked on some financial management skills, turned a hobby into a business goal.
Phil gets out his diary cum workbook in which he sets timetables and deadlines, jots down ideas and designs and, importantly, records progress. “With this book I can see how far I have come,” Phil said.
“I have limited money coming in so far but I managed to put aside some for a vice, materials and a sewing machine.”
Adam: Through a men’s circle I arranged someone to help Phil design his marketing material, certificate of authenticity, business cards etc. Phil is repaying him by fixing his leather jacket.
Phil shows us a bookmark from the first leather kit he ever used. “It has POP stamped in it. It brought lots of memories flooding back and lifts my spirits every time I hold it.” Phil goes quiet, his head drops. He sighs deeply, then he looks up, tears streaking his cheeks.
“Dad called the other day, he’s got cancer. We’ve had our issues over the years and don’t talk too often but he’s still my dad. I think if he came in here today and saw me making a go of it from what he taught me all those years ago, he’d be proud of me. Yeah … he’d be proud.”
His spirits brighten. “Look, it feels good to impress other people but mostly I am impressing myself!”
For other Gold Coast events and activities visit the Gold Coast Primary Health Network’s website: HealthyGC.com.au