It all started when I was studying in London. Little did I know, that a few moments of procrastination would lead to two years working in the most challenging, frustrating, magnificent, energy-zapping yet life-giving and fulfilling role of my life so far. 

When I stumbled across the ‘Norwich Church and Tenant Empowerment Worker’ job ad, it was obvious that this was far from the role that I’d been trawling the internet for.

After feeling stirred by the job description and Hope into Action’s vision, I made an email enquiry. Considering that I still had six or so months left in London before finishing my masters in Occupational Therapy, I was under the impression that my chances of securing that particular job would be pretty remote. Also, I had always envisaged that when I qualified I’d end up working as an Occupational Therapist in a hospital. Nothing else had crossed my mind. 

Fast forward a few weeks…

It “just so happened” that my predecessor and his wife (also a Hope into Action employee) were due to move away from Norwich the same week that I finished my masters. We moved into their rental house a day or so after they’d left Norwich and I started in the job the next day. 

Lessons learned in the first week: 

  1. Being back in Norwich rocked!!! I still loved that place and it’s inhabitants as much as when I’d first fallen in love with it, a few years earlier. 
  2. Some people, tenants in particular do not understand boundaries, or have filters! 
  3. Tenants ALMOST NEVER stick to agreed appointments and you get stood up on a daily basis in this line of work.

Six months in and the learning curve was still feeling pretty darn steep! The need to fight tooth and nail to get tenants what they needed from local authorities and services was a daily battle - to which each of us in the team appeared to have subscribed to (whether in a tenant-facing role or not). 

At this stage, I had developed a relationship with most tenants. I had begun to understand what made each of them tick, their stumbling blocks, strengths and ambitions. What an immense privilege it was to be entrusted to fight their corner with them. But also, what a responsibility it was to steward the trust that they’d put in me, in helping them to move forward in their journeys - despite ALL that the world was throwing their way. 

Other lessons learned in the first year: 

  1. There are some PHENOMENAL individuals serving in our local churches, who are so selfless and have the most beautiful servant hearts. 
  2. If you suspect that what you see before you is evidence of drug use, it most likely is...your gut feeling is often spot on. 
  3. Don’t be hasty in managing risky situations, particularly where illegal conduct is suspected...seeking wise counsel and prayer is crucial. 
  4. There are some wonderful people from other local services that you have the privilege of meeting along the journey. You will do well to make the most of those connections, learning everything that you can from them. 
  5. Developing a healthy work/personal life balance is crucial. Turn your phone OFF outside of working hours - unless on the out of hours phone. 
  6. Don’t forget to diarise when you are down on the rota for out of hours phone! 

I can say whole-heartedly that I am incredibly thankful for having had the opportunity to work for Hope into Action. I don’t think there is another role out there that could have taught me more about myself, God’s character, the harsh realities and BEAUTY of the world that we live in. A particular highlight was being involved in moving tenants on to their own accommodation - a lot of whom I have stayed in contact with and would consider as friends. 


Article written by Hannah Ashpole 

(Blessed to have been a Church and Tenant Empowerment Worker, Norwich team 2017-19)