John Wills, who was abused as a child but came to SUK for help has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directory of Social Change.
‘Apart from being an inspiration to many John has turned his life around and is now helping many others. It is especially appropriate that this award is announced on the day that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse starts taking evidence for the first time’ says Keith Best, SurvivorsUK’s CEO.
John Wills, 51, who is a survivor of child sexual abuse has been awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directory of Social Change.
The award is for an “individual who has made a major impact on their organisation/community and has devoted their time and energy to achieving sustained positive change over the span of their working life.”
The final decision on who won the award was by an online public vote, and John says “I have been totally taken aback by the level of support I received and want to thank every single person who voted for me, I am truly grateful and honoured to receive this award”.
As well as being a Healthwatch Essex Mental Health Ambassador, John is also the manager and lead bushcraft instructor of Greenpath Ventures, which offers outdoor activities to disadvantaged people and Project Lead for AARCA (Assisting Adult Recovery from Childhood Abuse) which offers a recovery workshop programme for adult victims of childhood abuse.
John’s past achievements include co-founding 2 charitable organisations, managing an award winning charity, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes and survival training in the Arctic, Amazon and Sahara (the latter two after major surgery for a broken back).
What makes winning this award even more remarkable is that John’s story is one of overcoming enormous difficulty; from the age of 8 until 14, John was the victim of sexual abuse by a close “friend” of his family. Following the abuse he drifted into drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness. Yet despite all this he managed to turn his life around with the help of SurvivorsUK, a London based charity that works with male survivors of child abuse.
After the battle to overcome his abuse he then trained as a therapist himself and began volunteering for HEAL, which was a support group for adult survivors of child abuse in Colchester. John went on to manage the charity and under his leadership it became a registered charity and was awarded the Queens Award in 2007.
‘I am very passionate that people can move from being victims of abuse to survivors of abuse, and if my story can help then I am pleased for it to be used. I also want people to know that they do not have to be defined by either their abuse or mental health diagnosis; that people are much more than this.’
Following his management of HEAL, John undertook professional training in bushcraft and survival and he co-founded the organisation Greenpath Ventures (GV), which became a registered charity aimed at working with adults with mental health issues and other disadvantaged groups. Unfortunately, in 2012 HEAL closed, and to fill the gap this created in local services, he then went on to co-found AARCA (Assisting Adult Recovery from Child Abuse). The organization is currently in the process of becoming a registered charity.
Within both charities and beyond, John provides a positive role model and an example that those who have suffered abuse are more than just victims.
‘I was very humbled to be even nominated and short listed for such a prestigious award, the fact that I have gone on to win it is unbelievable! I only hope that in receiving this award it helps show people what can be achieved by someone who is given the right support and encouragement.
I was fortunate enough to find the help I needed through SurvivorsUK, unfortunately there are 10’s of thousands of other men across the UK who do not find the support they need. This is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.’
In winning this award, John hopes it will help raise awareness of adult victims of child abuse and encourages other people to come forward and seek the help they need.
John is now writing a blog of his experience of surviving abuse to help other victims: http://johnwillssurvivor.blogspot.co.uk/