Petrina, Locality Manager in southern England has recently celebrated her 30th year at Walsingham Support. To mark such a special milestone, we want to reflect on what her 30 years of service means, but first, the celebrations!

Our team in Hertfordshire threw Petrina a surprise party. “It was one of the best days I’ve had at Walsingham Support, I never had a surprise like it. I don’t normally like surprises. Everyone managed to keep it a secret including my family who came along for the party.” Organised by Support Worker, Dahlia and Operations & Development Manager in southern England, Jane, the party was attended by support staff, people we support, and Petrina’s family – her mum and brother who has a learning disability, her daughter and 2 sons, and her 4 grandchildren! Petrina was showered with gifts – a picture frame, orchid, pen, One4all vouchers, and a vase – but, of course, no amount of presents could reflect the hard work, dedication and compassion that Petrina has demonstrated over her 30 years at Walsingham Support.

Petrina started at Walsingham Support in July 1989 as a support worker. She remained in this position for a year before transitioning to Senior Support Worker for 7 years, then Deputy Manager for a further 8 years and finally, her current position, Locality Manager, which she has been doing for 15 years now. Forming close relations with workers and the people we support has been a major part of Petrina’s career evolution – she has worked at Beacon Way for 15 years and has now been managing Aldenham Road since 2007. This has enabled Petrina to get to know each person really well, designing practical innovations that enable personal choices, improve life skills and strengthen links with family and the wider community. Values that, at Walsingham Support, are at the core of everything we do. Now, as Locality Manager, Petrina says: “It has been nice working my way up from a support worker to locality manager, but I have always remained as close to the people we support as I was all those years ago as it is important to build bonds and memories together.”

Laurie, Andrew and Pauline are people we support who have all lived in Walsingham Support’s services for 30 years now. Petrina has built a special bond with them in particular. Laurie says of Petrina's achievement: "It has been lovely getting to know you over the last 30 years," and Pauline adds: "Thank you Petrina for always making me smile, you are always so helpful."

Petrina counts going on holiday with people we support to various places including Norfolk, Devon and Bath as highlights of her time at Walsingham Support, so far! Holidays are important for people we support as it is a way to build memories and make connections with family, friends and the wider community.

We asked Petrina a few questions on what 30 years of service means to her and this is what she had to say:

What have you learned from your time at Walsingham Support?

So much. For a start, we didn’t have computers back then – everything was done by pen and paper! The organisation has grown a great deal since I started.

I’ve learned how to support individuals’ overtime. How to support different behaviours and how to cater to different needs as everyone is different.

Another thing I enjoy is that I gain skills at the same time people we support do, everyone is different which means every day is different. We continuously challenge each other to be the best we can be. Walsingham Support is very good at providing training but what you learn in a classroom is different from real life, so development is based on real-life situations.

Over the years, what has been your favourite part of working at Walsingham Support?

As Deputy and Locality Manager, I've enjoyed supporting some good quality staff to develop in their role and to enable them to support individuals with a good quality of care.

During the time I spent as a support worker, I enjoyed the more hand’s on experience and just supporting individuals to live their lives. Doing activities with the people we support and giving something back.

What does 30 years of service mean to you?

I like the organisation I work for and the values behind it – I’m passionate about that. When you know a company and the way it works, well that means a lot. There are lots of longstanding staff at Walsingham Support – managers, and my own team are a good, well-established team.

It is rare to find an organisation that lives up to its values and Walsingham Support does just that, which is a big part of the reason I have stayed for 30 years. I’m not planning on leaving but I'm not sure I’ll make another 30 years as I plan to be retired by then!