Hi, my name is Andrew Oliver. I am a young stroke survivor, having had a haemorrhagic stroke at the age of 22, which impacted my entire left side. I decided after three months in the hospital that I was going to do whatever it took to live my life, in the best way. I took my recovery into my own hands, so that in the future, I could say I had done everything I could!

I also decided that I was going to be the 'thing' that I couldn't find, which was a inspiring motivator for a younger generation of stroke survivors. I have been doing this through my blog, which I called 'The Long Road Ahead Blog', because I came to the realisation that living life after a stroke is not a straight path, nor is it a short one; but I have been walking it for over 5 years; still, it has been challenging. 

I have a self-critical voice in my head that likes to give 'me' opinions on everything I do, including writing this article you are reading right now. But fighting a lifetime's worth of self-doubt and worry is no easy task. That is why it's crucial to have an organisation like The Cedar Foundation to help you become a better version of yourself. I like feedback of all sorts and I'm huge on taking ownership and accountability for your actions in everything you do. Seeing yourself change month to month or year to year - is there no better feedback than that?!

I am a SkillSet service user at the Cedar Foundation. I found myself at their door as a new referral in 2022; I didn't know what to expect and unsure what Cedar could provide me with; but I knew around this time that I wanted to make some positive changes in my life. I have a bucket list and year own year set new goals for myself; and this next step with Cedar was one of them. Since, 2022, I have given myself the task of finding avenues to employment to see if the work I put in was enough to get there.

I sat down with Kieran McKeown, my 'Employment Officer' at Cedar, who was understanding and empathetic to my needs and wants. Thankfully, he was able to zero in on critical areas to target and not only helped me realise the wealth of skills that I have picked up over my short lifetime and ways to present them, but also showed me that I have more control and agency than I thought.

Cedar approached me at the tail end of last year and asked would I be interested in a short-term placement with their Communication Team. I couldn't have imagined that I would have a chance to work with The Cedar Foundation, to peer behind the curtain and realise the full breadth of services that they provide.

I got to meet and work with the Communications Team. I put the last six years of time and effort into learning how the social media side of things works; however, despite this, I was a little nervous when giving my honest thoughts and opinions on their website and social media. The team have show great care for Cedar, and I could tell in talking to them that they are passionate in wanting to make Cedar the best it can be; actually they operate in a very similar manner to myself, always seeking feedback on how to improve themselves. Of course, this didn't stop that self-critical voice in my head telling me "I don't have any right to tell them what they should do"; however, this feeling soon fading as the days went on. They took a lot of my feedback in their stride and implemented many of my suggestions.

Overall, this experience has been great, and I believe that you are compelled to use your talent to 'give back to society'; especially those who help you, as I have done, as a thank you for bringing me this far. And I'm sure I'm not done by a long shot as I've learned more about Cedar and the fabulous things they have going on. I can't wait to see them happen.

Click the link to find out more about our SkillSET programme: SkillSET | The Cedar Foundation (cedar-foundation.org)