‘The gratitude we get makes it worth the effort’

This is South Wales article 08.12.10

JAMIE Denyer is probably the closest thing there is at this time of the year to a real-life Santa’s Little Helper!

The best part of two years after first offering his trade skills to deserving families for free, he has never really looked back.

In that time the service has grown and grown as more volunteers have got on the altruistic project.

Now he is about to take another new step going out into schools to talk about positivity.

It is all a big turnaround for   plasterer Jamie  of Dan y Graig Road in Gorseinon who just a couple of years ago went through his own 18-month period of personal and financial problems.

Yes, he says, it has all given him a new outlook on life.

“We can take something from every project that we do that makes us have what I call an attitude of gratitude — where we are grateful for what we have got rather than dwelling on what we haven’t,” he says.

“I thought I prepared myself for the work, but  what I didn’t prepare myself for was the circumstances — the poorly children, bereaved families, issues of domestic violence. It is an emotional rollercoaster that you experience but it is all for the good. It is nice to brighten up somebody’s day. It breaks my heart that I can not help every one of them but you have to draw a line somewhere.”

While the project called Etseth — enlarging the spirit and encouraging the heart — initially offered to plaster a room, it has now expanded to take on larger projects as more trades have come on board.

Jamie, 32, says: “There are now between eight and 10 volunteers on board,” he says. “Each one  dedicates roughly one day a month. I will give up two or three days   because I am there at the start, middle and end.

“We go in to people’s houses and blitz it and  people are made well aware it can take a certain amount of time because we give up our time from our paid jobs.”

Jamie started Etseth through an appeal in the Evening Post and the success of the project has grown from strength to strength.

He says he wanted to inject positivity into deserving people’s lives after going through his own personal difficulties.

“I met a girl from Swansea, who is now my wife, on a random night out in Brighton, and I started to view things in a different light,” he says. “I was very grateful for what I had, and  knew people were a million times worse off than myself.

“I just thought what could I do to spread positivity if people were in negative situations. So I thought I would dedicate initially one day a month to help others. More and more trades heard about what I was doing and the trades from my paid business that I had made contact with were willing to help out with materials.”

And this winter, the project is offering free boiler repairs during winter months for the elderly.

Jamie explains: “The guy wants to remain anonymous, but we are looking at around two a month. It could even be advice or coaching over the phone. A 30-second phone call could solve their problems whereas people would normally pay  a call-out charge.”

Corey Jones, 19, of Grenfell Avenue, Penyrheol, a plasterer, says he enjoys helping other less fortunate than himself.

He says: “I am glad I can help through my skills. It makes the job worthwhile and it is enjoyable knowing I am working to help somebody.”

Jamie says the appreciation and enjoyment he gains keeps the project worthwhile.

“Unlike the material aspect of it you can see a difference of a room but it is the appreciation of the gratitude shown,” he says.

“We can kind of take something from every job. For instance a job that we have done in the past where a four-year-old boy has autism and leukaemia and yet he was still  running around with a smile on his face: it shows we have nothing to moan about really.”

Before Christmas two young boys, one a young carer, will also have new bedrooms.

Carpenter Steve Hollands, 31, of Killay,  got involved after seeing a picture of Jamie in the newspaper.

“I asked if could get involved by helping out a few days here and there,” he says.

“It helps to put people’s trust back into trades people, so many people have been ripped off in the past.”

Don Edwards, of Gwernos, Morriston, is just one of the people to benefit from the project.

The 68-year-old who is registered blind says because of his disability he is limited what he can do in his house.

Jamie and his band of helpers plastered and decorated his room giving it a bright makeover.

He says the project is an “outstanding act of kindness.”

School talks are scheduled to start soon.

“I am thankful I went through those hard times and did not give up the ghost and spiral downwards. I have become interested in counselling which is something I may look to go into afterwards. Sometimes just lending an ear can be worth its weight in gold.”

“I hope this is an example that people don’t have to have an amazing amount of financial backing to do something good for other people.

“We all have a skill, we all have a talent, and we have to use it in a productive and positive way to serve others and help others out especially in these hard economical times.

“A motto I have come to associate with was said by Winston Churchill, that ‘we make a living of what we get but we make a life of what we give’. It really is very true.”