Robbyn Lee, centre, coordinates Vocational Rehabilitation at MWI and is pictured helping service users make palm crosses for distribution to churches around the island for Palm Sunday services. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Robbyn Lee, centre, coordinates Vocational Rehabilitation at MWI and is pictured helping service users make palm crosses for distribution to churches around the island for Palm Sunday services. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, MARCH 2: “The real challenge is getting people in the community to give our guys a chance,” says Robbyn Lee.

Ms Lee and her team at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute help men and women with mental illnesses find work again in the community.

They organize a daily programme of activities for their 45 ‘service users’ ranging from bottling Bermuda sand for the tourists, making palm crosses for churches across the island or even car washing for islanders.

And they also arrange work placements in the community for them.

Ms Lee, who co-ordinates Vocational Rehabilitation at MWI, told the Sun: “There is a stigma still attached to mental illness.

“Some companies are willing to participate in the programme but some choose not to.

“It is finding that employment opportunity out in the community that is the challenge for us.

“Some of the men and women that come in to us are ready to work now, but there are fewer jobs around at the moment for obvious reasons.

“The state of the economy does make it harder to find placements.

“Once people do give our guys the opportunity they tend to stick with them.

“They find them more reliable and more appreciative of the job

“They make time and once they give them a chance they are generally impressed.”

Ms Lee has worked at MWI for the last nine years, but took over the co-ordinator role in 2007.

She is responsible for a team of 10 staff that includes occupational therapists and community support workers.

The Vocational Rehabilitation department at MWI provides support and assistance to people with a range of different illnesses from Schizophrenia to Bi-polar and depression.

The Day Labour Programme runs from 9am until 4pm from Monday to Friday. Ms Lee said: “We prepare the men and the women for work in the community and my role is to make sure they get that opportunity.

“We try and provide a daily structure for them.

“Some come to us to socialize while in other cases we may be all they have.

“We see a wide variety of individuals. All of them will have received treatment before in the MWI system and the majority of them are still on medication.

“The rewarding side of our work comes when you see these men and women, many of whom who have dealt with difficult challenges in their life achieving their goals and working in the community again.”

FRIDAY, MARCH 2: For more than three years Kent Steede has been a vital part of the daily running of Guardian Data Solutions.

The warehouse assistant was taken on by boss Len Aitken while he was receiving treatment at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute for a mental illness.

And recently he was given a full time job at the company that collects, destroys and recycles confidential paperwork for its clients.

The 27-year-old is responsible for baling and moving the shredded paper as well as dividing it into whites and colours at the firm’s headquarters in Well Bottom in Southampton.

He now works 8:30am to 5:30pm five days a week, but was receiving support from MWI’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services up until the beginning of this year.


Kent said: “I enjoy my job and the independence it gives me.

“I help my mom and dad pay the bills and it is a good feeling at the end of each day.

“I go along with the drivers and pick up the paper every so often, but most of the time I am in the warehouse.

“I hope to stay with this company, get a driving licence and move up the ladder. Maybe I can be the boss one day.”

Mr Aitken, President of Guardian, added: “Some people might say this job is mundane or below them, but I know how important it is to the firm.

“And I know that I can rely on Kent.

“He’s a great addition to us and he has been doing the job for long enough that he knows exactly what he is doing.

“He always makes time and is reliable.”

Mr Aitken has taken on workers from MWI in the past, and he believes companies would benefit if they followed suit.

He added: “I would encourage other companies to take advantage of the opportunity of employing someone from MWI.

“Kent is the third guy we have had and they have all been excellent employees.

“I want Kent to be the best he can be and I want him to succeed.”