Mary (name changed for anonymity) wasn’t considered suitable for our IGA programme for several years, because she was regarded a hopeless drunk.

Now, when we talk of people being alcoholics here, we mean that they are drunk for almost every waking hour. They seem to be experts at making extremely potent alcoholic brews or spirits out of basic household waste.  

Anyway, our IGA team decided to try and help her start a charcoal-selling business. After the initial counselling and training, they only gave her £10 out of the £25 grant – because they wanted to see how she would get on.  

Mary started to cut down on her drinking but faced a number of challenges at home. With support from the IGA team, she slowly reduced her consumption by around 40%. However she was still drunk quite a lot each day and – bearing in mind that she had only been given a part of the grant – it wasn't surprising when the charcoal struggled to get off the ground.

However, her time selling charcoal (and the personal support we provided) encouraged her to drink even less and gain some practical business skills. She is now drunk much less often and is more able to manage a small business. Also, she is now regularly meeting – not just with our IGA team – but with other IGA mothers in a weekly self-help group to encourage one another.

As a result, the IGA team gave her the remaining £15 of the grant. She is doing remarkably well now with her vegetable business although, as she escapes the alcoholism, her alcoholic husband is starting to be physically abusive to her at home – so challenges remain and our welfare team is now also involved with the family.

So, not exactly a feel-good story, but it shows how difficult and complex our work can be when we help them start a business. It is not just a case of handing someone £25 and off they go. To help this lady, it has needed a lot of counselling and hard work from the IGA and welfare teams… actually our staff have worked wonders to help her get this far. And they haven’t finished yet.