A young mum has secured the job of her dreams as a care worker at a flagship care home after taking part in a life-life-changing television series.
Catherine Lewis, 20, of Caernarfon, credits her experience appearing on S4C’s FFIT Cymru with giving her the confidence boost to go for the career she had always secretly longed for.
To the delight of family, friends, and most of all herself, she has transformed from being a virtual recluse who dreaded even going out to the shops.
Now she is a self-assured working mum who delights in her role looking after others at Pendine Park’s Bryn Seiont Newydd centre of excellence for dementia care in Caernarfon.
She started the job two weeks ago after flying through an interview in which she impressed with her boundless enthusiasm and determination.
In a Christmas special programme to be broadcast on December 29, television viewers will see how, with the help of experts commissioned by Caernarfon-based TV production company Cwmni Da, Catherine managed to completely turn her life around in a matter of weeks.
Cwmni Da camera operator Lowri Wynn, who shadowed Catherine for two months recording every aspect of her daily life, said the change in her is remarkable.
She said: “We’ve become good friends over the last few months. In order to give a true reflection of what FFIT Cymru is about I had to spend nearly every waking moment with her. I was at her house for 7am every day, right through until late evening so I was with her more than I was with my own family.
“Fortunately we got along really well and it’s been heartening to see Catherine’s confidence build by the day.”
Catherine faced some heart-rending challenges during filming of the series, including supporting her mum, Mandy through kidney dialysis sessions.
She said: “The timing couldn’t’ have been worse and it was hard watching mum suffer so much following complications with kidney stones, but the film crew were right behind me and completely understanding of what I was going through emotionally.”
Her mum is now back home with Catherine’s dad Geraint and both are looking forward to watching the TV special over the festive holiday.
Presented by Lisa Gwilym, FFIT Cymru, saw five ‘leaders’, including Catherine, embark on a programme of exercise, dietary and lifestyle changes, supervised by experts.
Each was given an individually tailored routine to follow to suit their own lives and to help them achieve longstanding personal goals. The three-strong expert team consisted of fitness instructor Rae Carpenter, dietician Sioned Quirke and psychologist Dr Ioan Rees.
Catherine, who has a three year old daughter, Olivia, was nervous of applying to take part in the series at first but persuaded herself that if successful the benefits would far outweigh her qualms.
She said: “I’d never done anything like this in my life before. But I knew I was becoming a recluse, that if I didn’t act I could spend my whole life wishing for so much more out but never doing anything about it. I knew I had to set a better example to my little girl and I’m now so proud I did. Taking part in the programme has been uplifting and exhilarating.”
During the series Catherine was given a strict timetable of daily exercises and a healthy, nutritious meals schedule which she had to rigorously stick to. She lost more than two stones in weight and by the end of the series was able to complete a five kilometres run with FFIT Cymru’s fellow participants.
She added: “I’m a little bit disappointed at putting some weight back on but for me the series was about so much more than that. It revolved around my confidence and self-esteem. I’d reached a stage where I thought so little of myself that I didn’t believe it was even worth trying to do anything positive. I would never apply for a job or even go out with friends because I was always feeling like I wasn’t worthy. Now I’m so much happier and I know I can achieve goals if I set my mind to it.”
One of Catherine’s biggest dreams was to carve out a career as a care worker. She has always loved looking after others.
She said: “I knew that was the area I really wanted to work in but I never did anything about it because I didn’t believe I could succeed. But the FFIT Cymru team were so supportive and positive. They taught me how to really believe in myself and to put myself forward.
They encouraged me over the summer to get involved in care in the community work which I just loved. I knew then that this was the right field for me.”
Following on from that experience Catherine applied to the widely respected Pendine Park care organisation for a job at its flagship Bryn Seiont residential complex in Caernarfon.
She said: “I’m normally so nervous at interviews, but with this one I felt so confident, armed with my past experience and the positivity tips that Rae, Sioned and Ioan had given me. I was thrilled when they told me right there and then that I’d got the job.”
Catherine is now working as a care professional at Bryn Seiont and enjoys every moment of it.
In readiness for the forthcoming television special Catherine and Lowri recently teamed up again while she was filmed taking part in music sessions, chatting with residents and making cups of tea for them.
Lowri said: “She was a natural with the elderly residents. It’s so good to have witnessed the transformation for the better in Catherine. It’s been a real privilege working with her and being allowed to be a part of her life like this.”
Bryn Seiont Newydd manager Sandra Evans said everyone at the home was eager to watch the television special and would be right behind Catherine in her efforts to keep up with the lifestyle changes which it taught her.
She said: “I did not see all the series but caught one or two episodes. I’m friends with one of the other participants, Matthew Thomas, so it had extra interest for me. I’m delighted Catherine came through it with such a positive outcome and of course in the bigger picture Pendine Park is the ultimate beneficiary by having someone with her natural skills come to work for us.”
Catherine is now looking forward to another life-changing year in 2019 when she and her long-standing partner, Jac Ellis, plan to marry.
She said: “I would definitely recommend anyone who is considering it to take part in FFIT Cymru, or to just take on board some of the advice that can be gained by watching the series. I am positive proof that lives can be turned around no matter how bad things may seem.”
Cwmni Da production company, based in Caernarfon, is now planning a new series of FFIT Cymru next year and looking for Welsh-language speaking people to take part. Further details can be found on its website at: www.ffit.cymru
Presenter Lisa Gwilym said: “The experience of being part of the transformation of five Leaders in the first series of FFIT Cymru is something that will stay with me forever. I’m so grateful to every one of them for allowing us into their lives and for throwing themselves into the plan.
“I can’t wait to meet our new Leaders and to be part of their journey. It’s a great opportunity and a plan that works, and I’ll be there every step of the way to support them.”
Bryn Seiont- 1Pictured: Lowri Wynn filming Nia Davies Williams musician in residence at Bryn Seiont Newydd and L-R Catherine Lewis with residents: Millicent Foster, Daphne Eagen, Marguerite Walker, Owena Jones and Mary Menhinick.
Bryn Seiont-2Pictured: Lowri Wynn filming L-R Catherine Lewis and residents: Millicent Foster, Daphne Eagen, Marguerite Walker, Owena Jones and Mary Menhinick.
Bryn Seiont-3 Pictured: Filming is Lowri Wynn with L-R Catherine Lewis and residents: Millicent Foster and Daphne Eagen
Bryn Seiont-4 Pictured: Filming is Lowri Wynn with L-R Nia Davies Williams musician in residence at Bryn Seiont Newydd, Catherine Lewis and residents: Millicent Foster, Daphne Eagen, Marguerite Walker, Owena Jones and Mary Menhinick.
Bryn Seiont-5 Pictured: Lowri Wynn Filming Catherine Lewis.
Bryn Seiont-6Pictured: Lowri Wynn filming L-R Catherine Lewis and residents: Millicent Foster and Daphne Eagen
Bryn Seiont-7Pictured: Catherine Lewis with Lowri Wynn.
Bryn Seiont-8 and 9 Pictured: Manager Sandra Evans, Catherine Lewis and Lowri Wynn.