An Army veteran who found peace through painting as he battled post traumatic stress disorder is looking to launch his own business.
Kevin Richards, a former Army engineer, was diagnosed with PTSD following tours in Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.
The 56-year-old, born in Coventry and now living in North Tyneside, found it difficult to re-adjust to civilian life and hit rock bottom.
But after being referred for one-to-one support at Wise Steps, a six-month programme delivered by North Tyneside Council and the North East Social Enterprise Partnership (NESEP), he received a range of support to get back on his feet.
Kevin was encouraged to explore his passion for art as a way to alleviate the effects of PTSD and is now an award-winning artist whose oil and acrylic landscapes and portraits are in demand – and the commissions are piling up after his first exhibition at the Wallsend branch of Costa.
He said: “It feels great to have my art showcased. I wish I could do this on a weekly basis. I have had my confidence boosted greatly by being able to show my art and this has given me a real positive purpose.
“For me personally, I think where would I be without the Wise Steps support of Jimmy Costigan at North Tyneside Council and Steve Camm at NESEP, and I would recommend this programme to anyone who needs and wants a helping hand.”
Kevin will showcase his work again at Costa, Wallsend, on November 25.
His paintings are also available to buy online at www.myartgalleryonline.com
Wise Steps is delivered across Tyne and Wear with funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund.
The project provides one to one tailored support to help people take positive steps towards work. It is a partnership of local organisations led by the Wise Group.
Jimmy Costigan, an employment advisor at North Tyneside Council, said: “The showcase was a huge success and Kevin really enjoyed the day and said this really boosted his confidence. He was able to make some really good contacts and actually took a couple of commissions for work.
“He’s come such a long way since we first met and I’m very proud of him. Our work with Kevin continues and it will only be a matter of time before he is self employed and perhaps even trading on an international scale.”
Katey Coutts, manager at Costa Coffee in Wallsend, said: “We are excited about hosting Kevin again and have already arranged a date for November 25, in time for the Christmas rush.
“I think Wise Steps is a fantastic way to support those who are vulnerable or not too sure of the next steps to move forward.
“If it was not for programmes such as Wise Steps, people like Kevin would not be able to sit in Costa and showcase their work to generate interest.”
Residents who are in need of support to find employment, self employment, volunteering and training can contact the employability and skills team at North Tyneside Council on 0191 643 2288 or email firstname.lastname@example.org