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Making a difference in the global engineering community

Thanks to Foothold, I’ve been able to focus on regaining my confidence and being the best dad and grandad I can be.

It’s no secret that the last two years have been a challenging time for many of us. Here at Foothold we've seen first-hand how tough it's been for some in the global engineering community to cope with financial and wellbeing pressures during this difficult period.

That's why, thanks to the incredible support of our community, we're delighted that we were able to provide more support than ever before to engineers and their families throughout 2020-221.

£2.1 million spent delivering support

to 1,275 people

across 50 countries

a 49% increase on 2019-20

Lifelong engineer John is one of those people. Read on to discover his personal story of resilience and recovery, and how thousands of engineers just like him turned their lives around with our support in 2020-21.

I’ll never forget the moment I opened the first letter from Foothold confirming they were going to support me. I was reduced to tears with relief.

John Murray and daughter

Hi, I’m John and I live in the borders of Scotland with my daughter Fabienne, my two dogs Brock & Buster, and my horse, Nobby.

Whilst my main interest has always been engineering, my true passion has always been helping people – specifically through education.

After an early career in the Household Cavalry working on horseback and on the tanks, I attended Edinburgh's Napier University to study mechanical and manufacturing engineering, which is where this passion really came to life.

Eventually, my desire to use my skills and interest in engineering to help others led me to apply for an international skills-sharing initiative. I worked in Lesotho, Southern Africa, for two years as a Senior Design Engineer.

This was a really rewarding role for me as I was designing technologies that would help lift people out of poverty, as well as training the local counterpart engineers.

123 individual career coaching courses provided

I continued to work as an educator when I returned to Scotland, and joined another academic institution as a course coordinator and curriculum leader for the engineering faculty.

The opportunities I’d had up to this point to combine my key interest and passion in practice had been better than I could ever have imagined.

But that was all about to change.

23,722 digital wellbeing sessions delivered

In 2011, after losing my second born child and separating from my wife, I suffered a chronic mental breakdown. The busy and purposeful life I’d once loved came to an abrupt holt.

The breakdown impacted me severely. I experienced crippling anxiety, intense paranoia and debilitating fatigue which, at its worst, meant I could barely leave the house.

My memory was badly affected too, to the point where I couldn’t even remember my debit card pin number whilst doing the weekly shop.

What made things even worse is that all of this started affecting my young daughter, who had come to live with me full-time following the divorce. It became increasingly difficult for me to care for her and meet her needs, which was truly heart-breaking.

Despite my best efforts to keep things on an even keel, it soon became impossible for me to work and we ended up living basically hand-to-mouth.

It was a desperate time for us.

£1.6 million in direct financial awards granted to 440 community members in 33 countries

It was by a happy mistake that I came to benefit from Foothold’s financial support.

I initially got in touch with the charity as I couldn’t afford to pay my IET membership. 

81% said our emergency grant improved their quality of life a lot

Not only did they support me with this, but they also reviewed my circumstances and helped me apply for pots of funding to keep us ticking over.

I’ll never forget the moment I opened the first letter from them confirming they were going to support me. I was reduced to tears with relief.

It seemed now that my life had come full circle – having spent my career helping others in the engineering profession, they were now helping me through the generous donations Foothold receives from engineers all around the world. It was a strange feeling, but one I was incredibly grateful for.

But perhaps the most amazing thing was that it meant I could once again start giving my daughter the better life she deserved.

83% felt supported by and support our wider community

The financial grants we received from Foothold were a lifeline in the darkest of times.

82% said our support made a lot of difference, up 19% on previous year

I was able to put food on the table, and have our leaky roof fixed. I could finally afford to buy a car, which is a necessity where we live in the remote Scottish Borders.

I was even able to take my daughter away on a short holiday, which gave us a bit of respite away from the daily challenges we’d been going through.

Without Foothold’s help, I never would have managed to get my life back on track. Their support meant my daughter never had to go hungry, even when it looked like we’d hit rock bottom.

I dread to think about what would have happened if they hadn’t come to our aid, and I’ll always be thankful that they truly had our backs.

27 volunteers donated 1,353 hours of support

Life is very different for me now. It’s quieter and more contented, and I’m enjoying having the opportunity to further my education and learn about different subjects.

90% felt supported in all aspects of their lives

I still struggle with memory loss, and the panic attacks haven’t gone away completely. But thanks to Foothold, I’ve been able to focus on regaining my confidence and being the best dad and grandad I can be.

To anyone who’s going through the same sorts of challenges I did, I’d say don’t delay in asking Foothold for support.

They changed mine and my daughter’s life, and they might just change yours too.

63% felt comfortable asking for help
Read our full 2020-21 annual report and accounts here.

Our CEO Jane Petit also shares her thoughts and reflections on the difference we were able to make in 2020-21 in her latest blog - you can read it here.

Thanks to the support of the Foothold community, John and many engineers like him around the world have been able to get through some intense challenges and take steps to make their lives better.

Discover some more of our community's incredible stories below.

Andrew story career coaching image
Foothold helps engineers and their families when they need help. And when your job, your lifeline, is taken away from you, the support is there. View story
If someone were in my situation, I’d say ask Foothold for help. The support I received helped me pay my mortgage, put food on the table and ultimately meant I didn’t lose my home. View story
Thanks to Foothold’s incredible support I’m now living a relatively normal life again. I’m so grateful for everything they’ve done for me. I remember thinking early on in my career: ‘why should I donate to the IET benevolent fund?’. It turns out I had to find out the hard way. View story
maternity leave Yaels story
The difference this has made to our family has been incredible. It has allowed me to continue with my maternity leave and spend extra time with my children, which is priceless. View story
Poobalan career story image
Foothold’s support has been unforgettable during the most difficult time of my life and I really appreciate the team's involvement in helping me and my family. View story
michaels mental health story
I'd let my mental health define me. But now I’m in control of it - it’s not in control of me. If I hadn’t got in touch with Foothold I wouldn’t be in this position. I really do appreciate everything. View story
louise coronavirus pandemic story
“When I received the email saying we would receive a £1000 grant, I couldn’t believe what I was reading – I cried with relief. This help means the world to us. We can get back on an even keel now. I would say to anyone who is struggling don’t hesitate to get in touch with Foothold — they were brilliant.” Louise View story
redundancy amir's story
It was brilliant news and such a relief to have some breathing space financially. The money will help with our day-to-day living expenses until I can work again. The £1000 grant will definitely make a difference to our family and is very much appreciated. View story
Estate planning expert David Reekie

Secure your family’s future with effective estate planning

Learn how you can continue to support your family after you die with effective estate planning, in this blog by David Reekie of Secondsight.

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Jenny Lam Shelter blog for Foothold on mortgage payments

What to do if you can’t keep up with your mortgage payments

Find out what your options are if you're struggling with your mortgage payments, in this expert blog by Jenny Lamb of Shelter.

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Foothold community member Glynn O'Malley, author of Caring for Mum - my dementia story

Caring for Mum – my dementia story

Engineer Glynn O’Malley shares his story of caring for his Mum living with dementia, and how he coped with the emotional impact this had on his life.

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Engineers like John need your help. Foothold relies on the generosity of our community to fund out vital work.

Help us continue to make a difference by making a donation today.