My name is Sam and I live in Gloucestershire; I’m 14, have been diagnosed with autism and suffer with high levels of anxiety. At the start of my second year in secondary school life became increasingly difficult for me and despite trying lots of things I was unable to attend school. That was the start of a very difficult journey for me. I found I wasn’t enjoying anything anymore. However, my love of the railways has always helped me – they distract me when I am struggling, help me communicate and are my ‘safe’ space. Over the past two years I have been supported by many organisations and people. Two groups stand out – mental health support and the amazing people in the “railway family”. I would like to show my appreciation by raising money for two charities - Teens in Crisis+ (TIC+) and the Railway Mission with 100% of funds raised being split equally between them.
My challenge is to travel all the railway lines in Britain. I need something to aim for, so thought this would be a great thing to do whilst trying to raise vital funds. Any donations to these great charities would be very much appreciated.
Teens in Crisis+ (https://www.ticplus.org.uk), is the local mental health charity who provided my first counsellor – without that initial support to try and help me with my anxiety, I’m not sure how I would have coped.
The “railway family” has been there for me throughout, especially during the height of the pandemic, continually supporting me in many ways. In recognition of what they have done for me, giving me amazing support when I was at my lowest point, I have chosen to raise funds for the Railway Mission (https://railwaymission.org). This charity provides care to the “railway family” when experiencing trauma and supports them in tough times.
The railways are an amazing place and people don’t always appreciate them. They are a fantastic way of travelling, seeing Britain and they help me relax. I have already built my own website all about trains (http://everythingtrains.co.uk), I upload images, write blogs about trips and special experiences I have been lucky enough to have done.
In January 2020, I successfully crowdfunded for a 7-day All Line Rover ticket to help me with my challenge and in doing so I also raised £340 for TIC+. My campaign started before COVID hit and I could never have planned for what was to come. Not being able to travel on the trains during the lockdowns had a huge negative impact on my mental wellbeing. Even when lockdown restrictions were easing, my deteriorating mental health and anxiety made it very difficult for me to able to access the railways. For a number of reasons the past 18 months have been a really difficult period for me. Luckily I did manage to tick off some new line thanks to the kindness of a number of train operating companies.
With lockdowns now hopefully behind us, my anxiety levels permitting, I plan to resurrect this challenge to travel all of Britain’s amazing railway lines. I will be continually updating my website, both ticking off the train lines I have travelled and writing blogs along the way. Here is the link to the map showing my progress: http://www.everythingtrains.co.uk/map.html
Thank you for reading my story.