BELINDA FLAVEL has survived a coma, mental health struggles and a lifelong battle with alcohol, but at 42 the single mum recently graduated from university, proving it’s never too late to get an education and start a new life.
Flavel’s schooling got off to a rocky start when she didn’t finish year 10 after a horse riding accident put her in a coma for two weeks and left her with short term memory loss and limited mobility.
After high school, Flavel started working in retail and then as a bookkeeper, but during this time she struggled with her mental health, depression and alcoholism.
She bravely soldiered on and completed certificates at TAFE in bookkeeping, OHS and computing, and then at the age of 31, discovered her passion for helping people. After getting a a Diploma of Community Services, she enrolled in university at the grand old age of 35 to study Social Work.
It took Belinda almost eight years to complete her degree as she continued to raise her daughter and conquer alcoholism – including an eight month stint in rehab – but she did it.
“After not achieving or completing any of my goals before my horse accident, and after a lot of personal development, I learnt who I wanted to become,” Flavel says.
“I believe you can never stop growing and learning. I didn’t know how I was going to get there but just like giving up alcohol, taking one day at a time, I used the same method. One essay at a time.”
Since graduating, Flavel has come full circle and is rekindling her love affair with horses – running an equine assisted therapy program.
“I work with children and adults in Geraldton at my business called BeStable with my three horses Pixie, DJ and Sugar,” Flavel says.
“Many of my clients have disabilities, struggle with their mental health or need to learn better coping strategies. Horses assist clients to work through their challenges whilst becoming aware of their behaviours and responses. I find that individuals just being around horses open up to conversations that they never would usually have.”
Now happy and loving life with her six-year-old-daughter, what would Flavel say to adults who are intimidated by the thought of doing further education?
“One essay at a time. Looking at all the essays can be overwhelming so give yourself small goals to achieve,” Flavel says.
“Just the next six months then reassess. Find supports that can help you. The feeling of crossing the finish line of any study is an amazing achievement.You are a role model no matter what age you are studying and I believe there are no age limits. It’s never too late to start following your dreams.”
Adult Learners Week runs from September 1-8. For more info see adultlearnersweek.org
by STEPHEN POLLOCK