1648. Gary Wills
Gary Wills, from Coventry, set up ‘FurLearn’ during the pandemic to help people on furlough with personal development and career guidance, as well as providing support for improving mental health and fitness.
After being placed on furlough himself, Gary wanted to create a platform that could connect other people in the same shoes, to provide advice and support, and help furloughed and job-searching professionals feel empowered and uplifted through a time of uncertainty. The platform now has over 1,700 members and is run by a dedicated team of volunteers, hosting free videos and regular live online events with a range of speakers, including career and interview coaches, money saving specialists, mental wellbeing and motivational experts, as well as individuals such as a BBC MasterChef finalist, a former fighter pilot, and a polar explorer. Gary also helped raise money for NHS Charities in spring 2020 by carrying out a sponsored run in his garage, running the equivalent distance between the NHS Nightingale hospitals in London and Birmingham.
In a personal letter to Gary, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“One of the most uplifting aspects of the last year has been how people have come together to help others in their time of need. By creating ‘FurLearn’ you have given those on furlough a community to share experience, improve skills and look after their mental wellbeing.
“I am lost in admiration for how you have also found time for your fundraising feats, undertaking incredible running challenges to raise money for good causes.”
“It’s an honour to be recognised by the Prime Minister for this prestigious award. The support work that we have completed is not just by me, but by the amazing ‘FurLearn’ Volunteers and our incredible weekly speakers. I’d like to dedicate this award to the team, my Wife and Family for all of the support shown to myself and many others throughout this pandemic. When myself and Jade Johannsen set this initiative up, we knew that we could make a positive impact on improving the mental health of the job searcher and people on Furlough. It’s been great seeing the power of a close community and people returning to work in a better frame of mind. We are over the moon with the recognition and finally would like to thank our community.”