Programme of social activities, training and cookery workshops for local people experiencing isolation.

Location
Gillingham
Funder
The Minerva Fund
Amount Awarded
£2,000
Date Awarded
February 2017
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Introduction to the project

Course participants were primarily local people experiencing isolation or loneliness due to lived experience of mental health issues, Autism and ADHD, Learning Disabilities and Learning Difficulties and/or contact with the criminal justice system.

Café Sunlight CIC delivered an ongoing programme of social activities, training and cookery workshops around the theme of ‘Cook and Eat’ and 'Want to Cook'. Training and cookery workshops of 8-12 weeks duration; community events and volunteer placements have been provided under the supervision of an experienced Chef with the support of session facilitators. Small groups of 6-8 people attended sessions, shared experiences, socialised, and cooked and ate together whilst developing their confidence in relation to food handling and preparation. Learning outcomes for each course were tailored with each participant to ensure attendance led directly to a sense of personal achievement and accomplishment. Participants were supported to develop their understanding of healthy eating, study for and gain accredited food hygiene training, volunteer within the community café; support external catering events; and participate in the batch cooking of meals for beneficiaries of the Sunlight Wellbeing Café, Medway Men in Sheds Scheme and catering events. Community based events participants contributed to include; Medway Youth Trust Fair; Alzheimer’s and Dementia Service Sing-along and Strawberry tea; Medway Big Sleep Out; Medway Men in Sheds and Wellbeing Café Christmas Dinner. 

Results from the funding

Through development of relationships, course facilitators supported individuals with day to day issues and provided relevant information and signposting in relation to matters of personal and social welfare. Participants reported expanded their social networks and reduced loneliness both through session attendance and gaining familiarity with the Sunlight centre and various communities of interest who attend, and the external events supported. Participants gained an increase in catering related knowledge and skills; accredited catering related training was taken up and completed by many of the participants; individuals also gained a tremendous sense of achievement from completion; training gained has demonstrated potential in relation to job seeking activities undertaken. A number of the participants took up six week volunteering and work experience placements with Café Sunlight, gaining real experience of a working community café, and have been provided with references for further volunteering and work related placements. In relation to the wider community, community members have been made aware of the relevant, inclusive and accessible opportunities available at Café Sunlight and witnessed the positive outcomes at a variety of community events, and through their own networking with individuals. There has been a demonstrable interest in access to similar programmes from individuals, a local college, mental health services and a region wide drug and alcohol service provider. Café Sunlight will pursue the opportunities identified for joint working with service providers.

Beneficiary story

AB is a 25-year-old adult male who has been well known to the Sunlight Centre since he was a youngster. His personal history is of having been expelled from primary school and never having attended secondary school. From his perspective, what he did learn was either on the streets or in prison, where he spent five years up till he was twenty years old, for offences ranging from arson to ABH and GBH for assaulting a police officer. AB says himself that he was not a nice person, and mentioned to the facilitator that he’d been told he has a Borderline Personality Disorder. Initially, AB was challenging - if Chef said we’re cooking beef he would want to cook lobster. For most instructions, he would come up with an alternative he thought was better. When we first met he told the facilitator that he’d do any kind of work even volunteering because he doubted that anyone would employ him with his record, and that he’d spoilt his life by making some bad choices early on.

The facilitator was impressed by AB’s punctuality and willingness to learn, even if he did think his way was best. AB completed an online course in food hygiene which he romped through, scoring top marks in short time, demonstrating his potential and aptitude.

After many phone calls and a few emails to prospective employers the facilitator came across the Kenward Trust, who work with ex-prisoners amongst others, and made contact with their Reset Project. This works with people who have been jailed at three stages; prior to release, through the gate and then back in society, rebuilding lives. The project is based around volunteers and has excellent support and supervision built in. Anyone volunteering would start by shadowing an existing, more experienced colleague. As this seemed to be an ideal opportunity for AB, both he and the facilitator went along to an induction day and two evening sessions. For the first time in his life AB found himself in a group of older, professional people who were all used to speaking in a group to some degree, all quite eloquent and none of them had ever been imprisoned. He was nervous at first but rose to the occasion and spoke his truth. He talked about realising his own poor decisions and wanting to help other people to make better choices than he did.

AB has now been taken on as a Reset Volunteer and has something none of the other volunteers have - the lived experience of a complicated home life, absent father, little education, crime, violence, and imprisonment, and a desire to use that experience to help others. He is developing insight into his own life and understands the possible effects, positive or negative, of a peer group. AB has also expressed an interest in a counselling course which may become available through the volunteer placement.

It's great having a foundation that empowers organisations and charities in our community to make real positive differences and changes!

Tom, MMK Mind
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