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Spirit Story Day Four - Thursday 22 September

This was a busy day with eight stories:

Manchester Deaf Centre - "I feel like I belong to a community"

The DAVE (Deaf, Actively, Volunteering, Experience) project helps 35 young people (aged 16-25), with a wide range of hearing defects, to manage the transition from education to whatever they want to do next.

This could include helping to build confidence, socialising, gaining knowledge, doing workshops, applying for courses and getting new experiences. In short, the project can help with anything that is needed to assist people to live independent lives. The young people who come guide what the project does at a quarterly forum.

One of the young people involved in the project said “I feel like I belong to a community”.

Manchester Settlement - Invaluable Support

Angie has been working as a support housing manager at Manchester Settlement for the last 13 years. She and her team support people living in two projects, one for care leavers and looked after children and the other for single homeless people with support needs.

On Wednesday 21st September, she was doing an end of tenancy for a young Polish woman who she has been supporting for the last year. This young woman came to the project because she was struggling at college. She was being treated like a slave at her home, having to do all the cooking and cleaning and being ordered around by the family she was living with. During her stay, at times, she has been depressed and very low in confidence. However, with the support of Angie and her team, she is now going to university.

“Thank you for supporting me through the hardest times, the support has been invaluable. You have made an enormous contribution to my life and success. You do an amazing job transforming the lives of young people like me.”

In Angie’s view the most important things that she and her team do are to listen, be there as someone to talk to and to push the young people to be everything they can be. Many of the people they help keep in touch for years after they leave.

George House Trust - Everybody Valued, Everybody equal

Last night (Wednesday 21st September), George House Trust (GHT) held its Annual General Meeting. It has a unique governance structure, one that fully involves the people who use GHT services and the volunteers. It is part of what makes the culture of GHT, a culture where everyone is valued, everyone is equal.







To be a member of GHT, and to vote at the AGM, you must be a service user or a volunteer – 50% of the 134 volunteers are people living with HIV and may use GHT services as well. Members elect 10 trustees to serve for a term of 3 years. 50% of the trustees are people living with HIV. GHT runs a training course for people who would like to become trustees so they are more able to contribute and better prepared to deal with the complex and difficult issues that arise. Members conduct an appraisal of the trustees and have recently been involved in the selection and recruitment of a new, externally recruited, chair.

“GHT has supported me as service user for over 10 years and through some of the hardest times in my life. By encouraging and supporting me to become a volunteer and then a trustee it has meant that I have been able to experience and contribute to the development of a fantastically unique organisation”

At the AGM and at 4 members’ meeting each year, the Chief Executive and the Chair of GHT are open and transparent about what is really happening. They talk about the problems of funding and long-term sustainability and any other issue impacting the organisation. There is no attempt to soft-soap or manage the members. They tell it how it is.

For example, after many years of refusing money from pharmaceutical companies 18 months ago GHT, after extensive discussions with members and their agreement, decided to change the policy. It was up to the members.

The openness, transparency, and involvement that characterises the governance structure permeates and reinforces the culture of the organisation. Everyone is passionate and committed and work together. People can’t be categorised. Someone walking down a corridor at GHT might be a trustee, a volunteer, a person using the services or all 3.

The involvement of people who use the services and volunteers means that the organisation is kept “real”, it focuses on what is important and what will make a difference to people with HIV.

Photograph taken by Ed Sprake Photography

Disabled Living - Sparkling Disco Ball

"Trevor (in the photograph below) has been attending the sensory rooms for two years now, he loves relaxing on the water bed and just chilling out. We have seen lots of benefits from using these rooms."

Sensory rooms are rather special. These unique spaces help create a calming and interactive atmosphere: colours flash through fibre-optic strands along the floor, streams of blue and green simultaneously twinkle through the bubble tubes and the disco ball sparkles. Sensory room users can enjoy lying on the water beds and listen to music provided or that they have brought with them. These environments have proven to be extremely valuable to those with disabilities, some evidence suggests that they can help to reduce challenging behaviour.

Two sensory rooms are provided at Red Bank House in Manchester’s Green Quarter by Disabled Living, a charity which provides impartial information about equipment (assistive technology) and services for disabled adults, children, older people and the professionals who support them.

Three members of staff manage the sensory rooms which are used by individuals and groups, children and adults. Today 30 people are using the sensory rooms. Sensory room users include people with dementia, autism, cerebral palsy and a range of other health problems. Some sensory room users book regular sessions while others drop in.

Lizzie Aizlewood from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital’s Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity said: ‘Redbank house was a fantastic venue for our Parent Voices Count event. It is bright, open and colourful and the staff were warm, welcoming and very helpful in setting up our event. The Sensory play rooms were brilliant and the children loved them. Very impressed.’

Tree of Life Centre - Tea and Tai Chi

At noon on Thurs 22nd September, the morning Craft Group had just finished. Earlier there’d been a Tai Chi session. Soon they’ll be holding a discussion event on health and wellbeing.

The Tree of Life Centre provides many vital services in Wythenshawe. These include health and wellbeing sessions, advice and friendship groups, a community café and opportunities for local people to train, gain qualifications and experience through volunteering.

“The [Craft] group has provided friendship among a cross-section age group and gender. It gives us the opportunity to share our knowledge of a number of crafts (knitting, crochet, sewing, needlecrafts, and more). The friendly staff enhance our regular visit. The centre is a valuable bolthole for us to escape for a few hours each week.”

"I find that attending Tai Chi has two major impacts on my wellbeing, Firstly the physical side. It is a tremendous help in strengthening the core making the body stay in balance and be strong, It flexes my knees, wrists and waist and helps them to move much better and be more supple. It also prevents over-stretching and over-reaching which would potentially damage joints and muscles. Secondly, the mental support tai chi gives is really important and the impact on my wellbeing cannot be overstated. It teaches calm, control and balance. It stimulates the brain into achieving wellness by relaxing and excluding all other thoughts whilst doing the exercises. It has a huge positive impact and has been very beneficial over the two years I’ve been attending.”

Tree of Life runs its activities within a wider theme of health and wellbeing and with the overall aim of increasing opportunities and health for the people of Wythenshawe, who are at the heart of everything the centre does. The centre integrates its activities in such a way that the benefit to participants is maximised. For example, someone taking part in the Tai Chi session can also benefit from a back and shoulder massage and a healthy homemade meal in the friendly community café.

Yes Manchester - "A wonderful place with wonderful people"

At 9am in the morning an upstairs room at Yes Manchester is being transformed into a clothes shop for local people. But this is a shop with a difference. Everything has been donated, everyone is a volunteer and everything in free. Yes is a service that helps people find jobs and take control of their future and volunteer Marika has run the annual clothes event for the last couple of years. “We work really closely with people looking for work in Newton Heath, but we noticed that people were being unsuccessful because they didn’t have any interview clothes and couldn’t meet the expected dress code. This really affected their confidence”

All year local people collect suitable clothes and at this event 5 volunteers helped 21 people choose an outfit for a job interview. Marika said “I’ve been volunteering here for three years and see how things like this changes people’s lives. Someone said to me today ‘you’re a star like always’ It makes me really proud to be involved”

Keith said “This is a wonderful place with wonderful people. Marika was very kind giving me a pair of shoes, tie and a lovely suit for my interview. When I arrived I sat down and waited for my interview. Suddenly the interviewer walked out confidently and told me that I’m dressed very well and perfect. After a few years of using the Yes Centre I got a job all thanks to the support of Yes, the staff and volunteers. I feel without their support I wouldn’t have succeeded. I’m absolutely happy with my new job”

Marika said “People really enjoy coming to this activity. They choose the clothes and shoes while helping each other to find the right size. After that they start talking with each other and they have a laugh too. They feel relaxed and happy and are practicing their English language. They are communicating with each other and this is getting the community together. This is a special day because it helps people that don’t have much money for clothing as it is not seen as a priority. One of our volunteers lives with depression but he’s really good at writing poems. He helped out at our event and is going to write us a poem based on what he saw and the conversations that he had with people. It was lovely to see him so happy doing something that he enjoyed”

Adrian Burke, a visitor to the event, wrote a poem about his experience:

The clothes give away

Here's a poem about a recent event,
To which I was invited and hence I went,
The event was a clothing give away,
A very nice way to spend a day.

It was attended by people of differing denominations,
from various backgrounds, generations and nations,
some came in search of trainers, suits or boots,
whilst others looked for ties, shirts or suits.

Others looked for dresses or casual wear,
All enjoyed the rummage in the time they spent there,
Everyone left with a bag in hand,
Proving giving new life to old clothes is in great demand.

Cheetham Hill Advice Centre - 'a life saver'

Thursday 22nd September - Drop-in Advice Session
Today, Cheetham Hill Advice Centre, which is the only neighbourhood advice centre in Manchester, held a drop-in advice session. They were holding three sessions this week as part of their regular work. 37 people came seeking advice, and of those 22 were seen by someone at the centre and the rest were signposted elsewhere. Everyone who came to the session was seen, however long it took.

At this particular drop-in, a young woman with learning difficulties came in desperate for help. She and her two young children had been evicted from their home last night. With the help of her advisor, she found temporary accommodation. In the view of that client, the work of Cheetham Hill Advice Centre is “a life saver’.

Rainbow Haven - A Talented Artist

On Thursday 22nd September, 70 people turned up for the drop-in session and 30 attended an English class at Rainbow Haven in Gorton.

One of the people who turned up was a Kurdish man who used to be a civil servant in Syria. He has a family and wanted help in getting tax credits. Whilst they were on the phone on hold, he showed the advisor a picture of a painting on his mobile. He had many of these pictures and was asked who had painted them. He replied ‘I painted them’. Amanda, the advisor, was highly impressed at the quality and the talent they showed. She put him in contact with Community Arts North West, so they can work with him and help him to take advantage of his talent and exhibit his paintings in order to achieve a better life for him and his family.

Rainbow Haven is a community drop-in centre where migrants and refugees come for help, advice and English classes.

It helps people to find their way through the asylum process, with tax credit, benefits, referrals to hospital, and provides any other kind of help necessary for a better quality of life.

The Storify story of the day is available via https://storify.com/PolicyVoiceMacc/spirit-story-day-four