0333 321 3021


Spirit Story Day Three - Wednesday 21 September

Seven stories were told on Wednesday 21 September:

Sow the City - making Manchester full of beans!

Sow the City is a social enterprise on a mission. It wants to take vacant and derelict bits of Manchester and turn each one into a green oasis, where members of the community are supported to design a garden to grow their own fruit and vegetables. They have already worked with over 80 community groups in Manchester to do this, and today was a step closer to starting work on a new site.

One Manchester Housing, which owns and manages land in the east of the city, held a Community Soup event earlier this year, where community members sat down together to consider new project ideas over a cup of soup, and vote for their favourites. Grow in the City’s Back 2 Veg project was chosen, and today, they went out with One Manchester staff to look at four potential sites.

Kieron, one of Sow the City’s founders, said, ‘The benefits of this are enormous. Firstly, it brings people together socially, to work on a fun and worthwhile project. Residents see their area go from grey to green, and get the chance to learn about things like recycling and climate change. We help recycle as much as possible, using wood and old baths from refurbished homes to make raised beds for growing things like potatoes. We can award our own certificates and accreditation, and people who have been involved in our other projects have gone on to get jobs as a result. All that, and free food too – what’s not to like?’

Once a site has been chosen, the project will be looking for around 50 residents to be involved, and they also work with schools and other community groups. Publicity will start around February next year, ready for the 2017 growing season.

Step Together - I am a different person after volunteering

In Manchester, Step Together are supporting disadvantaged young people and ex-offenders to develop the personal and practical skills required to build a more positive future. We provide tailored one-to-one support to help individuals into volunteering placements that match their needs and interests.

Gemma* has lived in care most of her life, moving around a number of different homes and as a result her life has been very chaotic. Gemma met Sheri, our Volunteer Project Manager in Manchester, in April 2016 after just turning 18 years old. Following a brief period living back with her parents, who both have drug addictions; she was once again in foster care and in need of support to move forward. After getting to know Gemma and discussing her interests, Sheri was able to support Gemma in securing a volunteer placement at Ronald McDonald House Charities, fulfilling her desire to gain experience working with children and help others.

Excited but daunted by the prospect of running her own painting class for children in hospital and their families, Sheri was on hand to support Gemma with organising and managing the first session. Gemma now volunteers every week with the charity and thoroughly enjoys it.

Gemma’s says, “I am a different person after volunteering. I have more confidence now but I wouldn’t have been able to volunteer without support from Step Together”.

Over the past year Step Together has provided one-to-one support to 61 disadvantaged young people in Manchester and more than half went on to volunteer in their local community.

Back on Track - Lunchtime at Swan Kitchens

Today at the Swan Kitchens, Back on Track’s café, you could have eaten their British Food Week meal of the day: a tasty chicken tikka masala made by Shafiq and served in the picture below by Danny, a service user and Swan Kitchens volunteer.

Danny said: “Volunteering in the café has given me a purpose in life. I’ve got all kinds of new skills, including how to make vegan and gluten free cakes. We sell them in the café and from the tea trolley that goes around Swan Buildings. In the future I’m planning to start my own business with a food stall at markets and festivals.”

The primary goal of the Swan Kitchens café and catering business is to provide a supportive training environment for service users and volunteers. The café and catering functions are staffed primarily by volunteers and service users, most of whom are rebuilding their lives after overcoming problems with homelessness, substance misuse, mental health and/or homelessness. Through Swan Kitchens, Back on Track can provide real work experience opportunities that give people a second chance to explore a career in catering and plan for a great future. Back on Track supports around 1,000 people each year with around 50 visiting the centre daily for all kinds of training and support. Of 25 service users recently involved with the Swan Kitchens, six have gone on to other kinds of volunteering, seven in to further training and eight people, one third of the total, have secured paid work.

Back on Track is a Manchester charity that enables disadvantaged adults to make lasting, positive changes in their lives. Formed in 1977, today they run a learning centre in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. They work with adults who are going through a process of recovery or rehabilitation, having been through problems with alcohol or drugs, offending, homelessness and mental health. Back on Track’s projects enable people to build the skills they need to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. Swan Kitchens has been operating since December 2015 providing a socially supportive environment and low-cost nutritious food and drink for centre users as well as corporate catering for organisations using Macc’s training rooms in Swan Buildings.

Northmoor Community Association - reducing isolation and increasing health in Longsight

At lunchtime on Wednesday 21st September, the Northmoor Community Café served hot meals to 25 local people. They offer meals for £1 on Wednesdays so that people can eat nutritious food. This has the wider benefit of people getting together to make new friends and meet up with existing ones, which could help to reduce loneliness and isolation. They can also find out about what is going on at the centre and in the community. Today, there was also a volunteer helping out and Macmillan were at the centre giving out information.

The volunteer said, “I have gained a lot of confidence and learnt to cook. I have also got my Food Hygiene Level 3 qualification so that has increased my skills. All the staff are helpful and encourage me to be more creative with my cooking.”

Northmoor Community Association is a community centre based in the Longsight area and its main focus is to bring a vibrant, viable and sustainable feature to the community. It offers activities and services such as a homework club, community café, walking group and volunteering opportunities.

Together Dementia Support - People living with dementia making a difference in Manchester

“I don’t believe I’ve just done that!” Teresa told the group yesterday.

That was how she had felt as she left a lecture hall of nursing students at Manchester Metropolitan University. It had been Teresa’s first speaking engagement and she was still on a high, having spoken so clearly and passionately about what people like her need – from the public in general but from health professionals in particular.

Then Maria and Ronnie shared their stories of speaking at a conference at Manchester Central, and Maria played the recording of her interview on local radio. It’s been a busy month and they’ve only just started!

Fabulous, Forgetful Friends is a project of Together Dementia Support CIC. Together Dementia Support is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company offering support and therapeutic activities for people living with dementia, their carers and supporters in Manchester.

Fabulous Forgetful Friends is a new peer support and influencing group which aims to empower those living with dementia in Manchester. They want to show that people with dementia are making a positive contribution to society and can enjoy life. This is not to say that the difficulties of living with dementia are ignored. The group will act firstly as a safe space where those with dementia can share their experiences of the many challenges it brings. Rather than simply discussing its challenges, however, Fabulous Forgetful Friends also seeks to make the lives of those with dementia better, and will provide a platform for its members to educate and influence others in order to make public services more dementia friendly.

Together Dementia Support provide high quality activity and support groups to help people with dementia to maintain skills and hobbies, and to enable both them and their carers to make friends and maintain wellbeing.

The Proud Trust Freshers Week - "It's a safe space where you can be yourself and not feel judged"

Chris and Max are two volunteers at The Proud Trust who are busy in the Sydney Street Café right now as part of Freshers Week. At 3pm today, around 25 students were in the café finding out more about The Proud Trust and how they can get involved.

Chris said that “A lot of students are new to the city and can feel very isolated. These sessions are an introduction to The Proud Trust and it’s a great place to meet other LGBT young people. It’s really important to them and to me as a volunteer as it’s a safe space where you can be yourself and not feel judged”

Ten minutes later and we're on the phone to Max, who is another volunteer, and the numbers of students in the cafe has quickly increased to around 40. Max said that the biggest impact of their project is that the students “know that there is a centre for them. It’s an open environment where they can meet people like themselves” There’s been lots of great feedback and comments already, but a lot of students that Max has spoken to find that it is “easier for them to be out in a new city if they don’t feel able to do that at home. It gives hope for the future that they can live a happy life”

The event is running until 6pm today.

The Proud Trust is a LGBT youth and community organisation which runs 15 LGBT youth groups, a peer support project, community café, 5 allotment plots, work in schools, events and conferences

Young Adult Support Project (YASP)/Manchester Mind - leaflets don't care about people

The Help Through Crisis Drop-in offers free advice and support for 15-25 year olds and ran from 2pm-4pm on Wednesday 21st September. This is a project in partnership with Young People’s Support Foundation and Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People. It was staffed by a volunteer advisor but recently they have been able to add two paid workers as well. They’ve seen three people today but this service is only just starting so people are still finding out what times the service is open (2pm-4pm Wednesday and Friday).

It was set up as YASP were seeing increasing numbers of young people who didn’t know their rights or how to find help and support – lots of people don’t know how to find their way round things like housing, health services and so on. Lots of people have low confidence or low self-esteem and so having someone to talk to (“someone who cares about you”) is important. A leaflet or online information on its own is not enough to help you feel like you can find, ask for and get what you need (“leaflets don’t care about people”) particularly if you’re coming out of the care system or have been having a difficult time with family. The project helps people build their confidence and move forward with their lives. The service can cover anything – housing, health, money advice. And it’s set in the YASP community café so it’s accessible and visible.

A volunteer started off helping out in the café and because of this he’s gained confidence and now helps as a mentor and wants to train to become a counsellor. By working in this voluntary role he’s realised he’s really good at helping other people:

“Being a volunteer at the advice drop- in has given me experience and taught me the skills to further develop my career and made me realise I enjoy helping others and that is why I have decided to train to be a qualified counsellor”

The Storify story for Day Three can be found at https://storify.com/PolicyVoiceMacc/spirit-story-day-three