common cause

Scott Walker, inspirational speaker

Part of the Flourish ethos is about creating challenges for the people we work with and supporting our service users, where appropriate, towards getting jobs. As part of this process, we arranged for a special guest speaker to go to the St Nicholas Centre.

So it was our great pleasure last week, to welcome 18 year old Scott Walker, our first 'inspirational speaker'. The idea was he could tell us about his life, and his journey to getting a job. Then we could ask him any questions about that. Our hope is that this conversation could inspire others to think about their own lives, and what they might like to do with them.

Job coach and friend to Flourish, Mark Gilbert had initially made contact with Scott and brought him along. Scott now works for the Special Assistance team at Gatwick Airport, helping support passengers who have disabilities or special needs get to their flights.

We began with myself and Mark introducing ourselves and Scott to the group, then we went round so everyone in the room could say their name. Almost everyone who came had attended sessions at Lewes Community Allotment in the past, and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces. There were 16 members of the centre, plus staff members Brian, Eleanor and Caroline, and myself (Emma) from Flourish.

Scott then told us about himself and his childhood, which hadn't been easy. He talked about the first signs of his disability, the tremor in his arm and leg. When he first went to school, he found it really hard, especially writing, understanding and numbers. The teachers were not helpful, he said, they didn't really understand his disability, and would force him to write, even though this would mean it hurt him. His parents struggled with it as well. He then attended a different mainstream school, but "They didn't understand my disabilities either, so I would get put in detention. So I would call in sick. They promised me a laptop or iPad, and I didn't get either. Aged 14, I went to another school. They also promised equipment I never got. They kicked me out. I went to another school, which was no better. I wanted to be a PE teacher, but they said I needed English and Maths, and I couldn't do them."

Mark invited the group to talk about their own experiences of schooling. One person said she was dyslexic. The school she went to had tried to help her, but weren't able to do enough.  "School made me feel emotional, teary and worried."

Scott told her he related to that.

Another group member said they had to leave aged 9 because the school didn't give them enough support. It didn't really feel as if the people that spoke had a very positive experience of being supported and encouraged at school. Someone who went to St Anne's school for people with special needs thought it was good, but sadly, that closed down.

Scott said: "They labelled me a failure, and didn't see what I could do. It drove me to depression. The things I dreamed of, the teachers said I had no chance. I was forced to go to Crawley College to do bricklaying - even though I wanted to study Media. I hated it. The school careers advice wasn't good. They didn't listen."

But then Scott met Richard Lamplough - a job coach for people with learning disabilities, where Mark sometimes works. Richard has companies called Won't Ever Be Ltd and A Potential Diamond, working with people with learning disabilities, helping them to get jobs.

Richard was working with Crawley College to increase work opportunities. Scott was about to quit, but then Richard talked to him. Scott told him he most wanted to help other people. Richard knew the Special Assistance team at Gatwick, and arranged for Scott to go for taster course, then helped him with an interview for a job there, which he now has, and loves.

We talked about the number of challenges for people with learning disabilities for getting work. St Nicholas has a Skills to Employment course that a number of the group attend.  Someone commented that "most of us want to get a job". 

One group member said he works at County Hall, washing up and cleaning, someone else volunteers in a charity shop.

Mark then explained to us what being a job coach means. He said he works with people with learning disabilities to agree with them what they are capable of. He then supports them in seeking work.

Scott told the group that the manager at Gatwick didn't really look at his CV, but said she gave him the job because of his personality, and the fact that he was so enthusiastic. "She didn't care about my Maths and English. But there are some unkind employers who don't understand - and you wouldn't want to work with them. I used to be a plasterer and bricklayer. Even though I explained, my employer didn't understand my disability - issues such as not being able to remember all the tools he told me to fetch. 

Then Scott talked about the job he does now.

"Airports can be busy, confusing and complicated. For anybody, it can be confusing. But for people who can't read or have sensory issues, such as autism, they can easily find it overwhelming. My company has desks which assists people to get around the airport. We provide customer service, to make sure they feel relaxed, not stressed and can get to their flight safely. We help them all the way to their plane if necessary. One example of what I do was helping a little boy on the autistic spectrum. My job was to keep him company, so he didn't run off. I put him in wheelchair to start with, and that wasn't right. By listening, I learnt what he did need. And learning from experiences makes me better at my job."

Scott dresses very smartly and professionally. Mark pointed out that this sends a positive message about him to other people. 

Scott says he polishes his shoes and takes a lot of care to look smart. "My boss says she wants to recruit 100 of me!"

Mark pointed out that Scott "doesn't look like a guy with challenges". Scott told us his parents didn't used to believe in his disability - they only understood about it quite recently.  "You have to do it for yourself. Ask for help, and push yourself."

Questions

Mark asked the group how much they think Scott earns per hour.

There were guesses that ranged from £2000 to £2. In fact, he says, he earns £8.25 per hour, the same as everyone doing that job. He is currently contracted for 46 hours a month, but is often asked to do more. Scott told us he is learning to drive at the moment, which is expensive, but he still lives at home.

The group then asked the following questions:

Do you work night shifts?

Not at the moment, but I will do when I get more hours.

How many staff are there in a team?

Loads! Zone G has 5 people at a time, 20 on the air side. So maybe 50 working at any one time, over both terminals.

What are your travel-to-work costs?

£50 for a four week bus pass.

Do you have a security pass? 

Yes. You have to have a background check, for security clearance. They take up references, I work in the aircraft field, and go right up to the planes. There is a lot of health and safety involved.

How old were you when you started?

17. I was young for a lot of responsibilities. But they saw my potential, despite a lack of qualifications.

How old were you when you were diagnosed with a disability?

Seven or eight.

The last two questions were:

What's your favourite part of your job?

Helping passengers!

What's your least favourite part? 

The way passengers can treat you when they miss flights.

End of the session

At this point, our special session came to an end, with the centre kindly providing refreshments. But first we did some thank yous: Brian for having us, Mark for contacting and bringing Scott, everyone for coming, listening so attentively and asking such thoughtful questions. But most of all, we thanked Scott for being such an amazing inspirational speaker. He told us he'd never done it before.

Finally, we asked the group:

Did you find it useful?
Everyone agreed it had been really helpful.

Has it driven you on?
The answers were a resounding "yes!"

Emma Chaplin, 26 February 2018
 

Last session with St Nicholas group before Christmas - herbs, scones & lots of fun!

It was the last session before Christmas for the St Nicholas allotment group. Because the weather was so wet and windy, we held it in the day centre. Sarah and volunteer Penny went up to the allotment to pick some herbs and brought those down to make herb bundles. Project manager Emma came along with some Ringmer Community Orchard apple juice to share. Sadly sessional worker Felicity Ann wasn't able to come because of family illness, but she sent along some magnificent cheese and pumpkin scones and mince pies for the group to eat.

Some excellent festive hats were worn - including a splendid Christmas pudding tea cosy!

Everyone identified their own herb first, and smelled them, as well as sniffing some pieces of fir Sarah brought. Then the herbs (rosemary, bay, thyme and sage) were split into a bundle for everyone. Helped by Eleanor, Sarah and Penny, members of the group tied their own bundle with a piece of string and Emma helped them add a name tag. There was some lovely knot and bow work going on!

Then we played a Food Chain game, identifying what eats what. Then Sarah brought out an exciting box. Flourish had found everyone a little Christmas gift relating to wildlife. There were finger puppets and keyrings of bats, mice, rabbits and ladybirds, plus some bees.

Next we had some apple juice, scones and mince pies - and had a lovely surprise visit by John Parry who knew lots of members of the group from his time at the Railway Land. Also, Robert, who had been an allotment group member joined us for a little while.

Sarah showed a slideshow of  photos of 20 years of Lewes Community Allotment that Emma had compiled of photos taken by Sarah, herself and other members over the years.

It was a lovely morning.

Wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas and happy new year from everyone at Flourish.

Wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas and happy new year from everyone at Flourish.

Apples! Flourish User Group outing to Ringmer Community Orchard

Flourish were delighted to be able to hold a meeting of project users at the Ringmer Community Orchard. Orchard coordinator Katharine Finnigan had suggested it would be a good time to come, since lots of apples are ripening at this time of year. 

We welcomed the St Nicholas Day Centre group, who normally attend Lewes Community Allotment, and a group from Bluebell House, who usually go to Baulcombes Barn every week.

None had visited the Orchard before, but they have tried the juice, and it's been very popular.

The groups had been warned to wear sensible footwear, which was a good idea since the grass was long and wet. Emma and Felicity Ann welcomed everyone and Peter May then took the group on a tour to explain about the history of the site, how it had come to have so many varieties of Sussex apples as well as other fruit, as well as explaining a bit about the differences between each apple variety, how they grow and when they ripen. 

People were able to meet each other, learn about apples and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

Felicity Ann had brought some wonderful apple cake, bramble jam and crab apple jelly tarts she had made from Allotment produce.

Everyone picked some Lord Lambourne apples to take home.

Emma spoke to everyone about the newsletter and planned project-wide exhibition in June 2018, with the hope that people can think about what they'd like to be included, or what they might like to contribute.

Emma said she'd be pleased to arrange another opportunity for people to visit.

A visit to The Secret Campsite

Flourish have faced challengingly cold weather before, but we haven't had a day that was quite so scorchingly hot as the June day we went to The Secret Campsite.

We'd arranged a visit to meet Tim Bullen, the owner and manager of The Secret Campsite, which is based 'somewhere' in Barcombe. We'd thought about doing this because they do a great deal to encourage wildlife at the site, and are even about to hold their annual Wildlife Festival with our friend from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Michael Blencowe.

Sarah and (me) Emma arrived first, met Tim and had a quick look around. We really liked how it feels like you are miles from anywhere, and seeing all the trees that have been planted. We enjoyed looking at the tree house tent. 

Then the group arrived from St Nicks, and we had a chat with Eleanor about how hot it was and how careful we all thought we needed to be about making sure that nobody got overheated. 

Tim began by giving everyone some water to drink, then explained that the campsite is based on what used to be Chubbs Nursery, where they grew and sold plants. The campsite is a very friendly spot for wildlife, he said, and designed as a quiet place for humans to escape to as well. He told us that he did a landscape management course in order to learn how to manage the land and the wildlife where they have created the campsite.

Visitors who come to camp unload their cars and wheel their tents etc in wheelbarrows to the large meadow where the tent pitches are, rather than driving to them, to keep the place peaceful.

In terms of wildlife, Tim said they get a lot of slow worms, snakes (including adders), bats, butterflies, moths, birds including birds of prey such as red kites, tiny beautiful goldfinches (which love thistle seeds) and nightingales, which have an incredible song.

They sometimes set footprint traps to see what animals have visited overnight.

Sometimes you can see great crested newts and purple emperor butterflies, he told us. The butterflies like all the flowers that grow around the campsite and in the meadow.  They have a regular hedgehog visitor, and Tim told us that hedgehogs need holes in hedges to get around. 

Tim showed us one of their ponds, which was lovely, but then we decided it really was too hot to do any more walking. But Tim said we'd be welcome to come back in the autumn, when there will be lots of apples and other fruits ripe! Thanks Tim, it was really interesting to find out where the 'Secret' Campsite is :)

News from the Allotment

See the slideshow below...

By Sarah Rideout

Last week, we enjoyed the lovely blossom coming out on the crab apple tree by the gate.

On Tuesday, we had a visit from Victoria Williams, director of Food Matters, who develop Brighton and Hove Food Partnership projects. They do great work, including running cooking and gardening sessions for people with dementia.

On Wednesday, we were very pleased to show off our beautiful hand made tripod and trivet, made by Ian The Luddite. They will be most helpful for future Fire and Feast events. 

We also enjoyed a visit from a four-legged new helper!

Lots of hard work went on at the regular sessions with both groups as you can see.  

We went to take a look at the Rangers putting in a new kissing gate in the adjacent field. Later we rather rather cheekily borrowed their drill and some screws to fix one of the raised beds!

Plumpton Supported Interns - Day Three of our Apple Course - Pub & (Sea)Cidery visits

5 December 2016 When we met up last week for the last part of Flourish's work with them on our apple-themed course, it was clear that the two groups of Plumpton College supported interns had all been working very hard since we last saw them at the Fruit Factory in October.

Here's a video we made at that time.

After they'd taken their bottles of pasteurised juice made from apples picked at Ringmer Community Orchard back to college, they had a talk by the Plumpton marketing lecturer about how they might best come up with way to promote, market and sell it, as well as a talk from a visiting graphic designer. With the support of their own lecturers, they then began generating ideas, thinking of possible names and creating label designs for marketing the juice.

So, for the last part of our work with the interns, we arranged visits for them to two local businesses, whose work relates to apples in some way - Huw from the Elephant and Castle pub in Lewes and Matt from Seacider in Ditchling - both of whom were also kind enough to comment on the label and name ideas.

Both groups had prepared some label/ideas boards and a short presentation for these trips.

Visit 1, Elephant and Castle

After the Plumpton group came in from a very cold day and bought themselves lunch at the pub - we all went upstairs to the meeting room where landlord Huw Jones helpfully answered lots of questions put by the group about his job - what's great (the sociable aspects) and what's hard (late nights, long days).

He told them what his job entails (employing and managing staff, doing a lot of admin, banking, sorting rotas, social media, making sure the place is clean and well-stocked). He also talked about the Elly's busiest night of the year - Bonfire.

dsc_2038
dsc_2038

Huw sells Owlet's apple juice, so he talked a bit about that. We discussed the recent rebranding of Harvey's brewery, general pricing of products he sells and what different staff roles there are in a pub, how the shift patterns work and who gets paid what.

He tried the juice the interns had brought along and pronounced it "truly amazing".

dsc_2032
dsc_2032

The interns gave their group juice presentation to him, one by one, including explaining that they'd decided to call their juice Liquid Sunshine.

Huw liked the name, the vivid, eye-catching designs, how creative everyone had been, the fact that the main variety of apple they'd picked (Ashmead's Kernal) is mentioned.

He really liked the 3D design work, but wondered if it might be hard to make into a flat label - but thought it might work as a special edition label that could be hung around the bottleneck.

He left the interns with a lot to think about.

Flourish project manager Emma explained that Ringmer Community Orchard would like to adapt and use one of the designs for their own juice, if possible.

Trip 2, Seacider

Matt at Seacider

Matt at Seacider

On a sunny but also very chilly day, the second group took their own blend of apple juice (made from different apple varieties than the first group - Red Falstaff, for example) to an industrial estate near Ditchling for a visit to Seacider, a fascinating and relatively new cider-making business run by Mark and Matt.

Mark had to dash off delivering cider, so Matt talked to the group about what they do. He explained that they used to make beer, as Goldstones brewery, but got into trying to make cider - and within five months went from being the smallest 'cidery' (which the cider version of 'brewery') in Sussex to one of the largest!

Matt told us about his own background, and the fact that his route to doing what he now loves hadn't been an academic one, because he'd struggled at school. He went and lived/ worked for some small cideries in the West country for a few months. He talked about his working day and the need for flexibility - if you're starting up your own business, it's a lot of hard work. He went into a lot of interesting detail about the manufacturing process, mentioned that fact that they make their cider out of apples rejected by supermarkets for not being perfect (see below).

Then he told us how their funky branding had come about. "We're not really interested in the kind of labels that feature an old man under an apple tree - we wanted something different and modern". His girlfriend Lauren Bartlett came up with the distinctive Mexican skull design, which includes images of apples, seed, leaves and Brighton Pavilion. "We're very much Brighton-based".

Fantastic logo

Fantastic logo

He talked to the interns about how you want your branding to both fit in, yet stand out - you need to think about your target audience - and it needs to entice people into buying it.

The group did their presentation to Matt, then he tasted their juice, which they've called Sweet Sussex, "it's really good", and commented on their designs.

All in all, both groups had two great visits and learnt a lot. Many thanks to Seacider and the Elephant and Castle for their time and hospitality.

Emma Chaplin

Useful links

Interested in becoming a member of Ringmer Community Orchard? More info HERE

Want to know more about the Plumpton Supported Internship programme? HERE

For more about Flourish, HERE, and Common Cause Co-op HERE

And here are links to the Elephant and Castle and  Seacider websites.

User Group Meeting, November 2016

user-group-nov-2016-bb-pigs.jpg

Owena kindly hosted our recent User Group meeting at Baulcombes Barn on 23 November 2016. After a wild few days of  lot of rain and wind, we were lucky to have good weather for it. Owena had a fire going outside, with chairs around for everyone to sit down.

We had representatives from Bluebell House and St Nicholas Day Centre. All in all, there were fourteen of us.

Owena and Sue from Bluebell showed us the chickens, and we fed them. They are moulting at the moment so not laying eggs. Some of the fully grown grey ones had grown up from being the newborn chicks featured in a video we'd made a few months ago! Owena explained about how the hen house door comes up in the morning and shuts at dusk, to keep the hens safe from foxes.

We went to see the two weaners (pigs) as well and fed them apples and hay. They were burrowing in the mud with their snouts and larking about. They seemed very happy.

Then Owena took the group for a walk to see the sheep, whilst I put the kettle on, heated up some of Owena's delicious sausages and cut some homemade lemon cake up.

user group BB nov 16.jpg

The group returned for a hot drinks and something to eat, and a chat about various things, including what would be a good small memento of the the project. The group felt they'd like a key-ring best of all, with a photo of the allotment on it. I will look into this.

Sue stayed behind to help me to clear up the cups and plates, then headed back to Bluebell House.

It was a lovely morning.

Thank you Owena

Emma Chaplin, Project Manager

 

user group nov 2016.jpg

Fire and Feast at Lewes Community Allotment

4 November 2015·

What a lovely gathering the Fire and Feast was! It was the day before the huge Bonfire event takes place in Lewes, but even so, it was a bit of a shock to see a 50ft Guy Fawkes being made on top of a huge bonfire just outside where our allotment is on the Downs by the Nevill estate.

It was a damp blustery morning, but we got the fire going and made it cosy. We even had an unexpected visitor - a grey cat - who was very friendly and inquisitive.

We all enjoyed trying the many different tasters - pumpkin scones and muffins, veggie soup made from squash grown on our allotment, frittata, chutney, homemade bread and jam... all washed down with tea. And the company couldn't have been better.