Connecting with other charities to get the best of both worlds

Confidence, improved people skills, and job satisfaction are just some of the things Jamie Ward gets out of volunteering at The Mill.

Jamie has been tending to the tables of visitors at The Mill for three months now thanks to an initiative between St Catherine’s, The Mill and Lancashire charity Brothers of Charity.

The Brothers of Charity Services provides a range of services to people with learning disabilities – supporting their individuality, choice, rights and aspirations. This includes supporting people in employment and voluntary work, irrespective of their previous experience or supported needs.

The Mill, and the kitchens of St Catherine’s welcomes a total of four volunteers from the Brothers of Charity service including Jamie, who is already seeing the difference working there is having on his self-esteem, evident when he spoke to us last week.

“When I was told the hospice wanted to do a story about me and take my photo, I was a little bit nervous but mostly excited,” said Jamie, who lives with Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism which can trigger anxiety and nervousness, particularly in social situations.

“I think if you’d have asked me a few months back to speak to me for the website, I would have been a lot more nervous, and I would have been in my shell and not opened up as much.

“But working here helps build up my confidence – I can overcome people barriers that have held me back in the past.

“Sometimes, I might not be as confident, and I might not see things other people do, but working here helps build my CV – it gives me more experience in dealing with people and providing good quality customer service.”

Not only is Jamie reaping the rewards of voluntary work, so is St Catherine’s and The Mill!  The team at The Mill depends on volunteers who give their time as café assistants and volunteer advisors to be able to provide the services they do.

As well as being a welcoming café open to everyone, The Mill is there to help those affected by serious illness and bereavement in a more relaxed, informal environment away from the hospice. Jamie acknowledged one of the many perks is giving people a lift when they need it most.

“I like making visitors to The Mill feel good and helping them change their day,” he continued.

“I think it’s important to be engaging and really friendly, and offer good customer service because that means so much to some people.

“Somebody came into the café once who wasn’t having a great day, so I made sure I made her feel welcome and spoke to her. Apparently that cheered her up, so she left a message on the Facebook page saying I’d made her day, and that was really nice to hear.”

Steve Rabbich, Food Co-ordinator at Brothers of Charity, said volunteering at The Mill gives Jamie and his fellow volunteers valuable experience which will stand them in good stead in their future endeavours.

He said: “Volunteering at The Mill enables the people who we support at the Brothers of Charity Services’ such as Rococco – a social enterprise coffee shop run by the Brothers of Charity – to experience working in a busier environment, where they are able to learn new skills on top of their development at Rococo.

“Jamie has really flourished with his voluntary work at The Mill; he is able to get involved in the whole order process from taking an order using a tablet to preparing and serving the food, and is enjoying everything that he does. We are extremely proud of Jamie’s development whilst he has been volunteering at The Mill.”

Jamie is well aware of the important role The Mill plays in delivering the services of St Catherine’s Hospice, from raising funds to reaching out to more people. He ensures he remains connected to hospice care, the theme Hospice UK is using for Hospice Care Week.

“I know some of the work being done at the Hospice and I always keep up to-date with what’s going on via the Facebook page (‘St Catherine’s Hospice, Lancashire’). It’s really good to know that you’re making a difference.

“I’ve realised it’s not just a café, it’s also more about bringing a sense of normality for people. I know that it’s on the same site as the hospice and The Mill is really connected to St Catherine’s with what they do.”

Social enterprise manager of Brothers of Charity Ann Jones added: “St Catherine’s Hospice has provided a wonderful opportunity to people who are supported through the Vocational and Community Enterprises at the Brothers of Charity Services to transfer their skills and knowledge into the Mill restaurant and central kitchen. People are able to volunteer their skills and talents, which not only supports the hospice but also affirms their value to society. This helps to build self-confidence and increase their experiences allowing them to continue along the path to employment.”

The Mill, St Catherine’s Park is always on the look-out for volunteers to join Jamie and the team – if you’re interested click here to find out more.

If you’ve been inspired by Jamie’s story and would like to connect with St Catherine’s for Hospice Care Week, donate £3 by texting ‘Hospice care’ to 70444 – thank you!

Texts cost £3 plus network charge. St Catherine’s Hospice receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer’s permission. Customer care 01772 629171 Charity No: 512186.

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