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“Volunteering has made me feel much more positive about my life”

5 December 2015

Sixty-two year-old Linda Fowler felt isolated and unskilled as she struggled to find work. She started volunteering in a cafe run by Forest Schools Birmingham CIC nearly two years ago and since then, she has learnt new skills, made new friends and her future looks brighter.  Linda tells us her story.

Linda's-pic-for-blog“I had been unemployed since my son was born and I started looking for a job when he turned 16.  I’d been looking for jobs but was always told I didn’t have the right skills. Bringing up five children as a single parent was quite tough and sometimes isolating, so I decided to volunteer as a way of getting out of the house. It was nice to have a break and talk to new people.

It was a friend who told me about the Kingstanding Food Community and I thought why not?

On my first day, I said to Chris Williams, the Chef, ‘I’ll do anything in the kitchen, but I’m not going on that till’. I love cooking but I was frightened of going on the till. Now, I’m showing other staff members how to use it, working with cash and putting payments through!

Chris has taught me so many new skills.  I’m learning how to make  cakes and soups – things I didn’t know how to do before. I feel much more confident in the kitchen.

My days are really varied. Last week I was helping Chris with a bread making workshop, working with young and old people. I was helping them, showing them how to knead the bread and then I made a soup to go with it afterwards. Then later in the week I worked in the cafe, serving customers, making coffees and food.

My son and daughter have even become involved in volunteering as well. I’ve got them into it – brought them in to help out in the kitchen and cafe when we needed help occasionally.

I’ve met many new people through working in the cafe and made new friends. I now feel much more positive and proactive about my life, as though I have better employment prospects.

I recently gained a certificate in ‘Supervising Food Safety’ in Catering and the next step for me is learning ‘Barista Skills’.”

Chris Williams, Linda’s mentor says of her progress:

“Linda has come such a long way in a short time volunteering with usLinda-2
and it has been a wonderful journey to be a part of. Her commitment and dedication to the project and to helping others is commendable. I’m glad that she found us and was given a chance to make a difference. She has a heart of gold and a new set of skills to be proud of. We are all so proud of her achievements as a volunteer here”.

Linda has this to say to anyone considering helping out:

“If other people are interested in volunteering I would definitely say to do it. Volunteering will give you much more confidence; it will get you out, give you new opportunities and help you to meet new people. So, just go for it!”

Kingstanding Food Community is in its third year, engaging and empowering disadvantaged people with health needs to make healthy choices regarding their lifestyles. The project is part of Forest Schools Birmingham, a community interest company working in the Kingstanding area of the city for the last 10 years. It provides a community hub where fun, family orientated healthy workshops and events are easily accessible to local people to enjoy a sense of wellbeing in a safe, healthy space.

They are funded by Reaching Communities and received £455,000. Here’s a short film made at their community festival earlier this year.

We’ll be talking more about volunteering and the positive difference it can make to people’s lives in the New Year. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep updated.


One Comment leave one →
  1. 5 December 2015 9:54 pm

    brilliant message

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