Michael, who lives with schizophrenia and learning disabilities, is a resident at Exemplar Health Care’s Doncaster home for adults with complex needs, Quarryfields. He is an active volunteer at the home’s pop-up café which launched last year and enjoys several activities that support his relationships in the wider community – from pottery classes to days at the beach.
Earlier this year Michael supported Feed The Hungry, a community-focused charity, with other residents of Quarryfields by packing meals which were going to be distributed to children in Africa. He tells us of his experience: “We recently packed 5,000 meals for children in Africa. There were 36 meals in each bag, and it took us four hours. We were helping to feed the hungry.”
An educational experience
Quarryfields’ Education Facilitator Heather Johnson, who supported Michael in sharing his experience, says that prior to the volunteering Michael hadn’t realised the extent of which people in the world were starving. “It opened his eyes to not only what was happening out of his immediate sight but also allowed him to understand how he was helping. Michael is incredibly driven, and his love of food is contagious. We are humbled that the charity packing experience supported Michael in helping others. It also gave him an opportunity to reconnect with another volunteer.”
Michael explains his volunteering role: “I packed rice, lentils, soya, and vitamins for the children. The food had already been donated and my job was to work with (fellow residents) Tracy, Cassandra, Bernard, Exemplar staff, and other members of the community to pack the food items. I saw someone I used to volunteer with, and the charity provided lunch beforehand, thanking us for our hard work with a vegetable and fruit box from a local urban farm.”
Inspired by the day, he now plans to go to the farm that provided the vegetable and fruit boxes at the charity packing day to learn how to grow vegetables. He is also continuing to expand his baking repertoire. A keen baker, Michael volunteers weekly at The Platform, a pop-up hosted at Quarryfields where he bakes and serves customers.
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Due to Michael’s love of food and sharing of recipes, it is no surprise that he was keen to support wider charitable activities that involve providing food to others. He has seen how community comes together via food and is keen to share some of his favourite things to bake, “My favourite is banoffee. I don’t like fruit, but I like to bake with it.” Alongside banoffee, fellow residents confirm that he makes great blueberry cake as well as chocolate flapjack.
Continued Heather, “At Quarryfields we strive to provide both consistent and ad hoc volunteering opportunities that support our residents in pursuing the activities and careers that mean something to them. Seeing Michael’s confidence increasing, and more opportunities arise for him is great. It’s a reminder as to why volunteering and work opportunities are so vital for supporting self-esteem in adults with learning disabilities.”
During the last few years, Michael has volunteered in Busters Café in Doncaster, helped with the breakfast club within the home, and he has also been a waiter at The Ark Rossington Holmescarr Centre Community Café.