From an audio interview
I was made aware of Hollybush in November last year, by a charity called Engage who had been helping me; they signposted me here and brought me down and showed me what you guys do and asked me if I was interested. At the time I wasn’t doing a right lot. I had social anxiety and other issues which are ongoing so I wasn’t really open to it at first. But from there I got involved and figured out what you do on site.
I liked the joinery; I did basic joinery before, but I’ve learnt a lot while I’ve been here and it’s also taught me to be more creative and let my ideas go a bit; I’m more skilled and I can take on more of a challenge. I’ve got a lot out of helping and teaching and assisting with the different groups and classes. I just enjoy passing on what I’ve learnt and other people pass their knowledge back to me. Me and Tom get on really well and I get on with all the other VOs; it’s quite a big social circle in this place and everyone’s choosing to be here so it creates quite a good atmosphere. It’s different to most places I’ve been before but I’ve never done any other volunteering; it’s my first time doing anything like this; I’d definitely recommend it.
The people on the courses are a mixed bunch with all sorts of skill levels; that was the most surprising thing I found was the variety of people from different backgrounds, some professional people, some who are struggling in life like I was myself and some who have spare time and want to fill it productively.
Being focussed here at Hollybush helps me with my mental health but I do that in my own life anyway; I fish and I cycle and I do both of those hobbies to keep my mind busy. As long as I’ve got my mind on a task then I don’t feel pressures and problems as much, which really helps here because there’s always something to do; I can finish one job and there’s probably ten others to do in that week; but the good thing with it is there’s no pressure; if I want five minutes or I need a break I can do that whereas in a paid job you don’t always have those chances to take five. I would feel under pressure while recovering . Now not so much but when I first started any pressure was extreme to me. Whereas now I’ve got familiar faces round me and I’m a bit more relaxed in myself; now I don’t let things get to me quite as much. My tutor Tom in the woodwork is very hands on with the volunteers as in he’ll keep a really good eye on you, but he’ll also let you have that leeway to express yourself and do things your way as long as you’re safe; he’s good at the support side of it so if he sees you’re needing help, he often sees it before you know quite often and he’s quite good with that; I’ve got to know the other VOs and we’re all quite close now.
I help out with the plant sales and the Christmas fair. Because I do three days here I tend not to get involved with at the weekend activities because that’s when I have my social life with my friends.
We’ve just done the woodwork design course which is a new course and we’ve had some really good things made; we had a gentleman who’s had a stroke and can only use half his body and he made a dog bed, a bird box and a windmill with a bit of assistance; we helped him as much as he needed. That’s what I mean about people with different skills and abilities; they all make their way through the courses and make nice stuff. The gentleman who’d had a stroke gave me and Tom a card saying thank you and things like that it makes you realise he’s really enjoyed it and he’s gone out of his way to tell us how well we did. He’s not done much stuff like that before because he can’t, so without us he couldn’t have done it and he really appreciated that loads.
On the basic woodwork everyone does the same thing; that’s where we’re learning how other people learn and then on the third one you start to put your own little twist on it; the new design course you can make what you want as long as it’s not going to fill the barn. We’ve just had it approved so we’re going to do a second term at that one. For now I want to carry on. I’m starting to look for part time work initially; I’ve been out of work for about seven years; I’ve done various jobs but I never really found a direction. My joinery skills are now tenfold what they were but I’ve also started exploring and enjoying the support side of it and I get a lot out of that. It makes me feel good, the fact that you’re helping somebody do something that they potentially couldn’t do on their own or wouldn’t be safe to do on their own. You become sort of friends with them as well. I’d like to find a role where I could take people out on practical days; at the minute I’m doing a little bit of research on that one. It’s only in the beginning phases.
I speak to all of the people at the classroom next door, the L DP (Learning Disabilities Project); they all know my name and they all come and have a good chat; I have a real good laugh with them. I’ve helped out with different groups, the Gardening Group, LDP and the Task Group. I’ve even gained qualifications through it all. The Task Group is different because you’re in a different scene every day and doing different kinds of work but it’s not the sort of thing I’m massively into. I think because I was anxious when I was doing the tasks I didn’t like not knowing where I was going.
When I first started I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know where the day was going to be spent and who with. Whereas in the workshop I know who’s walking in that day most of the time and I’ve got familiar faces around me that have become pretty much friends