25 June 2010

Swapping a spreadsheet for a sledgehammer

When the opportunity to help for the day at Darwin Nurseries came up, the main thing that attracted me was the chance to smash things up.

Working in the Finance department at Red Gate, the opportunity to smash stuff up doesn’t arise often. Mostly I spend my days at my desk writing emails, looking at spreadsheets and watching the cash roll in. The most strenuous part of the day is generally the compulsory post-lunch foosball match.

Red Gate gives each employee a day off work each year to do a Charitable Activity. The idea is that as well as giving money through various fundraising activities throughout the year, we donate our time and skills to provide something more tangible than a cheque.

So, a group of us arrived at Darwin Nurseries early in the morning, enthusiastically expecting to do some reasonably hard work, most of us knowing little about Darwin and what they do.

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Darwin is a charitable trust that employs and cares for adults with disabilities (mainly mental health). They come under the NHS (Social Services) and receive very little funding. They have slowly developed what they do at Darwin and are now a thriving community, reliant on the income from the wonderful fresh produce and plants they produce to continue to exist.

Darwin not only gives the adults that go there skills to learn and a job to do, but a community in which to thrive and be comfortable with themselves. Talking to the people that run the community, Mark and Christine, it’s obvious how proud they are of the people that go to Darwin. Some of the adults that attend will be content with working at the nursery itself, either in the shop or in the gardens, but some will achieve the skills and confidence they need to go and get a job elsewhere.

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After a cup of tea and a chat with some of the members of the community, we were set to the task of demolishing the old avery and painting the gates at the entrance to the nursery.

I doubt any of us have ever worked as hard as we did that day, but the smiles never left our faces. The satisfaction of knowing we were helping in a practical way and the astonishment on the faces of Mark and Christine when we’d demolished the avery by lunchtime made it the most satisfying morning I’d ever spent.

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Even when Mark announced that, although we’d done a great job, it would really help if we could take out the foundations after lunch, our grins only faltered for a moment.

There was a sense of pride that we managed the task with only a couple of sledgehammers, pickaxes and a hammer and chisel. Even more pride that we’d managed to do together in a day what would have taken Mark much longer to achieve on his own. But also humble when faced with people who do what we played at, day in day out, for a living.

I did get to achieve my goal, of smashing things up, but I also got a lot more out of the day that I hadn’t been expecting.

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Post by: Hannah Jermy

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