One of the most effective ways of displaying the support we provide is by visiting some of the organisations who have benefited from our work. This month we had the pleasure of visiting three local projects who are doing fantastic work to help those in our community.
The first charity that we visited was Men in Sheds; an organisation that focuses on improving the health and well-being of men. Men in Sheds originated in Australia, where there are now over 1000 Sheds. The Shed offers a place for men to gather and pursue their hobbies while building lasting friendships with like-minded people.
The Milton Keynes Shed currently has around 100 members, who donate membership money weekly, which helps with the running of the Shed.
While we were visiting, we were shown different workshop areas for the ‘Shedders’ to pursue their varying interests, including: 3D printer rooms, computer areas and the impressive woodworking and metal workshop, that was busy with members building their individual creations. The benches on which they worked were built by the members themselves, while important equipment including the vices and materials to build with, were funded by grants or gifted by local companies.
We spoke to a couple of members who emphasised how important the Shed has been to them in their personal lives, and how the group has helped build their confidence again and welcomed them with open arms, making them feel a part of a family. We heard an example of the comradery at the Shed from one of the members who told us how his fellow shedders used their skills to engineer some life-changing improvements to his electric scooter, which enormously improved his quality of life and independence.
Our second stop was to the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Group. This incredible group, which is run entirely by volunteers, help local people who are living with Multiple Sclerosis and other conditions, improve their quality of life. There are over 800 people who benefit from the great work this project does, with around 70 people supported directly every week. The group was founded in 1993 and has evolved over the past 24 years to help an ever-growing membership of people. The group’s ethos is to give people the sense of belonging they deserve and to offer a safe place where they are not marginalised or isolated.
As well as looking after the member’s mental wellbeing, they also seek to offer various therapies to improve people’s quality of life and physical well-being. While we were there we were lucky enough to be able to see their hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, which is used to help people with MS and a variety of other conditions, including people who are preparing for operations and recovering from them. The chamber helps people heal faster by allowing the body to take in more oxygen and deliver it in the blood to the brain, which is beneficial for a variety of conditions, and is not available readily available on the NHS. One of the directors explained to us the benefits that the chamber had on a patient who was unable to walk and talk; after a year of using the chamber, they were able to walk with assistance and talk again from the beneficial effects the treatment has.
A few of our visitors had the opportunity to sit within the actual chamber to see what it feels like. The group also have therapy rooms, where there’s an option for members to undergo a variety of different therapies including Reiki, Reflexology and massages.
Our final stop on our Seeing is Believing visit was to the Camphill Community; this extraordinary charity supports 54 people with learning disabilities, and aims to encourage it’s members to make their own choices about the way they want to live their lives and enable them to take responsibility for their decisions. Each person within the community has a role to play, which means they have an increased sense of purpose and partake in meaningful work. Residents of Camphill are also actively encouraged to take part in activities that affect the wider community of Milton Keynes.
Whilst visiting, we enjoyed a fantastic lunch in the café in which the residents work. The café uses produce that is all grown or handmade on site, in order to provide unique and organic dishes that are produced each day.
After our delicious lunch in which many of us enjoyed the mushroom risotto and leek potato soup they had on offer, we were shown the incredible Chrysalis theatre they have on site. The architecturally beautiful theatre serves the wider community of Milton Keynes, as well as the residents of Camphill and is regularly used for meals and conferences. The residents are currently rehearsing for a Christmas play of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. As well as offering an opportunity for the residents to get involved in ‘The Arts’, there is a wide range of jobs and hobbies that they can get involved in. Some of which include: a newsletter group (which releases a publication once a month) a cycling club, and a workshop that focuses on refurbishing old tools, which will then be sent to third world countries to help people there.
We visited the bakery on site, where fresh bread, cakes and biscuits are made every day, and saw the food processing area where residents make dried herbs and chutneys among many other things. Camphill focuses on the person, rather than the workshop and aims at nurturing an individual’s talents and interests; an example we saw, was the installation of a leather workshop for a resident who had a particular interest in leathercraft. We finished our trip to Camphill by taking a look around the shop, where the goods that are created by the residents are available for purchase, including beautiful homemade cards, scarves, honey and jewellery.
We would like to say a great big thank you to the organisations that so kindly hosted us on the day, and another thank you to our wonderful guests who made the day such great fun by really entering into the spirit of things!