Thames Reach
Monday 20 November 2017
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Gary's week

Gary, TST Volunteer

Tenancy Sustainment Team volunteer Gary was invited along to a Thames Reach Work Ready Programme in May 2017, including an overnight stay at the Lane End Conference Centre in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.


Gary decided to write a piece covering his experiences on the programme, both at the centre, and on the week of workshops that followed.


The accommodation at the centre, along with the very nicely prepared food, was worth the journey there alone! Around 40 clients and volunteers headed up by Rosie Crawley from the Thames Reach employment team set off from there by coach on Saturday morning at 10.30am.


Rosie very quickly made everyone feel at ease, as there were several people clearly out of their comfort zone, including myself, as I was not sure just what to expect. The journey out of London was a little hairy as traffic through Fulham was a nightmare! Anyway, once we were through that we were off on our jollies, with my knotted handkerchief firmly in place on my head, my bucket and spade at the ready!


On arrival, and when finally I managed to close my mouth from the exceptional surroundings, we were allocated our rooms and settled in prior to lunch. The accommodation was just lovely. You could have been anywhere in the world with a double sized bed, very plush shower room and television on tap too.


Clients and volunteers began to chat and quickly acquaintances were formed. The first meal was an indication to the quality of the time we spent there. Following lunch, it was a choice of yoga, art or five-a-side football, and this fallen David Beckham is a ball bender, not a body bending meditator! So, at the ripe old age of sixty, I’m back! Well, in spirit if not in body! Actually, to be honest, the speed has gone a little but a few little sparks of mild genius, and three goals later, I was quite proud of the ol’ guy!


After that, a shower, then dress for dinner. Well, I did. Everyone else was still sporting their Work Ready Programme T shirts! Dinner was as good as lunch and the rest of the evening was left to leisure.


On Sunday, the weather was again kind, and following a hearty fried breakfast we had a choice of orienteering, art or touch rugby, and yes, you’ve guessed it, I was for scrumming down. Love a maul and a ruck! The instructor, Spike, was a very knowledgeable, fun guy, and gave us a completely different insight into the game. He made the whole thing very interesting for the duration. I eventually gathered that the clue was in the title.


Following Sunday lunch, it was time to get our bags and mosey on back to the Smoke. Fun over at the conference centre but much more to look forward to in the coming four days. The venue for the rest of the week was Cambridge House in Walworth and there was a little work to be done now. You could see in the short time of being together that the group was beginning to bond. Normally shy people were finding their voices and coming out of their shells and enjoying being part of the week. For the rest of the time we indulged in many workshops. An introduction to properly writing a CV, IT skills, a job fair, and much more.


Tuesday evening we were all off bowling! A real fun couple of hours. Differing standards of course, but nevertheless very much enjoyed by all.


A trip was then arranged to three venues and we had a choice. Either a first aid course, which carried a certificate, a visit to a construction site, or my choice, a lesson in making coffee. My second love after Manchester United! Three of us chose this and I swear I will never ever say the life of a barista is an easy one. Flat whites, cappuccinos and the like, there is more to making them than meets the eye I can assure you!


Thursday evening saw us in the Brewbird Café at the Employment Academy, after each participant had been presented with their own personalised graduation certificate. We were treated to a Thai curry prepared by the very competent staff at the venue.


On finishing, it was very clear to see that not only the clients but the volunteers had enjoyed a programme put together with great aplomb. Enormous thanks must go to the main protagonist here, Rosie Crawley. She really deserved all the praise given for such a wonderful job.


Finally, the reason I have taken the time to write this piece is to display just how beneficial the Work Ready Programme is to clients. The course proved that with sympathetic, caring and committed volunteers, people’s lives can be tremendously enhanced in so many ways, and I urge you that when it’s your project’s turn to take part, that you dig deep through your portfolios and pick the people that you may feel would most benefit from such a wonderful experience.


Ok, gone on long enough!


That’s me, and I’m a lot wiser….. and very grateful.