Leslie was referred to the Freedom Project, our work readiness and life skills programme by his Jobcentre. Having never had a paying job, Leslie was somewhat overwhelmed at first, but with the support of the Mustard Tree team, he discovered a passion for art, became a supervisor and “proved I can do things for myself’’.

”I was sent to the Freedom Project by the Jobcentre. Initially, I opted to work on the shop floor and remember being a bit daunted by how much there was to remember; you have to be courteous to the customers, show them the stock you have, make a note of the item number and take them to the till. To my surprise, I really liked it. I enjoyed working in a team. You help each other out and make friends along the way.

I didn’t think I’d get asked to be a supervisor, so I was both happy and a little bit intimidated at the start. The thing is, I’ve never had a paying job. I’ve done voluntary work, but being asked to act as a middleman between Mustard Tree Retail Managers Fiona and Sam and the shop floor made me feel overwhelmed at first. But also proud, when people said “congratulations”, it did me good. There’s a lot you have to do as a supervisor; you have to send people on either first or second break, talk to Freedom Project participants to see if there’s any problems, make sure everyone’s paperwork is in order and that the shop looks tidy. I had to learn to show respect and not just tell people to do things, Fiona and Sam would tell me if I was being too loud and bossy!

I’ve done some courses at Mustard Tree too, like I.T and employability courses. I also did a Customer Service course and want to get some qualifications in that. But the best one was the art class on a Tuesday afternoon. I’ve never done an art class before and it makes me feel really comfortable. I definitely want to continue on with that somehow.

Since starting here, I’ve proved I can do things for myself. I’m a lot more motivated. I worked in the warehouse for a while and helped organize them by moving things around, helping to load the furniture onto the vans, going out on deliveries, finding items and talking to Mustard Tree’s other branches. I still get overwhelmed like recently, when I did some office training. But I’m much happier being busy than when I first came here.
Because I’m coming to the end of my time at Mustard Tree, I recently started volunteering at the British Heart Foundation. I greet people there and give them leaflets, go around and price things up. I like the sense of community here, the way you have regular customers and you build friendships with them. I want to continue to do that and also to keep improving. I feel better for doing something useful with my time.”

Written by Gordon Harries

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