Ged (61) joined the Freedom Project – Mustard Tree’s life skills and employability programme – after facing a prolonged period of unemployment. He is now back in work after graduating, having regained his confidence and self-respect.
“Before I joined Mustard Tree, I had taken voluntary redundancy at the printing company I’d worked for over the past 25 years. After that, I worked in a nursing home for a long time, but lost my job after the company changed hands and felt like I no longer fit in.
Losing a second job in this way was a big confidence knock for me, as I really cared about the work and the residents I was caring for. I felt really picked on and didn’t know what to do about it. I felt like I was being portrayed as a bad person when I wasn’t, and now wish I had fought against it more”.
Ged first heard about Mustard Tree through a member of staff who previously worked with him at the printing company. He felt more confident attending the Freedom open day as he already knew a familiar face.
“I came to Mustard Tree not knowing what I was going to do or how it would help, but everyone seemed so friendly. I always suffered with low self-esteem, so just being able to talk to someone really helped. It was also valuable to be with other people who I knew were struggling, as it helped put things into context and ended up inspiring me every day. I loved meeting people I never would usually meet and got on with people who I might have avoided in the past”.
Having given it a try, Ged joined the Freedom Project in June 2018, working as part of Mustard Tree’s warehouse team.
“I started out on the vans, collecting and delivering furniture. I enjoyed this and really got on with the people I was volunteering with. It was also good to get out and about, meeting different people and visiting areas of Manchester I’d never seen before.
In between shifts, I started taking some of the activities. I did some drawing, I hadn’t done it in years, since school 40 years ago! I realised I had a talent I hadn’t lost. The Freedom team here gave me so much interest and appreciated what I had to say, which really inspired me and helped me realise I am interesting”.
Regular work, activities and interaction with others started to help Ged build his confidence back up.
“I think Mustard Tree is an important place for people who need to gain self-respect – it built up my confidence so much. The building itself and facilities are first class, which makes me feel worthwhile. Everyone here is treated like they are important”.
After six months on the Freedom Project, Ged felt he was ready to get back into work, and with the help of the Mustard Tree team, was offered a placement with a Manchester hotel.
“I wanted a chance to show what I could do. That is the best way for me – I wanted to show what I could offer. When I found out about the opportunity of paid work, I had a huge smile on my face. I was doubting my opportunities due to my age and was only ever going to have enough money to survive and live a life that was grim”.
Ged started a paid work placement in the kitchen team, which he enjoyed and boosted his confidence.
“I hadn’t done anything in the kitchen before. It was great to be there and to feel useful, even if they were the easy things that relieved pressure on other members of staff. I didn’t feel nervous because the work experience at Mustard Tree had set me up. I knew the people and knew they would be nice to me. I like having a routine, a reason and a purpose
Having a reliable source of income also gave Ged his independence back and was able to start furnishing his accommodation and build for the future.
“I wanted to earn money to spend, so this made me so happy. The spare money for me has been a life-changer. I have more freedom, getting up, not lounging around and having something to do. I’ve been able to buy some special things to decorate my flat in my own unique way – it makes me happy to come home to a house which I’m proud of”.
Ged is now in a place where he can start to focus on his goals and long-term aspirations, after his time on Mustard Tree’s Freedom Project lead to his new career opportunity.
“I feel so much more confident and secure, when I was on benefits I only had enough to just about get by. My first grandchild was born in December, and now I’m working I can go down south to see him and my son – it’s an amazing feeling.
I would also like to find things I enjoy again, some hobbies to expand my knowledge. I love history – especially local history – I want to go back and find out more about my Ancoats roots.
I would say to anyone who wants to come here, don’t feel worried about anything, or awkward, or ‘what is the point’ – just go in there, meet people and just know you’ll be in a place where everyone is in the same boat and nobody is judging you.
I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped me get here”.
You can download our Freedom Project Enquiry Form here. For our Manchester central hub in Ancoats, please email the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org. For our Salford hubs in Little Hulton and Eccles, please email to email@example.com.
You can also of course post it to us – find us here or for further information, please call us on 07803 428 709 / 0161 850 2282.
Click here form more information about our Freedom Project and how we can help.