Michael's gardening experience bears fruit - Avenues Group
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Michael’s gardening experience bears fruit

Wednesday 22nd of January 2020

Working on a gardening project has given Michael Mangan an extensive knowledge of plants and horticulture, and also helped him grow his social circle.

“I like to get my hands dirty, the feeling of soil on my hands” says Michael, rubbing his palms. Walking around a greenhouse filled with seedlings and saplings, Michael has no problem enthusiastically identifying plant types “We grow lots of plants in here”, he says. He looks inquisitively at one with varying coloured leaves “this one here is most definitely lambs lettuce, good for your salad”, he says cheerfully.

Michael in the greenhouse

Michael has been attending Shaw Trust Enterprises horticulture project for nearly 10 years and comes once a week. On a cold winter morning he laughs and remarks “What can I say, it gets me out of bed in the morning”. The project sits in the middle of leafy Scadbury Park in Chislehurst in Kent, surrounded by open fields and forest. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in open countryside. The site comprises a greenhouse area, planted beds areas with regular plants, fruit and vegetable patches and an indoor communal area. It’s a place people with disabilities can learn valuable skills.

“People who come here enjoy being part of a community” says Rita Hanley, Support worker and enterprise assistant at the project “The social side is really important and that they are mixing with other people”. The project can also help give a focus and potentially lead to other things; “It’s important for them to do a job and feel that they have achieved something. There is a possibility of moving on to other gardening jobs and paid employment” says Rita.

Michael and Enterprise Assistant Rita 

At the moment Michael’s chief job is to research plants for potential cultivation. He sits at a laptop, mug of tea by his side, surrounded by his comprehensive notes on each plant “I research information on how to prepare the soil, where to plant the seed, when to plant it, whether it’s a Spring plant” he says. Rita can see the benefits “it’s great, he really retains that knowledge” she says.

Michael studies plants 

Although Michael is happy researching on the laptop he admits his favourite part of the work is the people “I like being part of a team, taking turns to do things. It’s more than work, it’s also having a good time”. He admits it’s helped his confidence “With the support that I have here and my care it’s helping me to be more sociable”. This is evident when Michael visits his fellow attendees who are busy digging the veggie patch, who laugh and joke with him.

The veggie patch

Avenues Service Manager Karen Kiamil has noticed how Michael’s independence has grown through attending the project and observed his enthusiasm for the work “Michael has gained more confidence in travelling to Scadbury Park independently. He is given the freedom to use the computer to gather information and he enjoys undertaking an activity without staff support. He’s always talking with his staff team about his day when he returns.”

Avenues London Team at the project

The Avenues London staff team recently visited the project with a view of getting more people Avenues supports involved. “It’s a great local opportunity to work outside with plants, flowers and general grounds keeping with skilled staff in a safe and friendly environment. The grounds have a rich history and offer a unique learning opportunity for people we support” says Malcolm Mitchell, Senior Operations Manager.

Meanwhile, Michael takes another sip of tea and looks positively towards the future, hoping his increased confidence, social skills and support will bare other fruit – “I’m hoping it progresses more and more and maybe it might result in having a girlfriend”. He smiles to himself and continues with his research.