James is a regular volunteer at Thrive Birmingham and has been volunteering there since July 2015. It was a very difficult time for him when he started as he had lost his job and was learning to cope with being a full-time carer to his wife Catherine who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had had to give up her own career because of the disability it causes her.
Since starting at Thrive, James has grown a lot and it has had a profoundly positive impact on his life. He has learned to become more confident and comfortable with himself as a person and whilst he can't remember the names of all the plants, he loves working outdoors with nature and most of all working with the client gardeners. He is healthier and fitter than ever before and whilst he and Catherine have both lost their careers, he has learned to embrace the life they have now and that being a carer does not mean that life stops - it just changes to something new.
“There are so many good memories at Thrive and I hope to continue to volunteer whatever the future holds for me - there is always something new to learn. The staff, the volunteers and clients are all a joy to work with.”
If James had to choose one memory, it would have to be the first day he worked with one of the school groups of client gardeners. He had not worked with young people before or people with learning disabilities. So, when they first arrived bursting with energy, he felt quite intimidated and thought his naturally quiet personality would hold him back as, up until that point, he always saw it as a weakness. It would have been easy for him to give up at that point but he felt he wanted to do his bit to help the clients learn and experience gardening and being in nature as many of them would not normally get the chance to work in a garden or outside at all.
The more he worked with the group, the more he started to realize he didn’t need to be loud and outgoing to be able to connect with the clients, other fellow volunteers and Thrive staff. He has learned that his quiet and easy-going nature is a positive thing that enables him to effectively communicate with many of our client gardeners and now recognizes that by clients interacting with different types of people when they are at Thrive, they are in turn learning to enhance their own social skills and confidence as well as the benefits of being outdoors and working in the gardens.