That’s what makes our charity what it is, so we thought it would be nice to find out a bit more about the people who are part of our community!
This week is National Apprenticeship Week, so who better to start with than Samantha Moss Gibbons, our Animal Care Apprentice?
Samantha has always loved animals. Having worked at a local Equestrian Centre, she owns two horses, three dogs and after an unfortunate incident involving guinea pig gender identification, Samantha says “too many guinea pigs to count…”
After spending some time on a course at a local college, Samantha quickly realised that a more formal study environment wasn’t for her. Having heard that an Animal Care Apprenticeship was available at My Life, she leapt at the chance to learn in a more hands-on environment.
An Apprenticeship is a way to combine a paid, practical job with study and Samantha feels that this suits her. Five months into her role, Samantha is now really enjoying her learning, which she does alongside caring for My Life’s menagerie of pigs, goats, chickens and of course, horses.
And it’s not just about the work. As Samantha says: “I feel really comfortable here, because it’s such a lovely atmosphere. Everyone is really nice. Being here is building my confidence. I know a bit more about the world of work now and I’m less nervous about it.”
Let’s face it, very few of us knew what we wanted to be when we were younger, but an Apprenticeship opens doors and gives the opportunity for new experiences.
“I’d thought about a career maybe as a dog groomer, but I didn’t know enough about it” says Samantha. “I spent a bit of time in My Life’s Doggy Day Care and now I’m thinking that this may be the way I want to go.”
So, in honour of National Apprenticeship Week, what advice would Samantha give to someone considering an Apprenticeship? “It’s simple. If I’d known how happy I would have been doing an Apprenticeship, I would have done it sooner!”
Find out more about opportunities at My Life, as a member of staff, fundraiser or volunteer, here.
Discover more about National Apprenticeship Week here.
I had to self-isolate earlier this month. I have to say, it’s a strange, unpredictable virus – as soon as I started feeling better, another symptom kicked in. Covid throws you each waking hour. But it was in those moments of solitude that I was really reminded of a founding value crucial to My Life – that being part of a community isn’t just about geographical locality, it’s feeling part of a network of helpful, caring connections and relationships to which everyone should have access. I’ve certainly appreciated that support – albeit remote – in the past few weeks.
I’ve also seen the incredible sacrifice of our My Life Support teams through these difficult days of the pandemic – some even moved into the houses of people who need 24/7 support for two weeks, so families could be reassured that high quality consistent care could be maintained. To me, that emphasises the amazing humanity of the people we employ – this isn’t just paid-for support, this is support that truly cares, and I don’t think you can put a monetary value on that. It’s priceless.
So, though the world may be tired and in need of respite, not only does it feel like there might be light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccination programme, but I genuinely believe that My Life’s cherished position as an organisation which believes in inclusion and the power of community in its many different forms gives us a great chance to be a shining light of compassion, joy and equality in a dark period where people are looking for hope.
Just before Christmas, I ran a management and leadership session for My Life staff. We’re really keen on this stuff; I’m sure you’ve all been on interminable courses which pay lip service to culture and values within an organisation, but given these inclusive values are the whole reason My Life was set up in the first place, it feels more relevant to us. Anyway, I got everyone at the session to stand in a socially distant line, at least two metres apart, in the order they came to My Life.
The ones who were there at the start were able to understand and convey why My Life’s values of inclusion are so important to us – possibly because I rammed it home to them on a daily basis in the early days! If you’ve been sent this blog you’ve probably heard them from me countless times too – but it’s worth reiterating how crucial inclusion is.
Everyone capable of breathing, even if breathing requires support, is entitled to be included in society and community – no-one is too difficult, too old, too poor or too disabled to qualify. We have to help people be part of and belong to communities because that’s the way we can recognise, encourage and value each person’s gifts and strengths – that way, we all learn and grow.
Indeed, personalisation – the central idea behind My Life, where people are empowered to build a sustainable life for themselves or their loved ones – was built on those values. Through focusing on values, we were able to come up with a process by which person-centred support could have a robust but caring mechanism to offer high-quality, consistent care.
Inclusion – or to put it another way, kindness – isn’t just an idea to bestow on others either; really it should be present in our interactions with everyone. Caring for people is more than a service, it’s a way of being, an attitude, which in turn enables people to live their best lives. So even though clapping for carers was a laudable initiative, is this workforce doing such amazing things in incredibly difficult circumstances really valued? If nothing else I hope this first blog emphasises that we must obviously always be kind to those being cared for, but the carers themselves deserve kindness and understanding too.
Anyway, back to my line of people. It was fascinating to find that at a certain point along it, some of those values got a bit woolly in the retelling. It didn’t mean that at some point we suddenly started recruiting uncaring staff, far from it. But it underlined for me that assuming people know the values of an organisation can easily cause problems. You have to spend time instilling values across all people – because ultimately it’s the values which will drive high standards.
I will admit, sometimes the growth of My Life into an organisation which offers day opportunities, education, advocacy, lodges for respite and independent living, and support to individuals with complex and enduring needs in their own home, means we hear whispers that we’re growing too vast, that we must be commercially orientated. But I can guarantee that every time we’ve been able to improve or diversify, it’s been because people have asked for it – or genuinely needed us to do something for them. This idea of an umbrella of support has been embryonic rather than part of a hard-nosed business plan.
Essentially, My Life evolved from a situation where people finally had the autonomy to choose how they wanted to spend money allocated to them for care – but found there was nothing to buy. We found good quality people to provide that care through our Pathways 2 Employment programme, and then got the response: “we’ve sorted the staff out, now what are they going to do all day?”
That’s how we grew and stood out from the crowd, by being an organisation that could be diverse while still keeping our core values of inclusion intact – which, returning to Covid one last time, has actually been a benefit; the blend of services and opportunities we have has certainly been critical to keeping the charity going.
This is a New Year like no other. But I do still want to look forward and drive My Life to ever greater ways of sustainably contributing to the community. Yes, we’ve brought people to Standish and Leigh in particular, and as I said at the start, the inclusion model shouldn’t always be about specific locations. But what our places allow us to do is build relationships with people, work out what excellent support actually looks like and find really positive outcomes for each person who comes through the door.
And by doing that, you can find the right thing for them out in the wider community too.
Caroline Tomlinson, My Life Founder and Chief Executive Officer
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If you’re a Day Opportunities member at home, why not join our virtual sessions? From animal care to signing, karaoke and cookery, they’re lots of fun and a way to spend time with your friends. Call 01257 472 900 to find out how.
In the meantime, if you fancy making Jack’s recipe at home, here it is:
Rock cakes are a light, crumbly tea-time favourite. Eat while they are still warm from the oven.
Cooking time: 10 to 30 mins
200g self-raising flour
75g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
150g dried fruit or currants
1 medium egg
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 and line a baking tray.
2. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the cubed butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then mix in the dried fruit or currants.
3. In a clean bowl, beat the egg and milk together with the vanilla extract.
4. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until the mixture just comes together as a thick, lumpy dough. Add a teaspoon more milk if you need it to make the mixture stick together.
5. Place golf ball-sized spoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking tray. Leave space between them as they will flatten and spread out to double their size during baking.
6. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden-brown. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool.
In line with government instruction, our sites are currently only open to members who are cared for by critical workers, or who are classed as vulnerable.
The new variant of COVID-19 is accelerating the rate of infection across the UK. We want to help keep every member of our community safe, which means that unless absolutely essential, we must all stay at home.
We’d like to say a big thank you for your continued support as we work hard to do all that we can to support our members, students, their families and the wider community.
We continue to closely follow government guidelines, with all staff wearing face masks on site. Additional measures include social distancing and stringent cleaning processes, with regular hand washing.
We have minimised all but essential visitors to our sites, who are required to fill in Track and Trace forms.
We will keep the data provided for 21 days as part of the Track and Trace requirements and it will all be stored and processed in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation. We will provide NHS Test and Trace with this data, should we be asked to do so.
This will help NHS Test and Trace to contain any potential clusters or outbreaks, crucial to reducing the spread of COVID-19.
With regard to our services, we continue to make decisions based on instruction from the government and the local authority, as well as considering the specific needs of each individual concerned.
Thanks to their ongoing commitment, My Life Support staff are working with all our families to keep support within people’s homes, regardless of the current situation.
Following risk assessments with member and learner’s families, only people who are cared for by critical workers, or who are classed as vulnerable may currently attend My Life Learning and Day Opportunities.
Those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, or who have members of their households who fall into this category, have been asked to remain at home.
We are continuing to support people through our Advocacy service, although face to face meetings are not possible at the moment.
We have made the decision to close The Stable Door Café to the public for the lockdown period, to help reduce non-essential visitors to our site.
We are hoping that our staff will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of this year, which will enable us to reassess the current situation.
Here at My Life we’re doing all we can to support you. If you need more help or information, please call us on 01257 472 900.
We may be apart at the moment, but we know that we will be ‘better together’ before long.
The My Life Team
Thank you for your excellent and very valued contribution this year to our very special organisation My Life. This year has not been what any one of us could have possibly imagined in our wildest dreams. It has been challenging whilst giving us all the opportunity to focus on what is really important, to perhaps slow down a little and to reflect on what matters to each and every one of us.
As a charity we have been extremely productive keeping the My Life Support aspect of the charity working well and managing each situation, as it occurred, equally we have ensured both our sites at Standish and Leigh have remained open for those that have wanted to attend. We have produced over 1000 sets of PPE gowns for the hospital, delivered numerous hampers and kept the horticulture going with over 650 hanging baskets sold!
We are not sure if any of you remember, now we are scraping the frost off our cars, that we had such a beautiful warm spring into summer. This enabled us to do so much groundwork at the Standish site, making the site as accessible as possible, which has continued into the winter months. We have needed to make various adjustments to the site including in the last few weeks as avian flu has hit the UK, so we have needed to protect all birds and poultry by keeping them away from wild birds – we all know how this feels!
We are hoping that much of this work will be completed before the Christmas period so when we all return after the festive period we can start to look forward to the delights of spring and the site looking in tip top condition.
In terms of keeping the charity afloat, of course like many other businesses and organisations we have taken a hit and have had to work so very hard to keep the organisation going, including continuing to adjust in light of the evolving pandemic. In the new year we will need to build the charity back up and all of our efforts need to be put into bringing the charity back into a good position before end March 2020. We are confident together we can achieve this and that we will continue to flourish and help as many people from our community as much as possible.
Thank you to each and every one of you for continuing to support the charity, it really is appreciated. Please do enjoy your Christmas and New Year and take the time to rest and recover, as this quiet end to the year is unlikely to ever happen again in our lifetime so enjoy.
Wishing you a peaceful and happy Christmas and we look forward to an exciting and wonderful 2021.
With love and best wishes,
Caroline Tomlinson (CEO) and The Board of Trustees
After undertaking gruelling, scary and frankly rather disgusting bush tucker trials, as well as the more preferable dressing up and dancing, Day Opportunities members and My Life Learning learners raised enough money to buy items to give to local children and teenagers as gifts for Christmas.
After we all beautifully wrapped the gifts, they were picked up by Jess Higginson, who works for Lancashire Children’s Social Services.
We’re very proud of all of our members and learners, who have reminded us what Christmas is REALLY about!
We’d also like to say a big thank you to Rosie Tomlinson, daughter of our CEO Caroline, who is a children and young people’s social worker in Lancashire and helped us to arrange all of this.
Please note, our member in the photo below is exempt from wearing a mask.