Marcus had experienced a challenging period in his life when he came to Mustard Tree, losing his wife in 2016 after long-term health problems and being her full-time carer for many years left him out of work. He felt isolated and wasn’t sure where he go to for support. After starting his second volunteering placement with us recently, he has found a creative outlet and crucial support network to aid him to move forward.
“I first heard of Mustard Tree around 2013 as a way to try and get my wife out of bed. She was really struggling with long-term physical ill health. I had set up a market stall of my art in Eccles in the indoor market so saw the Eccles branch when I was there but hadn’t ever enquired more. Throughout my life, I’d worked in specialist bakers and chocolate spraying and other quite specialist areas. I had gone through redundancy six or seven times because of the fields I was in. I became my wife’s full-time carer in 2003 and gave up work.
People who come to Mustard Tree from all different background and can be experiencing different barriers or challenges in life. For Marcus, redundancy and long-term unemployment left him feeling isolated and under-skilled for the changing working world. However at Mustard Tree, we want to provide everyone with an equal opportunity and focus on the skills people can provide, not just what they need.
I felt the careers I had had not set me up for the new technology and computerised world and I felt like there was no real way I could contribute. My skills were in the old style of working. When my wife then died in September 2016, it really set me back. We had been married 17 years and planning on moving south together. We were making future plans but got cut totally short – she was only 55. Four other deaths in the family around the same time meant depression hit me really hard. I just couldn’t see anything in the future.
Mustard Tree works with many partners across Greater Manchester, which can refer people to us to get involved in our activities and volunteering opportunities. One of our biggest is the Job Centre, which is how Marcus came to us.
“At the time of her death, I hadn’t worked in a really long time. I’d been a carer for almost 14 years. I had signed on at the Job Centre and half the time I honestly didn’t even know what day of the week it was. My advisor suggested Mustard Tree at Little Hulton as a way to combat loneliness and to have something to do.”
“My first day; half the time I didn’t want to be there! I felt shyness, embarrassment all sorts of things. I didn’t realise fully what the Mustard Tree could offer for me. I had a meeting with Anne and signed up as a volunteer on the Freedom Project. I had a stroke at 39 years old and it meant lots of my interests I could suddenly no longer do – glider pilot, scuba diver – both things I loved and had to give up. For the first time, it put constraints on what I could and couldn’t do, which I hated – it really affected my mental health and confidence in myself.”
We have multiple areas for people to volunteer, including in our community shop, office, warehouse and kitchens to learn new skills, increase confidence and self-efficacy. For Marcus, getting involved in new activities and focusing on well-being goals to build a support network was the priority.
“I started volunteering in the community shop and food club two days a week. The smile on the face of people at food club, the people I help and to see them smile especially on kids it means alot. At Mustard Tree there are people like me who have been hit by life who are given a second chance. We all help each other – together we grow. I have been really isolated and never able to have children so that’s what Mustard Tree is to me: a family.”
Our creative programs are a huge part of Mustard Tree, ranging from drama to art and textiles. All provide different outlets and forms of self-expression, which are crucial to improve confidence and self-worth. Our drama group puts on performances in the community around issues important to the members.
“I had never done anything like drama and performance before in my life but thanks to the team I was really encouraged to try new things. I was always more of an introvert than an extrovert. Putting on performances locally gave me butterflies in my stomach but its great to have the self-confidence to go up there with the whole cast; I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
“I had always been an artist and loved art since I was a child: I remember being really small and taking my first set of plastercine models to school. With Mustard Tree I get to do classes and exhibit my work, it’s a huge deal for me. I have always painted and had the market stall but no one used to really come and look – now they’re not stuck in a market stall! Social skills and self-reliance had increased with courses to build confidence and social skills– I didn’t really have any.”
Marcus has new-found confidence through opportunities at Mustard Tree showing his creativity, and a crucial support network empowering him to see his value.
“The biggest difference I see is that I do want to wake up in the morning, there is an interest in the world out there which boils down to finding meaning in my work and my art because people are investing in that and supporting me. I feel able to talk and feel listened to. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that without Mustard Tree. I can see now it is worth me living.”
To support someone like Marcus to create opportunities and build a future away from homelessness and poverty for good, please go to our donate page here to give online via Virgin Money Giving. Thankyou