I’m lucky enough to be involved with the charity, Blackthorn Trust, in Maidstone. It’s a garden, a cafe, a bakery, a crafts studio – and all backed by a Trust Doctor, medical centre and talented massage therapists.
I know I’m biased but it’s a magical place. Visit it yourself, and I swear you won’t just want to visit the one time. You’ll be back! And you’d be very welcome. Here are some pictures I took late Autumn in the garden.
Today (5th December) it’s the Christmas fair, and we’ll be open from 10.30-2.30.
In celebration, here’s an interview I carried out with Warren, one of our co-workers, to help explain a little of the work done by the team at the Blackthorn Trust.
“A Freedom I’ve Never Had Before” – What it’s like to be a co-worker at Blackthorn
A year ago, Warren Haddon was living like a recluse, estranged from his family and with no friends, but this year he’s looking forward to a family Christmas.
It’s a huge step that he credits to his time as a co-worker at Blackthorn.
‘When I first came in July 2014, it was very scary and I was so anxious,’ he admits. He was suffering from acute anxiety, and had such low self-esteem and no confidence that he felt useless. ‘It was difficult for me to get in that I had to take a cab every time.’
But now, Warren cycles by himself to the Trust, where he particularly enjoys working in the crafts room. ‘Needle-felting is a passion,’ he says. ‘I went on-line to get myself a home-starter kit, and after many years, at last I feel I’m doing something useful.’
And, just as transformational, after a ten-week catering course run through the Blackthorn Trust, he says he has become an amateur baker. ‘I’d never cooked before, but now I’ve baked for a Macmillan coffee morning and recently made a Victoria sandwich cake with fresh cream for a friend’s birthday.’
His relationship with his family improved after meetings at the neutral setting of the Trust café where he was able to feel safe. He is happy that he now has a normal relationship with his family, even making a mosaic table recently for his mother. In addition, his fellow co-workers have become friends, meeting for a meal outside Blackthorn hours, and playing pool together.
One of the tools Warren was given was a scrapbook in which he was encouraged to write down what he did and how he felt. He says it helped to see how far he had come, especially as he describes his progress to the optimism for the future he feels now as a series of small progressions.
‘It was really scary at first but I soon felt safe and knew that no-one would make fun of me,’ he says. ‘The staff and my co-workers were all so encouraging, and now I’ve got a freedom I’ve never had before. It’s a great place to go.’