Saturday, 22 November 2014

My new job with Common Knowledge UK

Posters designed by Marilyn Slavin, Director of CKUK.

John and James digging compost.

John and I in the Woodlands Community Garden.

Shaun, John, James, David, Jimmy and Ronnie with the finished bird boxes at Fortune Works Drumchapel.

Ronnie and James at the Botanic Gardens and James' logo design. 

I love the expression "what's for ye will no go by ye" which I have heard all my life from various family members. It takes the stress out of making plans in life if you believe that if something is meant to be it will happen. I have had the odd experience many times now of having a thought of something I need and then I get it. When I was looking for gardening work in Glasgow I thought I really need some outdoor walking boots if I'm going to do this. A short while later I walked into a charity shop and saw a brand new pair in my size for sale. Before moving back to Glasgow I hoped I would be able to continue working with vulnerable adults doing gardening. When I researched centres where adults with learning difficulties could work they were all outside the city and since I don't drive I was concerned I would find it difficult to get to them.

Through social networking I found out about some of the community garden projects happening in the city of Glasgow. Once you connect with one it is easy to learn about more. Many of these places have only existed in the past few years. There was nothing like this when I lived in Glasgow seventeen years ago. I was thinking about settling in the Woodlands area and was delighted to discover the Woodlands Community Garden which was created by a group of dedicated people in a gap site between Glasgow's famous tenement buildings. So before we even moved back here I was following their events.

By summer 2014 we had been settled in our new flat for six months when I saw a job advert for a gardener to support adults with learning difficulties at the Woodlands Community Garden. I couldn't believe it and really hoped I would get the job. I was really glad that Mark and Vashi wanted to meet me at the garden to interview me as I am so much more comfortable outdoors! The organisation is called CKUK which stands for Common Knowledge and was set up by Marilyn Slavin to provide the best quality learning, information and experiences for people with learning difficulties who are at the heart of all the work. Marilyn also set up the first on line social networking site specifically designed for and to be used only by people with learning difficulties. She did it one year before Facebook was set up!

I am delighted that I have been able to continue my own learning by joining this fantastic organisation as well as bringing skills that I have gained from all the projects I was involved with in England. The job has many aspects to it. As well as the practical sessions we do in the garden and other locations, we have group discussions to plan activities, we go on day trips, give presentations, practice garden crafts, plan events such as a stall at a Christmas Fayre and document the experiences with photos and stories. Everyone in the group can take part in all of these activities.

My experience of depression has meant that for long periods of time in my life I have been unable to take part in many life experiences most people take for granted. It has taken a lot of work for me to make the changes I needed to make and to learn the skills I need to be the best that I can be. There is always room for improvement. While I can't know what is like to be another person I can use the experiences in my life to try and understand another person.

What I find the most interesting about the model that Marilyn has set up is that when we have a variety of experiences with another person we can get to know them so much better. I now know that James is very skilled artistically, David is good at delivering a presentation, Ronnie is good at focussing on a task and seeing it through to the end, Jimmy is good at working on his own initiative and helping others, John loves pruning, Shaun likes coming up with new ideas, Andy takes some great photos. They all care very much for each other and demonstrate this all the time. Everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

I really enjoy my time with the Common Knowledge Garden Group. It's a job that distracts me from life's worries, is challenging and makes me feel useful and creative. When we work respectfully and compassionately with others we add to our abilities.

CKUK (Common Knowledge)
Woodlands Community Garden

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