by Rebecca Vaughan
I work at MacIntyre as a Job Coach in our No Limits division, where we provide bespoke education for young people aged 16 and over who have a learning disability or are autistic.
Finding opportunities for young people
It's part of my job to find employment and work experience opportunities for young people, and key to that is making wide-ranging connections locally - in Buckinghamshire in my case.
I'm always thinking about how I can find opportunities and learning to forge connections within the community, because that’s how positive things really happen.
A vibrant local community centre
As part of this work I had a look on Facebook, where I found a community centre which seemed to be doing a lot locally. They offered a place to meet and connect.
I thought it was best to take a chance and visit, to ask face-to-face what they are doing and to tell them about MacIntyre. I explained who we are and what we do.
We talked about young people looking for employment opportunities. But I also asked if there was anything we could do that would benefit both the local community and the students. Was there anything that needed doing or something missing from our community?
A gardening project
I had an enthusiastic response! It turns out there was some outside space that badly needed looking after and brightening up. So we came up with an idea for a gardening project.
I went back to the students and asked if anyone would be interested in being part of the project. Well they certainly were!
Together we started pulling together ideas. The young people were definite that they wanted the project to be both eco-friendly and people-friendly. They were keen to grow flowers to make the space beautiful.
One young person said:
Sunflowers to me are about being happy.
And that gave us the focus that what we really wanted was to make people feel that joy.
Getting to work
There was no money available to make this particular community dream come true, but MacIntyre has some charitable funds available for special projects. We applied, and got a grant for the equipment.
Together, we began the hard work of transforming the space.
A grand opening
As we worked, we started talking to more people. These connections led to more connections. We decided to hold a grand opening. We involved the community centre where it had all started, invited people we'd got to know, the local supermarket donated some food, the Mayor attended, and it was such a special day.
For us, sunflowers symbolise our achievement and the friendships and connections we've made. We're hoping to grow many more connections in the coming months and years, and find more opportunities to contribute.