Here DOMU’s Content Coordinator tells you her first experience at The Booth Centre – and her first ever volunteering day. Here’s how she got on at one of Manchester’s most pioneering homeless centres.
Walking to the Booth Centre I didn’t know what to expect. I’d visited the centre before when we were arranging our volunteering day and was surprised by how clean and modern the building was. The team were exactly as you’d expect: warm, welcoming and unendingly kind.
I started the day with my colleague Gaby – manning the kitchen with a lovely lady named Kerry who showed us the ropes. I was put on tea and coffee duty when the first influx arrived. It was scary - everyone looked so normal. Perhaps a little worn around the edges but nothing that would strike you as ‘homeless’.
I had a mild panic about my tea serving skills (would I get flustered if it got too busy?). I needn’t have worried: the daily Booth Centre breakfast is a well-oiled affair.
After breakfast, Gaby and I helped with the day’s activity: sewing. I expected some resistance. Bar us and a couple of ladies it was all men. There was a mix of characters: self-deprecating comedians eager to make us laugh; quiet, reflective individuals concentrating on their task and big, burly men with stories to tell. I couldn’t see how this group would sit happily together. How wrong I was.
There was a quiet dignity to this activity. Everyone wanted to do well, keen to encourage each other and have a chat. One of the younger guys told me that he’d been looking forward to finishing the wallet design he’d started last week. One of the older ladies was making a cushion cover for her baby granddaughter.
I got chatting with a steadfastly grumpy man next to me. I was determined I’d win him over. Over cross stitching, and lots of perseverance, he started to warm up. By the end of the session he was serenading our group with his favourite karaoke songs.
After sewing, we helped tidy up then sat down to lunch. Chicken with stuffing with chips, mushy peas and gravy. Followed by blackberry crumble and custard (proudly made by my colleague Lee). Whilst tucking in, I caught up with Amy, the Development Manager at the Booth Centre to see what we could do next.
All in all an eye-opening – yet very rewarding - day.