John* has been volunteering with the Stuart Low Trust since 2008.
We interviewed him in 2016. Find out why he volunteers at the Stuart Low Trust:
“I found out about The Stuart Low Trust back in 2008. It was at the height of my drinking and I had broken my leg. The hospital sent me to an alcohol recovery place and a woman there said “John you don’t seem to be working at the moment” and gave me a list of places. Back then SLT had this project going near Archway that involved volunteering in a kitchen, cooking hot meals and making smoothies, so I did that for three years until it closed. They paid for me to do a Food Hygiene Course. When the Friday evening events started at St Mary’s, Islington in 2012 they called me again and I’ve been volunteering there every week since then.
I’m on tranquilizers and to be honest I should think about working at some point but the idea of getting out there does terrify me. Serious catering is like 12 hour shifts. In professional kitchens a lot of them do amphetamines to keep going. At my age I wouldn’t be able to stand up for that many hours. One of the good things about the volunteering is that I will get a reference. It would probably say something like, “John- he makes a mean tuna sandwich.”
The food at SLT is healthy. There’s a focus on wellbeing, so wholemeal bread, no salt, the fish is omega 3 high. I’m much healthier myself now. I find I can drink occasionally with friends and I only smoke sporadically. I used to binge drink, every other day for three years. I only used to eat a meal to fuel up for drinking and to keep the Tennant’s company in business.
I socialize with the people who volunteer and come to the events. In a regular job there is status and lines of hierarchy and even if you go out for a drink together you feel people are taking notes. At SLT you can get to know people. I find it very relaxing. I’m not anxious going there on a Friday. SLT is much more informal than other services. But also you have the structure of doing some volunteering. When you feel able to do so, you can be as involved as you like. It is the only place I have looked forward to going to in my life. I have a definite skip in my step on the way there. It really is the most relaxing place I have ever been to. But then again I used to work in Bingo Hall with slot machines and there would be absolute uproar when I switched them off at the end of the evening. Anything is relaxing compared to that.
I was really chuffed to be nominated volunteer of the year but I didn’t stand a chance. I was up against a living saint. All I do is have a laugh and make sandwiches!”