Life as a Fundraising Intern – Week One
05/10/2012

The day I had been waiting for had finally arrived. Filled with a mixture of anticipation and excitement, I made my way to the entrance of the building that has become the heart and home for many of the staff and students working in and visiting Action For Kids. For those who are a little less familiar with the organisation, Action For Kids is a North-London based charity; established in 1991. From its humble beginnings, the charity has flourished over many years and now occupies Ability House in Tottenham, providing an array of much needed emotional and practical support to the families, children and young people whose lives are affected by a disability; from all walks of life.

The joy of Action For Kids

Having finished University four months ago, I felt particularly nervous at the prospect of embarking upon a new chapter within my life, as it was so different to the routine I had become accustomed to in recent years; attending lectures and accumulating my knowledge from textbooks. Now, the time had come to gain life experience. Whilst I was sat waiting to be collected for my interview for the position of Fundraising Intern, I began chatting to an extremely out-going, bubbly and funny receptionist, and immediately I was struck with the realisation of what made Action For Kids such a unique charity; the passion for the cause and friendliness of all who were present could be felt as tangibly as my heart-beat could be felt in my ears. Suddenly, I no longer felt nervous, instead feeling like a part of the family, which is an amazingly refreshing experience in a world that is becoming increasingly individualistic.

Warmth emanates from the family atmosphere of Action For Kids

I can honestly say, having been part of the team for my first week, I already feel welcomed and completely at home, which is a rare feeling when you have been part of an organisation for such a short space of time. The opportunity to learn new things and grow as a person is an invaluable experience in life and one that I have already benefitted from, and certainly hope to continue to benefit from throughout my time working at Action For Kids.

There are many opportunities for Action For Kids young people

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MORE BOOZE AND BARBECUES BUT NO MORE BERYLS LUNCH TIME BLUES
21/10/2010

A few months’ ago I was told that Beryl (the WRL supervisor) was going to be retiring a in a few weeks a lady called Carol was going to be replacing her .This would be confusing as she was going to be working at a desk on the other side of me from my line manager carol before she went on maternity leave, but as they where in different departments being surrounded by carols before Christmas was alright.

Jolene (the WRL minibus chaperone) told me she was putting together a video for beryl, to give her on her last day to remember us all by, as she knew her since her school days when she worked with her in her school as member of support staff, she gave me 2 weeks notice so I was able to think of something decent to say on it.

When it got to my time, the noise levels in the whole building where way too much so Jolene took me onto a mini bus to say my part.

I decide to make a joke about getting one of experiences that I missed out on as a student but later experienced as a staff member because I came to AFK as an independent traveller, was getting chaperoned onto a mini bus by Jolene. I also talked about my memory of Jolene showing me around the place and first introducing me to beryl.  As well as listening to at work what I would call “Beryl’s lunch time blues” which consisted of her talking to the parents/guardians of naughty students about there behaviour and about the things she did not feel was in her job description such as washing up and cleaning up after them and how I hoped her husband didn’t think she was going to be there to do that for him at home now she was going to be there more.

I can’t remember but I might of mentioned as well that because she said she was thinking of trying to get a job as a school bus Escort I wouldn’t have minded her as one back in the day when I was a small boy being picked up by a mini bus provided by my local authority to take me to special school half an hours drive away, also how she would be sadly missed.

A few days before the planned surprise party: Aaron (an autistic student) let the cat out of the bag when he asked Beryl if she was coming to her own surprise party.

But that did not ruin it too much.

On the day I was able to stop work at about 4 because the barbecue was about to start I had left room in my tummy for this.

Salad at Beryl's leaving party

Non-vegetarian option also available

There was a few interesting salads and some capital gold music playing outside the Afk building. I wondered if the burger van lady was happy about us giving them away for free that day.

There was one type of sausage I was very happy to try and that was a sausage that was curled up like a snake. Siobhain made a comment about it looking like dog pooh. I later found her and Troy on the bus drinking im not sure if  Jo Read ( the WRL director) caught them or not after id told her I enjoyed a few drinks myself once I  found what fridge the beer was in.

I also saw a few blast’s from the past this included Catharine (the WRL Manager) at the time of my first joining AFK as a student and she was thin again as it was good to see after she had left on maternity leave as well as finding her son could walk.

Another blast from the past was Sean French (the communication manager when I was there as a student) I first as a joke bragged to him about the fact I was now paid to be there and now sat at the same desk as he did back then and how could I manage to take a communications managers desk when I was diagnosed as having a communication impairment twice in my life. I then admitted my job title was different but only the desk was the same, he laughed.

I went and talked to some more people with more food and drink I had the misfortune of finding a live wasp in my drink luckily I saw it before I downed my drink as it could have been legal but if I had downed that drink id of really been buzzing.

After the chief executive made a few speeches as well as various other people including Siobhain got hers from the Borat movie when she said the comment  “now that you are retarded”  this made everyone gasp and those who had watched that movie including me laugh.* All in all Beryl’s party was definitely something to remember her by.

Sliced retirement cake

A sweet sendoff for Beryl

* For those who haven’t seen the Borat movie this was a comedy film where Sacha Baron Cohen (comedian best know for a Alie G show) played a journalist from Kazakhstan (Borat) was on a trip to The USA doing research for a documentary on American life. This gag was made from a seen where Borat was at a dinner party and when Borat asked a gentleman his occupation and he replied he was retired and Borat  thought he was saying retarded because the word sounded similar .
Blogged by Richard

Stand Up, Drink Up, Get Down and Party
07/01/2010

If you have attended the last few Action For Kids student reunion party’s you might remember me for my entertainment once I’m put in front of the microphone  after being given the run of a free bar for an hour or 2 and would probably guess that this could be considered somewhat risky by a few.

So this year Sally decided to ask me if I would  pre organise my share of the entertainment at this years party this way she would have time to approve it and get rid of all things compromising the reputation of the trust. And what’s more it would actually give me time to prepare something decent and they would get to see how good I am at this before I had a drink. The entertainment this time wasn’t a Rap like before it was a stand up comedy.

I was trying to think of something that everybody dislikes one way or another and the first thing that came to mind was public transport jokes so I made up a few of them where even Boris Johnson got a mention.

Along with a couple of credit crunch jokes and a few insider jokes about various members of staff within the organisation including one about suspicions of the chief executive of AFK secretly being father Christmas.  There was a joke however that I had to edit out about sally’s Yorkshire terriers pulling the slay instead of reindeers due to one of Sally’s dogs having recently passed away. When I showed my material to Jo and e-mailed it to Sally I got a quick e-mail back saying it was good and I was pleased it could be used and all I had to do was practice it.

When it got to the day I was taken to the gatehouse from about 5 o clock onwards. Sally briefed me that a group of female students where doing a fashion show as well as a few other students dancing to Grease.  

Siobohn was to present them and I was to present another couple of students doing an Indian dance called Bhangra and then I was to do my stand up routine while the girls got changed and then present the fashion show.

It was mayhem in that gatehouse there where a load of girls getting all made up and ready and a couple of student’s mothers helps with the make up. Laurence got dressed up in a dress for the Grease dance so people called him Florence for a while so I turned to Ben my work colleague and said “ I think it might be a good idea to escape before we end up in one of them ” But I decided to stay as I would be presenting them and it might be a good idea to know in advance what I was going to be presenting and I could see a lot of effort was going into this one.

 After a short mini bus ride there I went on the mic and all went well until Sally had to stop the DJ getting ahead of himself by playing the boots advert track “ here come the girls”  straight after Panjabi MC was played for the Indian dance when the boots advert track 2 ‘here come the girls’ was not supposed to be played until I had done my stand up and presented the fashion show once the girls were ready.

But most importantly my stand up routine went well and got the whole party laughing there heads off especially the Boris joke.

After I had presented the fashion show, the food was ready so Jo asked me to get on the microphone and announce that. After that I was finally able to get to the bar and get myself a well earned drink, it was brilliant from then on as everyone was saying how good I was on stage.

The party continued on and I was probably one of the last people to leave after midnight

Then a bus came instantly after crossing the road to take me home -how good of London transport to do this for me after all those jokes about them!

Blogged by Richard

DISCRIMINATION NATION
25/02/2009

 

Aspies are the real repressed minority, particularly in some work places, and as a 27-year-old man with asperger syndrome having been in employment for the last 7 years this had been my experience of it.

 

 

I have a job in a supermarket in north London which mencap pathway assisted me with applying for when I was 20 years old.  I have been used as a scapegoat for the shortcomings of the lower management, such as inadequate training. As well as incorrect assumptions being made about me because of the fact I have a disability.

 

 

1 prime example of this was when I was working on a till serving a customer when I had a new checkout manager look over my shoulder. About 5 mins later he handed me a small envelope with a letter in it saying I was invited to an investigatory hearing in relation to poor performance regarding cheque spread procedure. Worried but at the same time intrigued I showed my parents. They both thought it was a load of nonsense and my dad even googled cheque spread procedure on the internet while me and my mum look in the supermarket’s employee hand book there was nothing referring to cheque spread procedure to be found.

 

 

My mum phoned mencap to request that they accompany me to this investigatory hearing, as they said they would support me through my course of employment there even though that has expired as I did not need any of there support for over 6 months and funding there was limited. However they did phone the manager who handed me the envelope.

 

envelope

On the next day at work the manager called me upstairs to his office. I showed him the letter he had handed me and I asked him what it was about. He said that “it was the fact that I had failed to check the guarantee card limit on the cheque”. Then he said to me that it didn’t matter as it had come to his attention that I am part of mencap and that he was sorry for scaring me as I looked like just a normal person to him and that the hearing was cancelled due to him being unaware I was from mencap when he had arranged it.

 

 

So I felt the need to explain to him that my mistake was made not due to fact that I was part of mencap but due to the fact that the only training I had received on the tills was the opportunity to watch someone else work on them for an hour or 2 and no one happened to pay by cheque at that time.

 

 

 

He then asked me if I had a business that turned over £1500 a week, how much of it would I be willing to lose to staff negligence? I replied by asking “How much does the running costs of that business equate to?” He then said “No, your business makes £1500 after the running costs and that’s £1500 in your back pocket every week. How much would you be willing to lose to staff mistakes?” So because I had studied business studies and had accountants for parents I said “so don’t you mean pre tax profits of £1500 a week rather then turnover?” He then said well he’d rather lose none of his money to staff mistakes and that the budget for that depart was F50 per week”.

 

 

money1

 

 

He then had me wait outside as he made a phone call. I overheard a little of that phone call and it had him describing me and then saying “Are you sure it is him that is the Mencap boy? He doesn’t look like one and I’ve just been taking to him and he definitely doesn’t sound like one.” He came out of his office inviting me back in he then asked me to explain my reason for being part of Mencap ie my disability.

 

I then explained to him that asperger syndrome did not effect my intelligence and that I had an above average IQ, yet things like body language was like a foreign language to me and that telling people’s feelings by looking in there eyes was like encryption to me. Yet my numerical ability is in the top 5% of people and my problem solving and reasoning ability was in the top 10% of the population

 

He still decided that this had happened due to the fact that I had a disability and I was incapable of handling money and giving people the right change and that I was only allowed to work on the self scan rather than a till and that he would arrange training for it.

 

I first thought that it was ok as it meant I had no bad mark on my record and at least it get proper training and I knew about the self scan as I had worked on it before however I did not get proper training, however the only so called training I got was from a girl from eastern Europe who I found out after talking to her that she had only just joined the company that day and had only just arrived in the country that week,  and it seem as she was able to teach me as much about it as that managers 10 year old nephew could  teach him about driving his own car.

 

I told this experience to my mum and my mum phoned that manager up and told him that it was a demotion and that she wasn’t pleased with him so he said he’d be happy to have a meeting if mencap call him. She called mencap and mencap said they could only do something if the manager called them so I was at a stale mate. They still continued to think of me as a simpleton. That manager wanted to cover himself if higher management wanted to know about the loss if that cheque had bounced and saw my mencap membership as an opportunity to scapegoat me. He could also avoid pointing out short comings ie cutting corners with staff training, as he feared that pointing this out might effect his promotional prospects.

 

Blogged by Richard