Markus’s Story

Markus’s Story

Alabaré Development Centres offer vocational training and meaningful day activities to vulnerable adults with a variety of needs. Our Mission is to provide a flexible programme of skills, training and personal development to them with skills that will enable them to access employment, work experience or additional educational opportunities as they choose. 

Our Old Sarum Development Centre is 2 miles north of Salisbury and set within four acres. The Centre has large gardens set aside for horticulture, a retail shop, a woodworking workshop and offers a grounds maintenance service. The Centre also has a fully equipped IT suite which offers courses to the general public.

We met up with Markus to learn more about how he came to work at the Centre, the importance of volunteering, the difference the Centre makes and what the future holds following the pandemic. 

"I came originally to the Centre in 2007, as a volunteer. I had had my own company in the building trade but following a serious injury at work, I had not worked for 3 years. Because of my injury, I had a rehabilitation officer, and I was supported by a disability counsellor who both decided that as I had been at home for three years, not engaging with anyone, that the way to ease me back into work, and a routine was for me to take up a volunteering role. Initially, I resisted support, which meant I had to be almost dragged up the path by the two ladies, one either side saying, “Come on, Marcus, you don't understand the benefits.” What I hadn’t realised, nor would I admit to, since being injured, losing my business, feeling useless, almost losing my home and indeed my family, was that at the time I was really struggling with my mental health. At the time I thought I was the worst person off in the world, that was until I spent about five minutes at Old Sarum. Here I realised I had so much to offer the clients at the Centre and it gave me a huge kick up the backside to get my life back on track. 

As a volunteer I was soon offered a part-time job, then a full-time one. I have now been at the centre for 14 years working my way up to the Centre Development Manager role. Many of the staff here have had similar journeys to me, either through physical disabilities or learning needs. 80% of our team come from a volunteering background with us. Often it is not about coming into the job with perfect qualifications, more importantly, it is about how they interact with our clients, or whether they have a special spark or personality that engages with our clients. I think it really highlights that volunteering is a hugely valuable path to employment especially for those who need extra support.  

The Centre provides clients with meaningful worthwhile activities every day. Great rewards are achieved simply by growing something from seed, watching it grow into a chilli plant and then drying the chilis to make chilli jam. In the woodwork room, they may build a bug home or bird box and then see their product flow from start to finish as it is passed over to a customer in the shop they help manage; they get enormous satisfaction from that, you can see literally see their pride say, ‘I've done that.’ Sometimes small actions build great rewards, we created some bird boxes for Cathedral Close in Salisbury so when the clients visit, they can see their contribution which helps build their self-worth. 

Client employment can be a big issue, although not so much about getting them into a job, it's the ongoing support available to them when they're in that job that is often lacking. When support is withdrawn, the job often fails. So, if we are increasingly able to employ them onsite, then we can ensure the support will always be there for them to hold that position down. Client relationships are all about treating them like everyone else should be, with dignity, respect, compassion, care, each of the Alabaré core values. Personally, I know what it is like to be treated differently in life, from being bullied at school, from wearing leg braces, from being seen as different to others, so not only do I care but I am really protective of all the clients and staff here.  

The pandemic has put huge pressures on the Centre. While clients grasped, social distancing, washing their hands, personal hygiene, wearing masks very quickly, the worst part is lockdown. At home, without a routine and isolated clients have struggled. To help alleviate the isolation we introduced distance learning and program packs so that they could interact with an IT tutor. As soon as we can return to a normal timetable the better.

We are though excited to be in the process of building a cafe to complement the shop which we hope will help us to become more embedded in the local community, develop a wider customers base for the retail side of the Centre and also help to raise our profile. Ordinarily, we would do several community events throughout the year, so it will be nice to have a cafe with a seating area that provides employment opportunities for our clients, and maybe a little play area, and you never know a log cabin in the Woodlands and perhaps even an off-grid woodland school."

Thank you, Markus, for sharing your inspirational story. Markus’ enthusiasm and boundless energy for the Centre are greatly apparent while we would challenge any visitor not to fall in love with the surroundings at Old Sarum Development Centre, or the clients and what is achieved there. We look forward perhaps to welcoming you soon.