A project with big plans

VIDEO Orwell Mencap Genesis has been well-known in Ipswich for over a decade. You may have bought your garden furniture there, have heard of its support services for people with disabilities - or seen their float on its rounds at Christmas.

Orwell Mencap Genesis has been well-known in Ipswich for over a decade. You may have bought your garden furniture there, have heard of its support services for people with disabilities - or seen their float on its rounds at Christmas. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING catches up with a project with big plans.

AMID the roaring saws and the dust of wood shavings, materialises furniture of such quality you would be proud to have it in your home.

But alongside these crafted chairs and tables, something else also emerges.

Hope for the future - and a whole raft of skills - are nurtured here at Orwell Mencap Genesis in Wright Road.


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Clients have just finished a five-month commission to make eight park benches, which will take pride of place in Christchurch Park lining the main avenue leading up to the mansion, and 14 for the rest of the park.

For the past four out of five years the team has won a huge trophy for doing the 'best working demonstration' at the Suffolk Show. The garden furniture workshop is also on course to hit a record turnover of £130,000 by the end of this year.

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The charity which is mainly government-funded - but fundraising helps with extras - provides many other training and activities, and day and domiciliary care for more than 100 people with learning, physical and sensory disabilities.

The site also has a sensory room with water bed, spa bath, bubble tubes and music to promote various moods, a pottery room, physical management room, award-winning garden, craft workshops, restaurant and a fully equipped information technology suite.

Staff will soon be visiting your street with its Christmas float which runs for 12 nights, with collectors covering up to ten miles a night at its side.

During the week the 80 staff run activities from live music, yoga and aromatherapy to IT, gardening and exercise sessions. The clients also want to be fully part of the community and independent, so they are helped to go horse riding, swimming, bowling and shopping.

Many also work in the furniture workshop as receptionists, writers, gate keepers and site maintenance staff. Support in the community is also available 24 hours a day 52 weeks of the year.

Manager Nino Serritiello said: “Everything is about providing purposeful activities, development of skills and a place where people can use as a base to regularly attend, socialise and contribute to society.

“Orwell Mencap Genesis is a great example of a great home-grown charity run by Suffolk clients, their carers and parents, providing specialist services for people with disabilities. It aspires to look outwards and develop an even greater range of services run by the Suffolk community for the Suffolk community. “It also happens to make great luxury garden furniture.”

As Suffolk County Council starts to 'outsource' help for disabled people from its own centres, Genesis predicts more clients will need its support. Nino said: “The project has doubled over the past couple of years and I can see us expanding to two to three times the size.”

Plans for the future include building an 80-seater restaurant and conference centre at the site, and opening a shop/art gallery.

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For more details call 01473 723888.

Margaret Fortune organises the social side of discos, trips out and bingo.

Star reader Julie Smith who works for Genesis said Mags deserved a special mention. She said: “Mags is an absolute star and everybody loves her to bits. She works endlessly organising days trips, discos, theatre trips to London you name it she does it nothing is ever to much trouble for our Mags, with no reward for herself or her two young children who are by her side always at every event.

“You can tell that they are going to follow in their mother's footsteps. Where some children would be scared or put off being faced with someone in a wheelchair who can't speak, can only make strange noises or scream, can't feed themselves or give themselves a drink or wipe there own noses, is part of everyday life for her two children.

“Most of the events and the car washing that she does on a Friday is done in her own time to raise money to fund day trips out. Everything she does is greatly appreciated by all. She is truly a lovely person with a big heart.”

Geoff Munday, 35, from Selvale Way, Felixstowe was among a group of 12 to gain certificates after instruction from the Red Cross. He said: “We have been learning about bandaging and cuts and bruises. At least I know what to do to help people, then to telephone for an ambulance straight away and keep looking after them until the ambulance comes.

Tracy Widowestone, 34, Dryden Road, Ipswich has just gained a first aid certificate. She said: “I'm always the first person to get here. It's good to see my friends and know how we all feel.”

Robert Knock, 36, from Berkeley Close, Ipswich said: “We get lots of different jobs to do in the workshop and a lot of help. I've been coming here since 2002 and I work in the garden centre too. I'll never get bored of it.”

Richard Frost, 22, from Dorset Close, Ipswich said: “I like using the machines in the workshop like the sander and the spindle to round up the wood. We use all different kinds of wood and oak is my favourite because it smells nice.”

Matthew Moss, 27, from Dereham Avenue, Ipswich said: “I like coming here because everybody helps each other and it's really nice to see that.”

Tim Pipe, 42, from Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich said: “I've been making picnic benches, tables and chairs and smoothing all the wood down.”

Harvey King, 36 from Elmsett said: “I do the sanding which is heavy work but I enjoy it. I come twice a week.”

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