Many organisations in Salford depend on the help from volunteers to run. Incredible Education is no different.

A spin off from Incredible Edible, Incredible Education is a social enterprise company that invest their interest in the community and the social value of Salford.

They aim to teach people of all ages about horticultural work and even provide courses in the field. They also have a variety of workshops for all ages including the Forrest School which is aimed at primary school children.

Incredible Education thrives through the work of their volunteers. They enable them to host the various different workshops and activities and without them they simply couldn’t do what they want to.

The organisation’s director and educational lead, Ian Bocock, says:  ”For us the power of the volunteering is that it enables us to do more activities and also to be able to give, especially from the students perspective, that additional bit of support. So if they’re working on a particular skill they can work one to one or in a smaller group setting.

”Also you’ve got the skills and knowledge of volunteers from their previous experiences. That might be from practical point of view that someone might have a real practical skill or a knowledge of gardening to the way somebody interacts with individuals, a student or particular member of a group may benefit from a caring point of view and it builds relationships.”

The volunteers initially get involved with the organisation in many different ways. Some may have known people who were already involved, others may have a keen interest in gardening or, even, a chance meeting in a hospital

That is what happened to Carol Butterworth, a volunteer at Incredible Education. She says:”I got involved because I met Ian whilst he was visiting his mum in hospital and my mum was in the next bed.

“He had the Incredible Education t-shirt on and I was thinking about starting the horticultural course or doing some volunteer work s I just googled it and emailing him. That’s how I got into it.”

From that they get involved in many different activities and all of them have tales of what they have been doing whilst at Incredible Education.

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Julie Hughes, another volunteer at the company, says: ”We created Christmas trees. Then we had a group of older people come in and make Christmas wreaths and they all loved doing that. I went to an activity room with Sue [another member of the team] and she did decoupage and I thought oh this is going to be quite boring but it was really good! ”

”There was a gentleman I can’t remember his name but he was lovely. He’s 80 odd and he’d already done a box previously for his granddaughter and then his other granddaughter got jealous so he was doing her a box. I cut out butterflies for him and then he said that when he got home he was going to get yellow dusters to line it.

”Then there was a young man with learning difficulties and he did a box for his granddads 80th birthday and I asked ‘does your granddad do gardening?’ so he said ‘yeah’ and I said he could keep his seeds in it but he said ‘no his whiskey!’

”I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did but it was a lovely lovely afternoon with them and it was the same group that came and did the Christmas wreaths.They all really enjoyed it and it was a lovely day.”

Carol adds: ”They all really appreciate it. I think they just enjoy that somebody is coming in and doing something with them aren’t they.”

Another Volunteer added: ”We’ve done plant sales, a cafe and kids from the college brought things that they made and baked and worked in the cafe. That was in the summer when the weather was a little warmer.

”It is really very big [the lot they occupy]. There’s an apiary and an orchard so the kids go down and work down there aswell. It’s just nice to be outdoors.”

Julie spoke about what the best part of the work was for her and why they do it. ”The kids when they’ve down something themselves and they see it grow and they can harvest it, knowing they’ve done that themselves.

”They don’t realise where things come from. So it’s about bringing that awareness to them showing them that they can do it.”

However, It is not all just for fun. Incredible Education also hope to inspire kids to go into horticultural careers in the future.They provide courses that will give them the necessary qualifications to do so as well as the practical experience.

Julie says: ”We also took them [the students] to Bents, because in the course that they are doing they have different questions like ‘where can you buy plants from?’ and stuff like that, so we took them to show them. We went behind the scenes there to their nursery. Last week we went to Hugh Gardens Community Center to show them a different places you can go for plants and that was an amazing day out, they all enjoyed that.

”We want them to see that this is an area that you can eventually earn your living in. So they look at it as a possibility.”

It isn’t only students the team help. They range from all age groups from little children to members of the older generation.

Julie says:”It’s nice having the different age groups. It’s good having a mixture. Some of the places where we go with older people they have little play groups there or nurseries.

”They get the kiddies, like two to three years old, out with the older people. The older people love it because they play with the kiddies and the kiddies like it because they play with the older people so that’s great.”

Alongside helping others, the volunteers get a lot of joy out of the activities too.

Carol says: ”I just feel like I get a lot of job satisfaction coming here, more then I do at my full time job. I don’t get any thanks or satisfaction there but I come here and for a couple of hours and I get loads. That is more valuable to me.”

However they feel that volunteers don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Julie says: ”Volunteers don’t get the credit they should. People just think ‘oh they’re just volunteers’ but volunteers work really really hard.”

Carol added ”Some places can’t work without volunteers”.

Incredible Education try to help their volunteers as much as possible by giving them opportunities they may not have received before

Ian says:  ”We’ve also progressed our volunteers from those who volunteer there time to those who’ve moved onto some part time support work which is payed employment. So there is a benefit there that people are learning new skills and becoming more confident in what they are doing. They are able to go out and deliver sessions in their own right and get paid for that. So it’s been a natural progression from that, I suppose, in the 5 years we’ve been here.”

Volunteers play an important role in many organisations and groups, especially ones like Incredible Education, and it is easy to get involved. If you would like to volunteer for Incredible Education simply go onto their website and fill out the contact form or give them a call.

Image credits: Megan Chapman

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