Pair bloom on learning programme
Danielle Gibbons and Chevon Burrows have grown since they were taken on at an island florist.
The two landed jobs at Demco last year as part of the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute’s learning disability programme and both said work had helped them become more independent.
Ms Gibbons said: “It motivates me. It gives me more confidence. It gives me more wisdom.”
The 27-year-old from Southampton, added that the job had changed her.
She said: “Instead of bringing me down when I come to work, it lifts me up, it gives me more strength. I’m progressing and getting better. I just feel an improvement in my life.”
And Mr Burrows, 30, added: “It makes me feel happy and independent. And I can save up my money.”
Ms Gibbons and Mr Burrows are two of four programme participants who started working with Demco in June last year.
MWI occupational therapist Shari Scott approached owner Carmen Phillips after she posted an online advertisement for someone to clean delivery vans.
The job on offer was unsuitable because of the need for after-hours work — but management at Demco were determined to find roles for programme members.
Ms Phillips said: “We came up with three or five different studio tasks that might have been something that would be a fit.”
Suitable jobs identified included tying bows, making cellophane bouquet wraps, washing buckets and filling water tubes.
Ms Gibbons and Mr Burrows joined the firm after special classes to prepare them for the world of work.
Mr Burrows works off-site and Ms Gibbons works at Demco’s shop on South Road every Monday and Wednesday, with the chance of extra shifts at busy times.
Ms Gibbons’s role includes sorting out returned vases, putting old flowers and flower foam in separate trash cans and keeping her work area tidy.
She also prepares the flower foam and cleans and fills up flower buckets with water.
Ms Gibbons said: “I also make sure everything is straight on the shelves and I make sure that the vases that are chipped go on to the side.”
She was supervised at first by Ms Scott and rehabilitation aide Raymeisha Butterfield but can now work on her own.
Ms Gibbons said: “My favourite part is having a great boss like Carmen.
“I’ve never been this long in a job setting but I feel like this is family, this is Demco family.
“I love my job because it’s the best and it makes you feel at home away from home.”
Ms Gibbons is now being introduced to new tasks and loves that she can always learn something new.
Mr Burrows also valued his role and particularly enjoyed working with head florist Helen Senogles.
He said: “She keeps me going because without me she would not run this business. No one else can do that task.”
Mr Burrows makes 150 bouquet wraps every week using cellophane and tissue paper and drops them off at the shop.
He uses a special board to fold them, which Ms Scott designed for him.
He added: “I like this job because I’m good at it — I’m a pro. I do ten sets of 15 — I count them and then I bring them down and get my pay cheque.”
Ms Phillips said Mr Burrows “nailed” the task and added that his work helps them out “without a shadow of a doubt”.
She said: “Sometimes it’s what we call the little things in business that can slow us up or trip us up.
“Having someone who is so capable, with a little bit of understanding, a little bit of training and a little bit of therapy, to be able to take those off of us, it’s worth the extra effort we have to put into explaining a little bit more.”
Ms Scott said she could not have asked for better people to work with the programme.
She added: “I’ve seen the difference in Danielle and Chevon from the people they were before they had a working role to who they are now. I love seeing that.”
Ms Scott said that people with disabilities often just needed suitable adaptations to join the workforce.
Ms Phillips added that everyone should be given the chance to shine and feel the satisfaction of a job well done. She said: “Shari did an amazing job preparing her clients to do these tasks that we do without even thinking.”
Ms Phillips said other businesses should consider taking on people with learning problems, although she stressed that the “fit needs to be right and the task needs to be right”.
She added: “It’s definitely something everyone should at least try.”
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