The following description of Men In Sheds was taken from their website which can be found here. Beneath the description are testimonials from those who have benefitted from Men In Sheds.
Our members are men who live in Medway, are aged 25+, currently not in work or have retired.
To come to sessions you have to apply for membership and talk to us about what kind of activities you would like to get involved with.
We offer 4 or more themed sessions each week with opportunities to participate in a range of activities based on the interests of members.
Most sessions are creative and practical with a strong social element. It is a great place to capture and pass on skills, build networks, get out of the house and do something of value.
The activities are not provided on the table like in a day care centre. The guys who join are usually independent and capable enough to use the resources provided to make their own decisions about what to do in each session. Nothing happens without member’s enthusiasm and hard work, however support mechanisms are in place to help address any challenges men have.
It is much more than a social club with tools and craftwork. There is a lot of work behind the scenes and networks to the wider community. Shed members not only take part in most of the decisions on what happens. They often meet shed members they get to know outside session times and generally support each other.
I have recently recovered from a 3 day stay in hospital after receiving treatment for a broken ankle. As I live alone I had become scared of venturing out on my own which had increased my anxiety and poor mental health and my sent me into a downward spiral. This is not the first time I have hit rock bottom and Chris knew my state of mind. He kept track of my progress and kept in touch on the telephone. Eventually I felt well enough and confident enough to go back to the group on Friday. Thanks to Chris I always had someone to talk to and I felt like I mattered. Since my return I’ve been helping Chris create a training video on stigma surrounding mental health and have confidently aired this information, previously shared in the Music group and am happy that I can make an impact in the training of professionals in local charities and community organisations.
I have been in a difficult situation over the last three months due to the death of my mother and resulting eviction notice. My physical disability, medication for severe anxiety and depression and rapid weight gain over the last 3 years have added to my problems. I’ve been depressed and suicidal and has been passed in circles from one health service provider to another and then back to my GP twice. I’ve cried at home and suffered in the grieving process. I had to attend hospital 2 months ago about my weight problem and that reminded me of mum’s death, so this dented my resilience and caused more fatigue. Chris has always been there for me. He tried to help by giving me coping coping strategies and I know he probably shouldn’t, but I can call him anytime and he always makes time for me at the groups. He has provided me with the information and helped with the process of registering homeless, accessing financial support from the benefit system and eventually build steps towards employment. He has called when I couldn’t. I can only cope with limited conversations and challenges each day, so I have to manage my energy carefully to accomplish small steps in the process of finding accommodation and recovering from a minefield of financial problems left due to the passing of my mother. With Chris’s support I have now registered as a volunteer, so am gradually recognising my qualities as a guide, buddy, mentor or trainer. Ive also been attending the Otway community garden which I have found invaluable, quite space in the open so I can clear my head and use my experience in the building trade to help out. Through coming on Fridays I have made new friends who have been able to provide accurate information from their experience or professional background on local housing, accessing information technology with his software and hardware and navigating benefit systems.
Chris and I had a discussion about creating a poster or feature display around discrimination which may stimulate a group or community discussion. I know several people who have experience of caring for people professionally or voluntarily and there is still ignorance about what it is like to have a disability or be a target for prejudice for any reason. I was thrilled when Chris asked me to help find the right sort of images etc. One of the biggest problems is that of “invisible disability”. Many people have medical and mental illnesses, which cannot be seen by the casual observer. I am often told by people that unless I had mentioned it they would not have known I have sight problems. My Epilepsy is also a hidden disability, which only shows itself if I am taken ill. This is a very rare thing so again does not show. It’s great that I have been asked to get involved in something that is so dear to my heart, makes me feel Iike I am really valued.
I’ve been attending the Otway garden for a year and a half and have always been very active – love being outside, hate sitting still! Mum left the family when me and my brothers were young so I cared for dad for many years until his dad passed away. I created my own window cleaning round which I worked until I became ill, collapsed lung. I have COPD so when I contracted Covid 19 in December 2020 I feared the worst, I was taken to hospital and put on breathing support. Malcolm stayed in contact even though I couldn’t talk at first and sounded terrible. I live alone and once I was finally allowed home I had to learn to live again. I am back at Otway now, I pace myself and know when to rest. The garden is a safe place for me and I can talk freely about my depression and anxiety and without it, I would be very lonely as I don’t see anyone else. I love the friends I’ve made at the garden and Malcolm’s telephone calls whilst I was recovering at home was a life saver.
Case Study 1
Before I write a testimonial, it is important that a bit of my background be known.: During infancy I developed an illness that affected the muscles of my right leg,
Despite this, I managed to have a full life and career, on taking early retirement I became heavily involved with a Nationwide charity. Life was exceedingly busy, full and rewarding.
A few years ago, circumstances dictated that I needed to start a new life, I now found myself extremely bored with little to pass the time. No reason to get out of bed in the morning and drinking rather a lot in the evening, nothing to occupy me or challenge my mind. It was then on a visit to my GP at the Sunlight Centre, I saw “Medway Men in Sheds,” which I joined.
As it happened my communication skills proved useful, and it was not long before I was chatting to the other guys, and listening to their problems, My life skills knowledge has also proved useful in dealing with problems that arose. And I very much enjoy solving technical problems that just happen to keep turning up, And of course it works both ways, I am picking up tips and knowledge on many things I know nothing about, as well as a lot of local history.
Subsequently, music lessons started of which I am very interested, but unfortunately, my disability proved awkward when trying various instruments, However, I could handle the drum kit very well. Plus, with The Otway Garden project started up, of which I can assist.
I look forward to going to the Sunlight Centre when practical, It’s a reason to get up, wash and shave and sometimes collect another participant, and I drink moderately in the evenings now, as I have a focus again in my life. From the “Shed”, I have now become involved in other charities in Medway, and Kent, helping those people less fortunate or articulate than myself. I have since found out, (through confidential conversations), many look to the shed and the sunlight centre itself as a focal point for their lives, not only do they get a square meal and hot drinks, (when the cafe is open), there is comradeship and a feeling of belonging, several guys particularly enjoy coming as they do not feel out of place with their neurological disorders or phobias, even my own disability is accepted and never remarked upon. I am accepted for who and what I am, as is everyone.
Case Study 2
I started sessions in October 2019 and have attended most of the music sessions when we have not been restricted to lockdown. My wife has a cognitive disability which also impacts on her mobility, so it is a big responsibility for me as her carer. This is sometimes a strain and so I enjoy being able to escape from the house once a week.
I had brought myself a bass guitar but quickly realized that I do not have fully functioning fingers! The arthritis in my hand, elbows, shoulders and other areas can cause pain on some days but I was advised by Chris to play bass on my lap, pressing the strings vertically down with my hand on top of the fret board which seems to work well for me. I am new to playing but have learnt how to respond to instructions, hold down a solid pattern of bass notes to accompany others and have gained the courage to contribute ideas to the group. I’ve also noticed that since I’ve been playing the strength is starting to build in my fingers which is an added bonus.
My main employer has been BAE systems and I have spent years behind a computer writing and testing code for large aircraft like Nimrod, fighters like Jaguar and other military aeronautical systems. It’s really nice that there are other ex-engineers within the group that speak the same language as me. It’s great to be able to share my skills with others on recording and editing music, when I can explain to the group how audio equipment works, be able to fix things when they break and show how to design anything from speaker cabinets to lighting rigs. It’s made me feel useful and valuable again.
That’s why I was really excited to hear about the new Arduino project that Sunlight are starting. Obviously I am interested in robotics and coding and took some kits to a session recently where I could explain a little about the equipment and the code required to enable functions such as modifying audio MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) signals and robotics. There was a definite interest and I am really looking forward to being part of the zoom workshops starting in February.
Case Study 3
What’s that saying, you don’t know what you’ve lost until you lose it and I just wanted to say how much I miss you and the guys. I am so grateful that you stayed in touch with me all this time, its so easy to forget about people if they aren’t in front of you, but you always make effort and you will never know how much that is appreciated. Thank you.
Case Study 4
I hate doing this sort of thing but I know how important it is for you and I really don’t want to lose this service. Whilst physically I am unable to do the work I used to do, it was a great pleasure to be able to pass on some knowledge in helping with the steps at sunlight and the greenhouse footings in the garden at otway st. Not only to help someone out but personally to have a reason to get out of the house and socialize with people! To have people to talk to whether phone or message has been invaluable and I hate to think how hard these very trying times could have been.