Tesco's supermarket - just across the road from us has offered for us to be their charity for a charity fun week they have every year. They have kindly donated oranges for us to give out during the day on Monday. the idea behind giving the oranges out is to raise awareness of where Ben's Centre is and also to give out our blog address.
Welcome to our first blog.
We are opening a window, a cat flap, a snapshot, or an overview as a means of communication between you our friends, supporters, casual blog hopper, eater or receiver of oranges and our world Ben’s Centre, which is a centre for Sheffield’s street drinkers. A world that is probably as remote to most people as Timbuktu. Listening to something on Radio 4 today I learnt that life in Timbuktu is very vibrant and alive, so perhaps we have more in common with the place than we thought, for life in the Centre is full of drama, colour and adventure.
We want people to know about us and what we do so hopefully as we take you into Ben’s and share some of what happens on a daily basis you may learn. More importantly though, when you next see or walk past someone who could be one of our clients, you may look at them with different eyes and understanding.
Today has been the loveliest, most precious day. Wendy, our manager, who is always thinking of amazing creative ideas, decided that as it is Thanksgiving Day in America that we would do our very own Thanksgiving Day in Sheffield!! So a scrumptious menu was planned. the day started with two of our clients coming in early to cook some suitable pudds for the occasion.
We are in slightly unfamiliar territory now in the Centre, having eight people who have stopped drinking. Usually in the past they would have exited the project by death! So we now have to think of new ways of engaging with these clients who are often so bored when they aren’t drinking. One of these has been to introduce cooking and the two clients who we are talking about have gone on from strength to strength. Their repertoire includes bread, jam making, scones and profiteroles. In keeping with the day Pecan Pie and Treacle Tart are on the menu. To accompany this we are having roast turkey, mashed potato, sprouts, peas and sweet potato. The smells in the place are something to die for and there is a lovely expectation for dinner time!
Before anyone is served each person is handed a small piece of card on which is written… “One thing that I can be thankful for today is…” They settle down very seriously to think about it and start writing. Remember that the vast majority of these people have nowhere to live and are living an extremely chaotic lifestyle. The responses written included life, my children, having a hot meal, new day, not being on the streets this Christmas, Ben’s Centre. Wendy kept telling people her name began with a W!! We stuck them on a large sheet of paper Wendy had prepared so all could read them. Not one of them said they didn’t want to do it and it was so good for them to just write down this one thing. It took them out of where often they are in these entrenched circumstances and lifted their heads to see that one thing.
The meal was so good and the Pecan Pie and Treacle Tart were a resounding success. Everyone was so peaceful and for that moment able to lay down some of the painful stuff they carry around with them every day.
However, the following day was so different. We had a lot lower number but you would not have known it. They were so intoxicated. Most coming in with bottles of Vodka and these were clients who usually would never drink spirits. We are a “damp” centre which means that they are able to come into the Centre intoxicated but are not allowed to drink on the premises, so hand in their drink at reception. We later find that a few local shops are selling three bottles of Vodka for £10!!! Hopefully the offer won’t last long… or we may not. Two clients both singing in reception sounds good but not if they are both singing different songs and don’t want us to hear the other song. An end of another week, which has had the most amazing highs but also some very difficult lows. We need to remember that the eight people we have mentioned who are now not drinking used to be in the same position as these people today. this reminds us all that there is hope. We also want to be really honest and tell things as they are in the centre, the lows as well as the really encouraging things.