This week is Volunteers’ Week, and all week we will be celebrating the huge contribution made by volunteers both to the work of Stitched Up and the third sector in general.

Every day we will be sharing the thoughts of our amazing, enthusiastic team of volunteers, who help out with everything from events, workshops, admin and outreach.

Today, hear from Alfred – one of the first experts volunteering repair skills at Manchester Repair Café. Alfred can turn his hand to most repairs, but focuses on electrical and mechanical items at the montly Cafés. He’s also the mastermind behind our fabulous bike trailer / mobile workshop space that we LOVE!

Alfred Manchester Repair Cafe volunteer and expert electrical items repairer

Alfred got into volunteering after becoming unable to continue his work as a teacher and furniture maker due to ill health.

He says “I began volunteering with Incredible Edible Salford (IES) shortly after their launch in 2012, helping to build planters to get my hand back into woodwork, and my mind back into a work routine. Having that supportive start lead to me being able to come off my sickness benefit and start my own company, as Maker of Things, constructing planters for IES, and then other clients. My memory for woodwork, previous trade skills, and teaching slowly recovered and my skills improved allowing me to take on more diverse projects and making my business into a small, self-supporting success.

I still volunteer for IES as a member of their committee and as a grower and handy person around the allotment. As a volunteer I also run our local residents association for our community, I ‘expert’ for Stitched Up’s repair cafe, I have made furniture, and given equipment to Real Junk Food Project Manchester, I have made apple juice and cider, and repaired equipment, for Moss Cider, and carried out Guerilla Repairs as and where I find things that need fixing.

A big part of my drive to keep on volunteering is that I received so much support from my community while I was ill and while I was trying to get started again that I I can see how much difference it can make to people’s lives, and the knock on effects that brings. I could say it is ‘paying back’ but really it is as much, if not more ‘paying forward’ where it is needed.

Volunteering has given me a huge amount of confidence, both in my work skills and also in my interpersonal skills. Being adult diagnosed Asperger’s I had always found social interaction difficult, especially at work, and being a volunteer allowed me to be more myself without feeling the pressure to comply with a company norm.

I have also gained new skills, and inspiration from the projects I volunteer for that have been a real benefit for my paid work.

Most of all I have gained friends. Even the people I only meet at a volunteering activity have a friendly relationship with me, and I know that I can count on them when and where it matters.”

Thank you Alfred, for the time and expertise you donate to all these amazing projects in Manchester and Salford. We’re sure we can speak for everyone when we say that your support and hard work really is invaluable to us!

Follow Alfred and his multiple brilliant projects on Twitter here.

And if you’d like to be taught repair skills by the man himself, you’ll find him at Manchester Repair Café most months. Next one Saturday 17th June.