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If you have engaged with The Larder and would like to share your story, please get in touch via communications@thelarder.org 

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Mirhan joined The Larder in mid-2017 as a skills training programme. Mirhan had always been a hard worker, but had found that she did not flourish in the traditional school environment and had left school with no formal qualifications. Mirhan had complex family circumstances and this, combined with her lack of formal qualifications and work experience, contributed to ongoing poor mental health and a lack of self-belief.

The Larder proved to be a transformational experience for Mirhan. Being made aware of the opportunity through Skills Development Scotland, one of The Larder’s partner organisations, she initially joined the team as a Café/Kitchen assistant. After demonstrating her commitment to the role and a willingness to work hard and succeed, she soon progressed to the role of Trainee Chef within The Larder.

She completed her SQA qualifications in record time and, in 2019, was awarded the Modern Apprenticeship of the Year (SCQF Level 5) award at the Skills Development Scotland Scottish Apprenticeship Awards. In addition, she was granted The Centre, Livingston’s Local Hero Award.

Mirhan’s journey illustrated that a supportive environment that recognises and nurtures ability alongside training tailored to an individual’s needs, makes it possible for an individual to identify and remove barriers, providing them opportunities for continued personal development and enabling them to reach their full potential.

“I’m proud of myself and how far I’ve come compared to where I would have been two years ago. The Larder believed in me and gave me the confidence to believe in myself. They supported me to be all that I could be, gain qualifications and help me find a job in my chosen career. I am an example of how far you can go given the right support.”

Mirhan is set to be a future star of the industry and has already taken up a role at the Kyloe Restaurant in the Rutland Hotel, Edinburgh.

George, an 18-year-old individual always knew what he wanted to do with his career; become a chef.

When it came to leaving school and deciding on the next step George lacked self-confidence and felt that College would be too big a step for him, given his general learning disability.

Having worked with The Larder in school, he knew that we could provide him with the support and guidance he needed to make his next steps into the job market. He trained with us for 24 weeks, gaining a Professional Cookery Qualification at Level 4. During this, he completed a four-week placement at Food Creations, volunteered at our Catalyst Kitchen dining experiences supporting those who do not have access to food and moved onto our Stage 4 Progression Programme for that extra support into the job market.

George, who was initially very shy and unsure of himself, came out of his shell throughout his time with The Larder. He became an integral part of the team, showing great appreciation for the support he was given.

George tells us:

“I really enjoyed my time with the Larder because they helped me to gain more confidence in myself, with my cooking skills and social interactions with others. I particularly enjoyed the Catalyst Kitchen part because it allowed us to show members of the public all that we learned as a team and it felt good to help others.

I can honestly say that everyone I met at the Larder helped me and I will always be grateful for that.”

On the Stage 4 Progression Programme, George applied for an Apprentice Chef position at Brucefield Farm in Livingston. He was contacted almost immediately and was offered the position following both phone and face-to-face interviews.

Not only did George achieve employment, qualifications and certification, but he also found his confidence and self-belief, and is soaring towards his full potential.

Jade is a 29-year-old woman with several adverse childhood experiences; she was looked after as a child and teenager, experienced addictions, low educational attainment, poverty and had never worked.  She became a mum at a very young age, and her own children had been removed and put in care.  When she joined the programme, she had mental health conditions, was a recovering addict and her children were back in her care.  Her priority was to gain qualifications and work experience and move into a positive destination

She started the EF programme at stage two of the employability pipeline in our training academy at Brewster Square and we were able to fit her training programme around her childcare needs.  After 10 weeks she progressed to stage 3 at our Fauldhouse Café where she gained work experience and was supported to apply for college. 

She gained hospitality and employability qualifications at SCQF level 3 and 4, which was higher than she previously held.

She showed commitment and a zest for learning and was very soon supporting the chef in the kitchen, which was her preferred career direction.  This helped her build her confidence at which point she went on work placement to Fauldhouse Café.

Whilst working in the kitchen she had responsibility for preparing the chef’s specials and showed her flair and creativity by creating her own take on traditional meals.  She showed great leadership and developed her skills front of house whilst supporting and mentoring other trainees and staff.  Her customer service skills excelled and it was clear that she was ready for a positive destination

Jade moved into a SCQF Level 4 course at West Lothian College which she successfully completed and was accepted onto the level 5 course due to start in August 2020.

The Larder programme was the catalyst for this young woman to change her life and make a positive change in direction.  The Larder supported her to develop her confidence, self-worth, skills and qualifications as well as assisting her to make an application for college to start in January 2020.

Jade said:

“The Larder supported me on the first steps of my journey to be a chef.  They took into consideration my family circumstances and learning needs and developed a bespoke programme for me.  Through their programme I was able to gain qualifications, skills and experience to move into college and study to be a chef.  Without the course, the flexibility offered and the belief in me I would not have been able to take the first steps needed to start my career journey at the age of 29.  Thank you”

Katrine is a young, independent woman with two wonderful children. She had a long and successful career as a florist, living in her own home as an active working mum. In early 2020, Katrine lost her job as a result of COVID-19. She had recently started a new relationship which was going extremely well, so she decided to sell her home and move her and her children into her new partner’s home.

Katrine was referred to us in late October 2020 as she was homeless, fleeing domestic abuse, reduced benefits due to loans and with her children in the care of their father.

Within the first few weeks of living with her new partner, the relationship turned sour and the violence began. She supported him and forgave as he promised to change but the violence and abuse continued. This environment became so unsafe, she fled with only the clothes on her back.

Now homeless and unemployed, Katrine placed the care of her children to their father until she could get herself back on her feet. She had no family support and only a few friends, only one of which would allow her to wash her clothes at their home. 

Katrine has been living in homeless hotels in West Lothian for 5 months, with no clear indication of when she will move to temporary tenancy.  She is thankful to have a roof over her head but is frustrated and mentally exhausted from the lack of support and information given to her at her greatest time of need. For 5 months, Katrine has been living off of ‘instant snacks’ and foods with no nutritional value.

Katrine was referred to us after 5 months without a hot or nutritious meal. She is incredibly thankful to The Larder’s Catalyst Kitchen as to have a few nourishing meals a week is ‘lifesaving’. She is trying to stay positive and awaiting the news of a home so she can be reunited with her children.

Her aim is to move on from this, to have a happy home with her two children once and to be a working mum once again.

Becca has an autistic son and suffers from long-term health difficulties. She was struggling with a lack of support and was feeling isolated throughout this challenging time. She had been placed on new medication for her health which wasn’t agreeing with her leaving her tired and having to sleep more regularly. Having meals from our kitchen delivered directly to her meant that she didn’t have to worry about having the energy to go to the shop or stand for a long time cooking. She called us to give us her feedback on the meals:

“The quality of food has been great. The variety has been exceptional. We’re both gluten free so we are aware it’s difficult and we appreciate the extra mile staff have gone too. My son has sensory issues so struggles with food and I honestly didn’t think he would eat different things but he has eaten at least 80% of meals delivered which is more than when I’m cooking. He also gets really excited to see what’s in the bag. The melon and Pineapple juice were real winners.

We love that sometimes there is something a bit random in there like a bar we haven’t tried or a loaf of bread. It’s like a present on the doorstep. The drivers are always so lovely. They always drop the bag, knock and stand back and say hi. So important when you don’t see other people.
I know our support worker has booked us in for a few more weeks, I have to say it’s a huge relief. I’ve always had to manage before when I’ve been ill, I feel like there is a little team of people who care around us this time and its honestly beautiful. Thanks so much for the food and more than that, the gesture that means were not alone and people care’

Lisa is a single mother of two, she has autism and prior to her time with The Larder, fostered over 50 children, helping and supporting them into a better life. In January 2020, she asked her husband to leave their family home. He had been cheating, stealing and reducing Lisa’s confidence to a minimum, leaving her in such a poor emotional state that she wished to take her on life. Thankfully, something inside encouraged her to keep going and make positive steps to get her life back on track. She approached her GP for support and returned to her college to see about continuing her HNC. She was worried she wouldn’t be unable to return as, due to her financial situation, she would have to choose between studying and feeding herself and her children; thankfully the Student Association referred her to Catalyst Kitchen in October 2020.

Lisa told us that prior to 2020, food was always available, she worked all her life and never experienced hardship like this. Before her referral to Catalyst Kitchen, there were times that there was no food in the cupboards for her and her children but she was too proud to reach out for family support. Lisa’s priority was always her children as she had a difficult relationship with food as a result of Autism.

Lisa has told us that Catalyst Kitchen has had a massive impact on her life. Her children are getting fresh, healthy meals and she has started to connect with food again. She anticipates delivery day each week as Peter, the volunteer, always cares, listens and just makes her day. After joining The Larder on our Summer of Play programme, she is enjoying cooking again. She can’t afford many ingredients, but when that time comes, she’s looking forward to cooking at home again.

Lisa tells us: “Catalyst Kitchen has impacted my life in a massive, positive way. My family still don’t know how low I have been, and still am, but I have trusted Debbie and Peter who have listened and supported me and my kids over the past 10 months. I am starting to see my worth and I am proud of my many achievements in life”