Horticulturist Ben Tattersfield has described how Braywick Heath Nurseries in Maidenhead helped turn his life around.
Ben is now acting senior supervisor at the not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing jobs and training to people with disabilities and special needs.
When Ben Tattersfield first arrived at Braywick Heath Nurseries he was at a low point in his life.
The 35-year-old's confidence was so low he didn't want to answer the phone.
But setting foot through the door of the not-for-profit gardening nursery was the starting point for him turning his life around.
Ben was unemployed and been through about six years of depression.
The former Birmingham University student was struggling with motivation, organisation and had been diagnosed with borderline Asperger's syndrome.
After a visit to Maidenhead job centre he embarked on a NVQ level two training course in horticulture at the Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for Disabled People in Leatherhead, Surrey and arrived at the nurseries in 2007 for a work experience placement.
Braywick Heath sells a huge range of plants and is dedicated to providing jobs and training to people with disabilities and special needs.
"I’d had depression for about six years. I had jobs before but I was very up and down," said Ben, who lives in Ward Royal, Windsor.
He admitted when he first arrived he had such little confidence he was reluctant to even talk to customers over the phone.
However, in time he became more comfortable and ended up with a permanent position the following year.
From there he nurtured his abilities to care for plants, cementing his career as a horticulturist.
Reflecting on the huge turnaround, he says the centre was 'almost life-saving' for him.
"There are people who come in now that remind me of me when I came," he said.
"When you don’t have a job your motivation goes. Just getting up and going to work is a positive for some people.
"The fact that they understand disabilities here is important.
"As long as you put in what you should then it helps having an understanding employer.
"We take people with mental health problems and physical difficulties and try and give them work skills."
The former pupil at Slough's St Bernard's Convent School, now St Bernard's Catholic Grammar School, continued to progress and went on to be become one of two supervisors in 2009 and was also named employee of the year.
He is now acting senior supervisor.
"I suppose I’m quite a good model of what's possible here," he said
"It’s a positive place. It accepts all volunteers.
"We draw in people from all over Berkshire."
Ben insists he is not a unique case, rather an example of the good that Braywick Heath Nurseries can provide.
He says there are lots of others like him who received the same help and support from the centre’s management and other volunteers.
Now, as other people with disabilities or in need of support sign up Ben is determined to help them.
"The area needs more places like this," he added.
"The way a lot of people get jobs is by volunteering somewhere first.
"It's a big part of a lot of people's lives.
"It's amazing to see."
To date more than 800 people have been offered training or employment by Braywick Heath Nurseries.
The organisation was set up by Robin Pemberton and colleagues from Windsor and Maidenhead Users Network (WAMU) - a support group for people with disabilities - in 1997.
The heath part of the title represents the 'horticultural employment and therapy' and the site aims to provide through jobs and training in a commercial environment to people with disabilities or in need of support.
The site in Braywick Road was provided by the Royal Borough with funding from ARCO chemicals of Bridge Street.
The nurseries were opened in March 1997 by the Mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead, Cllr Andy Sheldon, and received a visit from HRH Prince Charles in June that year.
The facility was visited by royalty again in 2007 when Prince Edward visited to mark its 10th anniversary.
Its BEST (Braywick Employment Skill Training) scheme was set up in 2010 for people on the autism spectrum, giving them skills and experience.
It is a self-sustaining business, but has also received support from the Louis Baylis (Maidenhead Advertiser) Financial Trust
Call 01628 622510 visit the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to volunteer
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