Despite having lived in South Africa from 1973 until 2013, Phil – a Manchester native – doesn’t have a trace of an accent. He moved with his parents aged 12 for work opportunities at the steelworks, in Vanderbijlpark close to Johannesburg and Pretoria.
I was born in Wakefield. I did 40 years in South Africa, but there politically it’s corrupt. We came back because my dad had some health issues and we couldn’t get the support we needed over there.
Phil speaks fondly of his work back in South Africa, as a counter salesman in the auto mechanics trade, but says he feels most at home in Manchester despite the weather being less than ideal. Phil has found it difficult to get the kind of work he needs, as many of the opportunities available to him involve shift work which isn’t conducive to him caring for his elderly mother.
I want day shift work, I can work until 8pm – that’s fine but I can’t do shift work. I look after my mum, she has arthritis and two vertebrae out-of-place so she can’t move around easily.
I come here (Barnado’s) 12 ‘til 4, so I can look after my mum in the mornings and get her up. Then go round after work and do the same again.
Eventually she’ll probably have to go into a home I think, but I’d like to prolong her freedom while I can.
It’s clear that Phil is a caring and compassionate person, and that his mum’s wellbeing is more important to him than his ‘perfect job’. He’s popular with the backroom staff at Barnado’s where he tags, hangs and steams the clothes ready for the shop floor. There is a nice atmosphere within the team, and the rapport between the volunteers shows that they all seem to benefit from the social side of the voluntary work; spending time with people they otherwise would never meet.
I was sent by the Job Centre to gain some retail experience… I’m not computer illiterate but in previous jobs we’ve done everything on the books, so I need to learn a new way of doing it. But it shouldn’t be a problem.
Phil’s circumstances are clearly limiting his progress professionally. But he’s positive and pragmatic; which are invaluable traits in the face of adversity, and in the meantime he has a great place to spend his weekdays with a flexible and understanding team around him.
July 14, 2016