Goodbye After 13 Years: An Interview After 13 years of exceptional care at Cherry Trees, last week we said goodbye to Deputy Manager Alfie. If you've had the pleasure of meeting Alfie in person, you will know of his infectious smile, never-ending kindness, and his total dedication to Cherry Trees. Before leaving, we had the pleasure of sitting down with him and listening to his story of care, which we are proud to share with you now. How did you get involved with Cherry Trees? In his early 20s, Alfie returned to the UK from a year of volunteering with orphans in Nepal without a plan. He was encouraged to take up cooking at Cherry Trees by a family member, who also worked with us. He said, "In the summer, I cooked lunch and worked with children in the afternoon, and I got a bug for it. I became a full-time carer in September and moved up as the years went by until today, when I’m leaving". Before Cherry Trees, Alfie never spent long in any job, but care kept him entertained. According to him, "this place is never boring. Every day is different, hugely different. The routines are the same, but the children make it so different." He found the variety challenging in a positive way. Where are you going next? Alfie has always loved working with his hands, but working in the care industry full time has put a pause on his passion for artisan carpentry work. In January, he will kick off this new chapter by completing a fine furniture making course and setting up his own business. After telling us about his plans he added that he would have loved to stay at Cherry Trees had it not been for his children, saying "shift work and children don't always go well together", but expressing his gratitude and adding that "this place has taught me a lot about myself, about life, and it's made me a better dad". How has Cherry Trees changed since you joined? ”It’s changed a lot over the years. It used to be, dare I say, unprofessional. Not in a bad way, just in the sense that it was a home; a big family with all the squabbling that comes with it. The quality of care has never changed, it’s always been great. But our admin side has improved a lot over the years, to now where we’re going a little bit the other way, in my opinion. Keeping the balance between professionalism and being homely is really difficult" He encouraged the carers to, every now and then, take a step back and consider whether spontaneity would be a better option: "We can just wing it. It works because there’s no predictability with kids. So you’ve got to wing it, you’ve got to think on your feet all the time." After some thought he declared "winging it has caused some of our biggest triumphs and some of our biggest problems, so getting the balance right is key." Another change he noted was in the care required by our children. "When I first started, children needed a lot more help with the physical aspect of their care; a lot more children in wheelchairs, with gastronomy feeds. That’s changed dramatically, so now we are dealing with challenging behaviours far more." When asked about the reasons behind this change, he said "I think that comes from funding. Children who require high levels of personal care tend to get home care [because] it’s cheaper, whereas children with more challenging behaviours are given funding, so we tend to have more of those children." "We’re still providing the same care: the child first, disability second ethos is still at the forefront of what we do. Challenging behaviour has just changed how we run, mainly to do with the admin side because there’s so many more checks and forms. 13 years ago I don’t think we even had an incident book. Now the slightest thing gets written down.” What is your favourite Cherry Trees moment? “My favourite moment was two years ago when I finally got to go camping with the kids. I love camping, it’s my favourite hobby, [so] it was such a privilege to be able to take kids and show them what I love doing. It’s often the other way around, they show us what they like. It was so nice to be able to show a different side of me: my enthusiasm for camping. We had a lovely time, it was great." Alfie, along with 2 other carers took 3 children to Etherley Farm and had a wonderful time going on long walks up Leith Hill, sleeping under the night sky and enjoying food outdoors. Activities like this are often a rarity in our children's life, and offer a unique opportunity for them to try out new activities in a safe, supported environment. "The children were superbly behaved. At that time we had a lad with us who had challenging behaviour. I was a little bit nervous about how he’d be, but he was perfect, he really enjoyed it." On Cherry Trees carers: "The one thing that all the carers have in common is that they care; they genuinely care. You don’t get into this job unless you genuinely care. You’re always striving to improve things, to get to know the kids. It’s not overly difficult to give the children good care because it’s quite natural to everyone. The ones that don’t, don’t last long. We tend to have people who stay for years and years, or go in the first couple of weeks. And that in itself is difficult because you see the disability first … everybody does. And it takes a couple of weeks to get to know the people behind the disability. Once you do, you stop seeing the disability.” What are you most proud of when it comes to your Cherry Trees journey? “I’m proud that I've managed to get to the level that I am here, from starting of as the cook to becoming Deputy Manager. With that comes being able to make changes, [something] I wouldn’t have been able to as a Carer or a Senior. It’s been a fantastic journey and I would do it all over again.” What will you miss the most about Cherry Trees? After thinking for a long while, Alfie chose two things: the comradery between carers and his relationship with some of the children. But, he added "I grew up with a lot of the kids leaving this year, so it feels like the right time to leave." He mentioned one child in particular, whom he'd cared for 11 years, watching him grow from a young boy to an adult man leaving Cherry Trees this summer. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish Alfie success and happiness in all of his new adventures, and can't wait to see his fine furniture business grow!