INTERVIEW: Rachel Trafford from The Mustard Tree

Funraising’s latest event is an acid house night called Easy on the Dijon. Here we are raising money for The Mustard Tree, so with the event fast approaching, I met up with Rachel Trafford who works as the Fundraising and Communications Officer at The Mustard Tree. Just to recap on our previous articles, The Mustard Tree is a local homelessness charity based in Manchester. Rachel kindly agreed to chat with me about the work The Mustard Tree does and what they represent.

 

I ducked into the charity’s warehouse on Oldham Street (to escape the blizzard outside) and met with Rachel at the entrance. The atmosphere was buzzing. Exciting building renovations were taking place, with volunteers happily milling away and visitors raking through the many clothes rails and furniture offers in the shop. We found a quieter spot and began to discuss the origins and story behind the so-called “Mustard Tree”. Rachel explained that the group was established sometime around the mid-1990s; the members would take to the streets of Manchester and distribute hot food and clothes to those in desperate need of some care. From this, the charity has grown massively into what it is today. The organisation now employs around 30 members of staff, has three charity shops, a developing warehouse at Oldham street, offices, and a kitchen. I was particularly keen to ask Rachel how the name of the charity came about. I was pretty shocked to find out that the idea behind “the Mustard Tree” is rather beautifully taken from a parable in the bible. The story says that the grain of a mustard seed, despite being smaller than any other seed, grows larger than all the herbs and plants, into a tree which welcomes all sorts of wildlife. After talking with Rachel some more about the charity, I begin to realise that the story perfectly reflects all that the Mustard Tree stands for.

 

As we continued to chat, I couldn’t help but notice that everything Rachel had to say about the charity was centralised around the ‘people’- it’s clear that they’re at the heart of it all. Rachel explained that ‘giving people opportunity is what we are all about‘. The Mustard Tree uses a variety of resources to get people back on track and make sure it’s well equipped for everyone. I was particularly struck by the sheer amount of training schemes the Mustard Tree has to offer, ranging from customer service to office work, with food tech in the kitchen, and warehouse opportunities. as well as tonnes of classes in IT, English, finance, and art. It quickly became clear that the charity is focused on combating extreme poverty in Manchester; everything they provide can lead to employability improvement and mental health recovery. The Mustard Tree understands that everyone has their own story and situation, and as Rachel told me, they’re ‘not blanketing people’.

 

Funraising has a strong focus on art, music and general creativity so I asked Rachel what importance this has to Mustard Tree. Rachel explained that ‘Manchester is a Petri dish for creativity‘- so the opportunities are literally endless. I got the impression that art is a central component of the charity. It acts as an ‘equaliser’ within communities; in Rachel’s words, ‘it doesn’t matter who you are’ anyone can enjoy art. I got the pleasure of hearing about the inspiring Graham Hudson’s story. Rachel told me that Graham went through numerous issues of great turmoil before coming to Mustard Tree, enduring countless bereavements, alcohol and drug abuse problems and eventually living homeless on the streets. Despite this, Graham is a talented artist and, through the charity, he was able to have access to the resources he needed. Over the years, Graham has mentored various people and gone on to become the charity’s Creative Projects Manager. Rachel described Graham as a ‘massive inspiration at The Mustard Tree’ and in my opinion, to any artist in general.

 

Quite quickly during my short experience at Mustard Tree, I gained a clear image of what they’re about. They’re about people, about welcoming everyone. They don’t blanket or categorise anyone, and they care deeply about the individual’s needs for progression. I feel very grateful for my visit to Oldham Street, and that I was able to learn about the amazing work The Mustard Tree does throughout Manchester. In our city, homelessness is a growing epidemic; it is vital that we support charity-based organisations who work to combat the root problems and provide care to those in desperate situations.

 

Buy tickets for Easy on the Dijon here on Skiddle while they’re still on first release, or check out the event page on Facebook. I can tell you now that it’s going to proper kick off, and you can see from this article that its funds are going to a great cause.

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