Born: 1983 | Coming to VA since: 2012 | Artforms: Multimedia, printmaking, drawing
Proudest VA moment: Going to work at Manchester Museum
“I LOVE Fridays. It’s my favourite day, because I work at the museum. I get to see all the staff, who are my friends. I show people the badger. You can touch it; it feels soft. Badgers eat eggs, they also eat baby mice, chicken, duck, snails and Nutella on toast.”
Deborah Makinde has been volunteering at Manchester Museum since 2017. She was offered a weekly role after completing a 16-week supported placement there, as part of VA’s Cultural Enrichment Programme. On her placement, Deborah tried out different job roles in the museum shop, front of house, galleries and conservation department, and researched and presented her own museum tour.
It soon became clear that she had a particular gift for communication and engaging with members of the public. She now works as an ‘object handling’ volunteer, in which she shares her knowledge of natural history artefacts (ranging from a stuffed badger to a 6 million-year-old fossil) and invites museum visitors to experience these objects through touch.
Deborah has really blossomed in this role: it’s a natural fit for her sparky, enthusiastic personality, and visitors love talking to her.
She’s popular with staff too, who see her as an asset to their workplace:
“I have seen the effect on the gallery of having Deborah’s friendly face as the first thing you see when you walk in, she generates and spreads warmth wherever she goes” – Louise Thomas, Visitor Team Assistant
There are many more like Deborah whose lives could be enriched by volunteering in culture, but who will never get the chance. It’s a sad fact that 65% of learning disabled people want to work, but only 6% do nationally (Mencap, 2015). They lack training, support and opportunity to build skills, and face negative attitudes in the workplace.
Deborah would love to be paid for her work one day. We hope that the more we can support learning disabled people to be visible, included and valued in our cultural spaces, the closer this will become to a reality.