When Dennis Bamgbose was invited by his GP to try social prescribing, he thought it meant being prescribed a social event, such as going along to a community centre for a cup of tea and a chat with other people. A very understandable mistake.
In fact social prescribing puts people who have issues that medical treatment can’t solve in touch with local services that can meet their specific needs.
For Dennis, who had just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and has ongoing mental health problems which meant he hadn’t worked for some years, his social prescriber Shamina Akhtar suggested volunteering.
In July 2022, Dennis successfully passed the interview to become part of the team running the new food club at Bonny Downs Community Centre, East Ham. He started work with his new colleagues, planning everything from scratch for the club which opened in August.
Dennis was in charge of meeting and greeting people, getting them to register by completing the necessary forms, taking their financial contribution towards the costs, and showing them through to the ‘shop floor’ where the rest of the team had set out the goods for them to choose. He found he has a talent for working with people and managing systems and processes.
“It was good helping people through the process and it definitely boosted my confidence,” says Dennis, 47, who lives in Newham. “I was dealing with the social aspect, the financial aspect, the mental aspect. I thought: ‘if I can do this, I can do any job’.”
Although he stepped down from the role in December after getting a dog, bichon frise Jackson, who he is devoted to, Dennis is keen to volunteer again when the time is right.
“Help people out and you’re helping yourself out,” he says.