There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as cooking up some good old fashioned food for the soul, and no one knows that better than Matthew Smith, 35, from Matson, Gloucestershire.
Smith has suffered from epilepsy since he was 18 years old. One day, Smith was walking to work and the next thing he knew, he was waking up in a hospital after 24 hours of epileptic fits. Afterwards, he found it difficult to secure a steady job as employers were not eager to take any chances due to the erratic nature of his disorder. “I had worked in places like Silverstone and Twickenham, Download and V festivals on chicken and chip and fish and chip vans managing eight people in a team, but employers do not like to employ people that have epilepsy because it is so unpredictable,” he stated.
Since then, however, Smith was given an amazing opportunity to give back to the Matson community in the form of fresh fast food. With help and support from the community builders at the Redwell Centre, he is now able to work at a voluntary capacity delivering burgers in his very own burger van.
The remarkable opportunity was made possible in part by Mark Gayle, who loaned Smith the van, as well as the Barnwood Trust, the charitable foundation that gave him a £2,000 grant for equipment. Smith said, “I am so grateful to all of the people that are supporting me. I really enjoy what I do and it would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Vanessa and the team at the centre.”
“We identified that Matthew really enjoyed cooking and when the manager Vanessa was given this burger van he was really excited about it,” said Redwell Centre community builder, Hayley Huntley. The team helped Smith apply for the necessary licenses in order for him to be able to cook on the streets. After a two-day trial, he was granted approval and now boasts a five-star food standards agency rating as well.
Smith has drawn great strength from working for the community and is overjoyed to be giving back to the Redwell Centre, as they were more than supportive during his times of great hardship. “This place Matson is where my heart and soul is, and being able to do this and contribute still even though I have this condition it is just brilliant and not me sitting around all day,” said Smith.
This piece is based on an article by Kim Horton, published by GloucestershireLive.co.uk here.