Pippa Harris (right) manager at Epilepsy Society's coffee shop, explains how she first got involved with the charity.
Before joining the Society, I worked as an apprenticeship tutor, in hospitality management working in hotels, at a market research facility and for Royal Caribbean on their cruise ships.
I’ve always loved working with the public, and although my previous jobs were rewarding, I really wanted to work for a charity. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this job because it allows me to use all the skills I’ve learned whilst working these past 15 years.
What has surprised you most about working here?
Everyone at the Society has been so welcoming! Even though I’ve only been here for 18 months, I feel like part of the furniture. We have six residential homes here for people with complex epilepsy and other disabilities. The residents and I have a laugh in the coffee shop, dancing together when a good song comes on the radio or comparing our ugly Christmas jumpers. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work at all!
What do you find most challenging about the job?
The most challenging thing I’ve found is coming up with new ideas to increase our intake at the coffee shop.
Fortunately, the coffee shop team is fantastic and we work together to try out new things and think of new ideas.
The most successful ideas were the Queen’s birthday afternoon tea and selling hanging baskets and flowers to honour the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s a challenge, but it’s been a very good learning experience.
What's the best thing to happen since you started working at Epilepsy Society?
Seeing more and more new faces come into the coffee shop and become regular customers.
What do you wish other people knew about Epilepsy Society?
I wish people knew just how much the Society does, from leading the way in research, raising awareness and fundraising, right through to supporting the residents living on site in the stunning Chiltern countryside.
Most people I speak to about the Society had no idea what the houses and activities team do for the residents. I think I may have drummed up more volunteers for next year's Phoenix Games. This is a special day of sport for people with disabilities, including our own Phoenix team.
What can you tell us about some of the people you've met while working in the coffee shop?
We see lots and lots of people in the coffee shop every day. Mostly we see our regulars; residents, staff and trustees, but we’re beginning to see more dog walkers and residents from the two new neighbouring residential complexes, Audley Manor and Woodland Manor, pop in for a cuppa which is great! Occasionally, the Uxbridge Loiterers cycling group use us as a refueling stop too.
What do you do when you aren't working?
When I’m not working, I like to keep busy and active. Most of my evenings are filled up with training of some kind! I run with Chiltern Harriers Athletics Club, I cycle a lot and I’m a blue-belt in Tae Kwon Do. When I’m not dashing about I love cooking, making cards (some are on sale in the coffee shop!) or curling up with a good book.