Meet the Team

Root Soup is full of extra-ordinary people wanting to make a difference. Take the opportunity to get to know everyone involved.  There are many that make up the full Root Soup team, so check back regularly to meet everyone.


Alison Pettigrew

Alison is the Root Soup kitchen trainer and has been involved in Root Soup since the early days. Alison began her career in accounts and credit control but always felt her passions to be in training and around food. As she worked more and more with mental heath patients she realized she was ready for a change. After 17 years of working on accounts she changed fields and began working as a trainer with Belfast Metropolitan College teaching ICT classes. Her training developed and followed her passion into cookery classes with persons with special needs and mental health patients. Alison’s favorite class is Feast Club.  Feast Club is made up of 11 students with a range of abilities who cook and cater for themselves and the staff once a week.  Alison has a strong passion around the power of food and how it can bring people together and gives those who have prepared it something to be proud to enjoy and share with others.   Alison has chosen to be part of the Root Soup team because it brings all of her passions together in one big bowl. She sees how Root Soup breaks down barriers and allows those who prepare the food to take ownership and see the food as an achievement. Alison’s favorite food to prepare in the kitchen is Italian food.


Scott Shively

Scott, the garden master, grew up in Indiana, the heart of American farming country. For the past ten years, he has worked in a variety of roles for L’Arche Belfast, where he is currently the registered manager. Scott’s real passion, however, is organic community gardening – developing green spaces that are beautiful, produce food, and provide spaces for people to meet and work together. He currently coordinates L’Arche Belfast’s garden project, “Green Buds”, which is based in an allotment at Vista Allotments in the Castlereagh hills. The project offers training and work opportunities to five people with learning disabilities, and aims to grow community and friendship as well as fruit and vegetables.


Mark Patty

My name is Mark Patty aka DJ Twister. My grandparents heard about Root Soup through their church and invited me along with them to have lunch. The next week I got started and I’ve been here ever since!

I also help Alison with Community Roots, I’m a mentor for young adults with learning difficulties and last year I was awarded a special prize for ‘Outstanding Commitment’ for all my hard work with Root Soup. My Root Soup challenges at the minute are: trying to keep the weight down and cooking at home. I’ve challenged myself to make a stew at home once a week and eat more healthily. I’m not an early riser but this year I managed to get up at 6.30am to help cater for a community breakfast!

I’ve been resident DJ at the L’Arche disco and the Black Moon disco in the Black Box. I love it! My dream is to be employed by Root Soup and work in technical theatre.


Chris Mooney

My name is Christopher Mooney and I had a brain injury when I was 23. I was working in Market Research but could not continue after that. After my brain injury I could not continue with this job, I get very tired because of difficulties and fatigue.  I started volunteering for Root Soup, over 3 years ago. There is a lot of support and it’s nice to meet others who also have experienced an injury.  L’Arche has helped me, to understand my brain injury and provided me with opportunities that are more suitable to my needs. I am still learning to adjust but I am very grateful for everybody’s kindness towards one another.  L’Arche has hired me, in their Grow Cook Cater Programme. I am their Peer Kitchen Coach.


Adam Gartley

Adam has been with Root Soup since February. Previous to working at
Root Soup, Adam had participated in cookery and food hygiene classes at college, which shows as he knows his way around the kitchen. It is impossible to not like Adam with his beaming smile, positive attitude, gentle spirit, hard working mentality, and humorous side. For better or worse Adam is a huge Manchester United fan who likes to continually remind us of it by pointing at his Man U watch, which we haven’t seen him without. When asked if he enjoys Root Soup his answer was simple, “Yeah, oh yeah”. He says the best parts about Root Soup are making the soup and everyone eating together around the table. Adam has added a lot of laughter to the Root Soup team.


Bryson McDonnel

Meet Bryson, the first trainee of Root Soup. Bryson lived at Open Door from August 2010 till May 2011 when he moved into his very own flat. It is amazing to see the  impact Root Soup has made on him, and he has made on Root Soup, in such a short time. Rather than editing Bryson’s words about Root Soup a short interview was conducted.  To see this powerful interview watch the YouTube video below.


Jillian Gould

I’m Jillian and I like art, music, dancing, cooking and looking gorgeous!

I live in the Ember, one of the L’Arche houses, and was one of the founders of the community 15 years ago. I am a homemaker and love doing house work. I was one of the first Root Soup volunteers, I go to the hostel to work with Root Soup every week where I love cooking and meeting all the lovely people there. I do not communicate with many words and Root Soup gives me a peaceful place to work as an integral part of their team.


Tracy Thompson

I’m Tracy and I love dogs. I love being involved in all parts of the community here at L’Arche: I work two days a week in Root Soup, one day a week in the Green Buds allotment and I go to the art group twice a week! I also love the discos and helping out at events.

My Root Soup challenge was to stop biting my nails (part of food hygiene). I’ve managed to do it and my reward is that I’m going to a beauty parlour with Cathy to get sparkly nail varnish! I have also given up bread for lent!

When I first came to L’Arche I was very shy and quiet and I used to be a picky eater. Now I eat loads of new foods and I deliver the scones on a Tuesday to the Tots group. I also love to serve lunch, sometimes to 50 people!