A New Door

Our new women’s support worker, Mim, writes about how her experience in prisons led to her to come and work for us.

Three years ago, I started working in Durham’s prisons. Among the many new things I learnt were a couple of phrases that kept repeating themselves. The first is ‘the conveyor belt’ and the second, ‘the revolving door’.

The ‘conveyor belt’ is an image which describes people reaching the end of their prison sentence and falling off the end of the support plan. And unfortunately, the first often leads to the second. The revolving door: A spin-cycle which means you’re regularly in and out of prison. Stuck in a cycle. Life’s spin cycle is not just something that happens in the prison system. It’s also a familiar idea to those stuck in a cycle of addiction and violence.
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Making sure nobody gets left behind

Staff and trustees spent a day at the start of this year talking about what makes Handcrafted tick. We asked how we could make sure we keep working on those fundamentals and find evidence that they are turning into actions, more than warm, fuzzy feelings (although those are nice, too).

We all agreed that “Inclusion” should be right up in our top five. That means we work hard to remove barriers to people benefiting from what we do. But how can we show that this is happening? Continue reading “Making sure nobody gets left behind”

Reaching Out

Asking a hard question

Every day, we hear stories, big and small, that give us confidence that Handcrafted Projects is making a real difference to real people. We want to meet the people we can help and give them the best possible opportunity to join us.

Recently, we looked again at how many people actually came along to our Durham workshop in the last few years. The figures are encouraging. In four years we went from seeing 68 individual trainees using the workshop in a year to 119 – that’s 175% growth in the number of people we reached.

Then we asked a tougher question: “How many people stick around”.

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Turning life the right way up again: Anthony’s Story

Speaking to Anthony today, it’s hard to imagine he was at rock bottom just five months ago when he first showed up at our workshop. It had been a tough year. Anthony had started drinking after a relationship breakup, and he lost his job soon afterwards as things spiralled out of control. Estranged from his family and living in a hostel he had nothing to lose by giving Handcrafted a try.

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Christmas Fayre 2017

The culmination of a few months of planning and creating seasonal products, our annual Christmas Fayre this year surpassed all the previous ones in the quantity and quality of products on offer and the amount we raised. When it comes to the intangibles, the conversations, the atmosphere, the encouraging stories and the sense of pride – the stuff that really matters – we have been overwhelmed with the response.

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The Pen is Mightier than the Saw

Reclaiming discarded scraps of wood and turning them into something attractive and useful portrays only too well what we are all about at Handcrafted. Even a bit of timber is worthy of another chance. The Handcrafted Pen has been a “bestseller” since we produced the first batch over a year ago. We can’t make them quickly enough.

To date, over 60 of these little beauties have been turned out, and we are working on another batch for our Christmas Fayre on Friday 2nd December. Continue reading “The Pen is Mightier than the Saw”

Getting more than he came for: Ian’s Story

Ian started coming along to our workshop in Langley Moor about six months ago. He really needed somewhere to live, and he thought he could put up with a bit of woodworking if that was going to be part of it.

“I was staying at a friend’s house, but I couldn’t stay there indefinitely. I thought that, if I started Handcrafted, which I’d heard a little bit about, I thought I might be able to get some sort of accommodation. So, I started coming along, although I knew I wasn’t going to like it as it was working with wood and I’ve never been interested in woodwork. My last experience of woodwork had been over 30 years ago when I was at school.”

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Eight week turnaround: Jimmy’s Story

“There’s only so long you can sit and spend your time looking at four walls” says Jimmy, reflecting on his life just eight weeks ago. “I would wake up any time and sit in my room doing nothing all day, and  so I thought I’d get my referral put in and start coming here.”

Jimmy heard about Handcrafted from another resident at the hostel where he lives, and it sparked his interest as he already has a Level 1 NVQ based in woodworking.

In his first fortnight with us, Jimmy created a series of decorated placards for himself and friends. Then he came up with an idea for a set of coasters and a holder that proved so popular he got got his first order from it. Now he is in the workshop every day and has gone on to make his own design of bookcase and a CD rack and candle holder in the shape of his initials. These are the things that have given him the most pleasure:

“The biggest enjoyment I’ve had so far has been out of some of the things I’ve made that I have sitting in my room, like my bookcase and my placards.”

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Seven Brave The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

The concept of Handcrafted was first inspired by a man who said, “After 12 years or taking heroin, stealing cars and getting benefits; I want to be someone who actually gives something.” He went on to do the Three Peaks challenge and raise £500 for WaterAid to provide clean water to drought-stricken areas.

That same longing has clearly caught on because, this year, seven of our trainees did the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

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Coming back for more: Tom’s story

We’ve been reflecting recently about how people started to come along to Handcrafted in the first place.  Tom told us how he began to get involved.

“I’d been unemployed for a few years and one day when I was at the Job Centre they told me that I’d needed to go on a course and sent me to Groundworks. I went along and the people there suggested a placement at Handcrafted. I‘d not heard of Handcrafted before, so asked around and heard they were a local charity doing woodwork and gardening that had been started by some people who went to one of the local churches. This made me wonder if it would be all Bible thumping and singing ‘Kum ba yah’. I couldn’t have been more wrong! All of the team and the lads that went along were perfectly normal and just wanted to help people get on and do practical stuff. I really enjoy woodwork, but when I first started to go there wasn’t much space in the workshop so I spent most of my time down at the gardening project.

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