Our Gateshead workshop has increasingly become an array of cultures and languages. Recently, the number of our refugees and asylum seekers has grown, and they have shared their stories and become included in our diverse community.
Everyone is welcomed into our workshops. There is no need to meet any requirements before coming to the workshop – we accept everyone as they are. Our trainees are diverse, from different backgrounds and with radically different stories as to how they came to engage with Handcrafted. Each one has their own story about what they have experienced to be here today, and where they want their lives to go.
Since January, 48% of our sessions have been attended by trainees who are not native English speakers, and this has increased to over 60% in the past few months.
We brought in a Farsi translator to help us get to know four of our Iranian trainees better, and understand how we can help them more. The group of four trainees, Kaveh, Hossein, Mohammad and Mahmood, had various professions back in Iran. Having fled to the UK, they have begun to settle into their new home.
The trainees really enjoy carpentry, whether they’ve had any previous experience with it before or not. The workshop offers them a space of safety and relief from the pressures that face them in their daily lives.
All of our trainees spend a few days each week at college improving their English which they then practice in the workshop. We have seen amazing progress with the conversation ability with these guys, as they gain confidence in their abilities.
“I really enjoy working in the workshop” – Kaveh
“I really like doing creative jobs, and it gives me relief working in the workshop” – Mahmood
Most of the products these guys make however are for their families and homes. We have seen them make tables, chairs, toys for their children as well as other pieces furniture. Their skills amaze all of us at Handcrafted, with incredible care and design in everything they make. Those who have more experience with carpentry help those who are less skilled, with beautiful results.
Our Woodwork Trainer, Peter, says “It’s great learning about different culture and traditions. Mohammed is a wonderful carver and helps around the workshop sharpening our chisels. We’ve also tasted traditional cuisine from Iran when some of our trainees cooked for the entire workshop, which was great.”
Our community is inclusive of everyone. Our hubs feel like big families, where everyone can support one another, and everyone can grow and learn together. Inclusion leads to increasing self-confidence, meaning that we see a marked improvement in the mental health and social mobility of many of our trainees.