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”.

Of course not everyone likes wood, and that’s okay (it’s not the only thing we do, by the way). There are all sorts of reasons why someone might decide not to come back after their first visit, but we did notice that, last year, about 20% of first-dayers didn’t come back after their initial visit. We may have got better at making our first contact with people a positive experience, because this ‘dropout’ figure was 25% in 2015.

Nevertheless, we don’t want anyone to slip through if there’s any possibility we can make a difference in their lives.

Trying something new

There’s nothing quite like having a great first day at Handcrafted to encourage people to come again. Trainees often comment on how it was for them.

“I was hooked immediately – just the camaraderie in the workshop and the atmosphere and the lovely spirit of the people here. And the fact that you learn so much and everyone’s so friendly and helpful.” (Dean – trainee)

What would happen if we had a dedicated staff member who went out of their way to connect with the people who need us the most and focused on getting them here and setting them off on the best footing?

We are about to find out.

This week we were delighted to announce the appointment of a new Outreach Worker, Henry Silva, who is going to do this very thing.

Picture of Henry and the lads

Henry has volunteered with us and helped out with support work previously. He is an ardent fan of the way we do things here and will be a great ambasador of the Handcrafted approach with referrers and potential new trainees. He brings this passion along with an infectious grin and his prior experience of working with a local housing organisation.

Henry will be out and about, making connections at hostels and other local referrers, and spending time in the workshop making the “first day” a good one for new trainees.

“I love getting to meet new people and getting to find out their stories and where they have come from and where they want to go. On my first day some of the lads came round me and helped me to learn how to do some basic woodwork and involved me in their jokes and in their lives and it really helped me to feel part of the community and want to come back. The community we have here is really powerful and I believe  helping people to fit in would be really  huge for them.”

We wish Henry all the best and look forward to squeezing that 20% down in the coming year.

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