Our Saw-Some Soapbox

Most job descriptions don’t include “drive a wooden car made in three weeks down a massive ramp, over four jumps in front of 1200 people”.  However in my second month working with Handcrafted, this is one of the unexpected things I have done.

Along with the other teams, we had two attempts to get down to the bottom of the 450 metre track at Herrington Country Park as quickly as possible. This wasn’t without a shortage of drama, mechanical changes and spectacular crashes. Continue reading “Our Saw-Some Soapbox”

Downhill all the Way at the North East Soap Box Challenge

Prince, Michael Jackson and David Bowie needed a spanner to fix their coffin …

What’s the punchline?

Wait … no. This actually happened?

 

It’s Saturday, August the 18th at Herrington Country Park, and pit crews are making last-minute adjustments to their vehicles before they run the challenging downhill skidaddle of the North East’s inaugural Soap Box Challenge. Continue reading “Downhill all the Way at the North East Soap Box Challenge”

The Power of Suggestion

There isn’t a roadmap for what we are doing at Handcrafted. We have a clear sense of our mission to restore and empower people through training in the context of a creative and inclusive community. We know that there’s always room for improvement and innovation. In formal meetings and casual conversations, we are preoccpied with how we can adapt to do it better. Everyone who comes along to be part of the journey has a stake in that.

Empowering people means not ‘doing stuff to and for them’ but enabling them to take initiative and determine how they will thrive and become the’ best version of themselves’. Over the last few weeks we asked our trainees to give Handcrafted some feedback and suggestions for improvement. After all, if it’s not working for the people it’s here for, what is the point in doing it? Continue reading “The Power of Suggestion”

Enter … Aly – our new Project Development Officer

Narrator’s Voice: We’ve been running a workshop in Gateshead since January 2017, practically working out our conviction that the Handcrafted way of doing things can have a powerful effect in other localities. Initially open for just 8 hours a week, and running bicycle repair courses alongside woodworking in a small workshop, we were helped by a lot of interest from other organisations and began to settle into a niche that offered something new and made a big difference to our first brave group of pioneering trainees. You can read about the early days here.

Having moved to a new space in April this year, the project has picked up momentum and the time has come for it to have its own Project Development Officer, someone with the unique mix of passion, creativity, compassion and practical smarts to take things to the next level.

(Aly enters stage left wearing combat trousers and a headband and brandishing a drill, like some sort of pallet-repurposing freedom fighter) Continue reading “Enter … Aly – our new Project Development Officer”

Guest Post: Extreme Character Challenge 2018

At Handcrafted, we talk about ‘changing stories’. As people become part of a community, they find it easier to exit destructive cycles associated with other places and people. As they, turn their time and skills into real things like chairs and tables they reclaim a sense of self worth. Overcoming challenges, they turn ‘can’t’ into ‘can’.

Whether it is working with a team against the clock to complete a commission, making something they are proud to see being sold at one of our fayres or getting through another day without panicking, we see trainees grow in confidence through challenges.

Last month, a few of them volunteered to pit themselves against some mountains. Our founding trustee, Dan, went through it all with them and brought back this report: Continue reading “Guest Post: Extreme Character Challenge 2018”

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th of April has dawned; the most recent in a hat-trick of grey days when the weather has conspired to drag our moods down. Superstition dictates this is an unlucky day, that you might be safer to stay under the quilt, but we have a full compliment of trainees in the workshop, rearing to go at 9am.

Of course, we always keep a wary eye out for hazards and aim to stay safe, regardless of the date, but why not make this a day to count our blessings?

We asked around the trainees, “What was the ‘luckiest’ thing that ever happened to you?” Continue reading “Friday the 13th”

Wisdom from the Workshop

by Justin Lau

‘Why doesn’t the Queen—’ [raises left hand] ‘—wave with this hand?

Because it’s mine!’

Laughter erupts around the table over steaming shepherd’s pie as jokes and banter flit across the room one after another like an impeccably coordinated symphony.

Except there’s no one conductor; everyone’s directing, everyone’s performing, everyone’s judging if the joke or remark is worthy of hoots or boos or awkward silences. Take what you have, bring it to the table, share it with everyone: a rich feast.

There’s one area where there’s no judgement involved, and that’s the lives of the lads’: past, present, future. What an array of experiences: the good, the bad, the ugly. How beautiful to see people come just as they are: take it, bring it, share it!

And every now and then, amid the good-natured banter, they let slip profound truths and wisdom, lessons they’ve learnt over the course of their lives. Though they might initially seem like just pithy comments, one senses that they’ve come from a deep, deep place of experience and reflection. Continue reading “Wisdom from the Workshop”

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.
Continue reading “A New Door”

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”.

Continue reading “Reaching Out”

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.

Continue reading “Turning life the right way up again: Anthony’s Story”