Can you tell us a brief history of TuffCycle and how your own experiences led you to start the company?
TuffCycle was officially founded in 2015, and was born out of a small woodworking project I was involved in running at a local temporary accommodation hostel.
We found that the creative, hands-on process of making a piece of furniture/household item was hugely beneficial to the people we were working with.
Through listening to the experiences of the people we were working with, we realised that there was more we could do. We wanted to formalise all the experience participants were gaining into a work experience programme that could be added to a CV. In addition, through talking to participants, we realised that this experience was only really impactful if it could be recognised and communicated - so we began including employability sessions on things like CV writing and interview skills.
Now we’re expanding our offer to include short term paid employment with the aim of being able to provide long term sustainable employment to people who want to develop their career with us.
Homelessness is something I’ve always cared about and from listening to the experiences of each person we’ve worked with I understand there can be many paths into homelessness. Whether it’s a sudden loss of employment or a change in personal circumstances or something slower and more complex - I know that there is much more as a society we could be doing to help people break from their situation into a more fulfilling life, which is something everyone deserves.
What are the benefits of TuffCycle work for the participants?
All of our participants are experiencing homelessness, or are at risk of being homeless in the future. Many have been out of work for a long time, leading to a loss of skills and a loss of confidence.
Through participating in the programme, people are gaining practical, recent work experience that they can use to boost job applications. We provide a safe space to rebuild confidence around work, and to help participants to identify and develop the skills they have. They gain industry-specific skills such as manufacturing techniques, but also soft skills like time management and teamwork that they can take into whichever job they pursue.
Not all of the people we work with are ready for work straight away - they have more immediate needs, such as finding permanent housing and working on physical or mental health difficulties. But our organisation equips participants with the practical tools they need to find work once they are able, rather than getting stuck in a situation where they are at risk of repeat homelessness.
Do the participants create their own designs or do they follow a brief?
Our products have been specifically created to incorporate a number of key skills, so most find it useful to start with one of our own products to develop their abilities with manufacturing techniques, tools, equipment and other things like safety and working in a professional environment.
After the first product most people start to explore more creatively, whether its creating their own brief or tailoring one of our products. It’s positive for people to express their creativity so we try to accommodate that with what’s being made.
If we wanted to volunteer for TuffCycle how would we go about this?
We’re always looking to welcome new volunteers to the team. We have a range of roles advertised on our do-it page https://do-it.org/organisations/tuffcycle, or anyone interested in getting involved can get in touch by messaging us via our website http://www.tuffcycle.org/volunteer/
What would volunteering involve?
We have different roles available, and as a small team we are keen to get people with lots of different skills and backgrounds who want to make an impact.
Volunteering could involve anything from supporting participants in the workshop, to providing administrative support, to helping out at sales events.
The main things a volunteer needs is commitment and enthusiasm!
What's next for TuffCycle? Are there any new projects in the near future?
It’s an exciting time for TuffCycle. We’re currently working on expanding the number of people we are working with, and are developing new projects, including providing longer term work experience.
As we increase our networks with services in our region, we’re looking forward to being part of a holistic, meaningful approach which will have a direct impact on the lives of people we work with.
We will also be launching some exciting new products over the upcoming months - including more homewares and furniture - to support our work.
Anyone who wants to stay up to date on the latest news can visit our website http://www.tuffcycle.org/ or follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TuffCycleCIC/, Instagram https://www.instagram.com/tuffcycle/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/TuffCycle.Check out more of TuffCycle here - www.tuffcycle.org