This group are young people (aged between 11-16) from different schools and education provisions in Blaenau Gwent, who are currently receiving support from Youth Workers on the Inspire 2 Achieve Project. There are between 10 and 30 of young people (depending on how many turn up for a session!) They have a go at lots of activities including learning life skills like cooking, working in a team and having a go at qualifications that will help them in the future. They also address emotional wellbeing and so projects around gardening and other physical activities help with that. Some of the group are taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
Sam, the Renew Wales coordinator discussed many ideas with them but they settled on doing ‘upcycling’ in some form! They realised that several different elements could feature in this project; strong environmental links as they would be using local ‘waste’ and natural materials from woodlands or beach area; the up-skilling of both pupils and staff in a very practical way; the element of enterprise if they were to sell the items and finally, reaching out to the local community at the Christmas Fayre with the items produced.
Sam felt it offered an opportunity to undertake a project that not only engaged the students but also involved and trained teachers so that the lessons and skills learned are passed on to future students. While from Renew Wales’s perspective this was a very focused, time-limited intervention, involving 3 workshops during November-December 2018, the hope is that the skills students gained will serve them well into the future.
During the first practical workshop the young people learnt how to use tools safely and saw examples of what can be made with recycled materials. The they were taken to Merthyr Mawr beach: it has to be said that not all the young people were enthusiastic about being on a beach on a cold December day but once they got running up and down the huge sand dunes they seemed more engaged and prepared to take part! While they were there they collected litter and talked about its impact on the environment and wildlife and of course gathered as much drift wood as they could for the project.
During a second workshop they made larger items and also learnt how to use larger power tools. They created items they felt would be popular at the Christmas fayre (tree decorations, wall hangings and mini trees) where they were hoping to raise some money for local charities and the youth club. This project also offered us as a programme the opportunity to bring in a new mentor with experience and expertise in upcycling of waste materials and training. Jess (from Transition Cardiff) thoroughly enjoyed her experiences with the group and found it very rewarding. She observed some 'softer' outcomes fromworking with the young people too:
"...a tangible increase in the confidence of many of the youngsters, especially when they saw others doing things and takin part. They also communicated and engaged more effectively as the workshops went on."