Routes to Opportunity PLUS is an initiative that offers young people an opportunity to gain accredited training and work-based experiences in a positive and engaging environment. It has been running since January 2016 and is a partnership facilitated by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Youth Service and Milford Youth Matters, with their main base at Milford Haven Youth Centre.
The Routes to Opportunity PLUS project runs a number of social enterprises, all with a focus on sustainability.
The group built a garden allotment on some waste land and it now includes raised beds, a polytunnel and a garden shed made by young people. They also use the compost produced in the garden, reuse collected rain water, and use the produce grown in the garden in their café.
Spokes is an enterprise that restores old donated bikes, making them available to those who may struggle to purchase new bikes. When they met Jane, the local coordinator, they asked whether Renew Wales could help with this part of their work. Through an action planning process, the group highlighted the need to learn from more established projects about how to improve, about their ambitions to become more financially sustainable, how to reach out more effectively to the community, gain support and expand their volunteer base to bring in other skills that are required.
Andrew Burns is a Renew Wales mentor and was happy to share his experience and knowledge with this group. With his support they visited Cycle Training Wales’ base in Cardiff where they heard about different ideas that could be used to expand their own venture and Andrew passed on some practical suggestions for the group to take forward if they wished. The project has gone from strength to strength and encompasses several aspects to their services including; Young people can borrow bikes to help them get to work or college; schools can use bikes for cycling proficiency training; the workshop repairs bikes using reclaimed parts; and young volunteers share their skills with community members on how to restore bikes and repair them instead of simply replacing.
Spokes enterprise has recycled and maintained over 300 bikes utilising over 600 spare parts since the beginning of the project.
Another exciting element of the Routes to Opportunity project is that through their woodwork enterprise, the group utilises reclaimed pallets donated from businesses within the community and transforms them into a variety of products including garden planters, wine racks and bird boxes. These are then sold to generate a revenue source, which of course, helps with the sustainability of the project. To date they have reclaimed around 500 of them- a great total!
“I feel like I have more of a day to day purpose. The Routes to Opportunity project has made a difference to me by gaining an added sense of purpose as well as qualifications. The project is helping me to put more thought into my plan for the future.” Milford Youth Matters member.
Routes to Opportunity PLUS young people are also working on a global citizenship project which involves building wooden crates from old pallets. They’re doing this with partner, Tools for Self-Reliance Wales, who fill the crates with tools and equipment to be used in developing countries to train people in trades such as carpentry. So far they’ve created over twenty five crates. The young people are an important part of this larger scheme, and by utilising their resources and skills they are being offered further valuable opportunities to participate in something ‘real’ on a global scale.
“During my time on the Routes to Opportunity, I enjoyed finding myself as a person again not just a parent, I also enjoyed meeting new people. I now have qualifications and experience for my C.V and I have the confidence to apply for jobs and I have found a career path. This project was important to me because it has given me a routine and something to focus on when I was going through a massive transition.”Milford Youth Matters member.
Milford Youth Matters has recently got back in touch with Renew Wales through our social media activity and we are exploring how to support them to improve their communications around living sustainably and how to promote the environmental element of their work more effectively. Additionally, they are keen to share their knowledge and experiences with others and could become part of the Renew Wales mentoring network themselves!
The Routes to Opportunity PLUS scheme is also funded by the National Lottery Community Fund (formerly Big Lottery) through the People and Places fund.
For more information contact Dayle Gibby, Milford Youth Matters Co-ordinator. 01646 663137 or [email protected]