re:work celebrates 20 years in Knowle West

By Community Reporter Ian Watt

Charity re:work is celebrating 20 years in Knowle West running environmental projects from re-use to energy saving – and helping young people “get back on track.”

Starting out on the site where The Park is now, the organisation was formerly called South Bristol Community Construction Company (SBCCC).

It moved to its current office on Filwood Broadway in 2001 and started offering gardening contracts under the name Grow and Mow (now re:grow).

On the opposite side of the Broadway, re:store was opened in 2003, taking donated items of furniture and renovating and revamping them to sell in the shop.

The organisation changed its name to re:work in 2005 “because SBCCC didn’t fit any more.”

Chief Executive Vicky Beckwith has been with the organisation for 11 years and says although they also work with adults in the community –  a key role is helping young people facing the potential of exclusion from the school system or where “everything has broken down.”

She explains: “We offer long term work experience. It is a mixture of youth work and mentoring. The young people work in all aspects of our charity, alongside adults with a maximum ratio of two young people to one grown up.

“They work in real businesses – with our gardeners, in our shop or café (re:fill at Filwood Community Centre). They get to solve day to day problems, learn to use tools, learn how to talk to people… receive a thank you from a customer, and get to help their community…

“There is a lot of learning life skills, like working out change, using the telephone, cooking a meal…”

Re:work is not a large charity employing a full-time fundraiser, it’s very much all hands on deck for many tasks. There are currently 12 employees – 75 per cent  live in South Bristol and 40 live in Knowle West –  and 15 regular volunteers each week including the young people.

Vicky feels re:work has grown through understanding the needs of the community over the time it has been in the area.

She says: ‘‘We’ve changed so much – mostly through listening to the service-users.”

The charity has run substance abuse projects in the past, maintains the grounds at the Health Park and tends to the gardens of elderly people, “kids really value learning to use a mower.”

It also helps local people reduce their energy bills with a project called re:draught and find work through its re:focus project.

In the future Vicky says they would love to help see “solar energy used more widely on the estate, have some more big gardening contracts and the opportunity to work closely with a new recycling centre if one opens nearby.”