Hands On Project

Hands On

Project co-ordinator Mags Shevlin from LATCH recently took part in an interview with InspireLeeds.com .
Here is what she said:

Please tell us about yourself Mags:
My name is Mags Shevlin and I am the Hands On project coordinator. I’ve lived in Chapeltown for about 14 years. I’ve done a variety of jobs over the last few years, mostly in the voluntary sector, from working with people with mental health problems to working on community health activities and social enterprises providing gardening services for older people. Businesses. I am really passionate about environmental issues and about giving people opportunities who have not had a lot of opportunities in their lives.
Latch Hands On Project
Please tell us about the Hands On project and your role in it:
The project is a new project its called Hands On and it started in September 2008. We are transforming a derelict building in Chapeltown, renovating it, doing a eco-renovation to make it into a community skills workshop. At the moment we are really busy with the renovation, we have volunteers who are doing work on it. These volunteers are getting the chance to develop skills and Hands On experience and they will hopefully then progress onto doing other things.
The building now has a new roof, a new floor and we are also doing a lot of timber-framing to make sure its well insulated. We are aiming to use recycled and reclaimed natural materials where ever we can, and we want the building, when its complete, to be energy and resource efficient.
When the building is complete we will be running different courses and activities there. Courses such as basic joinery, simple home maintenance and DIY activities, plastering, tiling and also activities based around encouraging people to do things to reduce their environmental impact and they will hopefully be starting around September / October 2009. We plan to have a big launch in September 2009.
As I said I am the project coordinator and there is another worker named Dan Chaplin and he does the work onsite working with the volunteers, doing all of the practical stuff and a lot of the design work for the project.

Latch Hands On Project Please could you tell us about the history of the project:
The staff at LATCH have done a lot of the work to get the project off the ground.
It started from an idea thinking about the needs of the LATCH tenants for example many of them do not have jobs and how LATCH could help people gain skills and experience that could help them get into employment. One of the ideas was to have a community workshop that people could go and develop skills and experience. It has taken several years of work, for example there was a lot of ‘red tape’ with obtaining the necessary planning permissions as it is a listed building so there was a lot of issues around that. We also had to make sure we had the local community on board. Then we had to get all of the funding in place, obtain quotes for all of the building work. So as you can see even though the building work started in August 2008, there was a lot that had to be done before that.

LATCH Hands On project What can your volunteers gain from this experience:
There are many different things that the volunteers can gain from the experience. For example they now have the experience of working on a construction site, learning different skills, e.g. at the moment they are learning how to make timber frames so they now have the experience of measuring, cutting and fastening timber together. When we get further down the line with the project, there will be other opportunities to do things such as plastering, painting and decorating. There will be lots of different things at different stages of the Hands On project. That covers the practical aspects of the construction skills, we are also encouraging people to go on short construction courses at Leeds College of Building. One of our volunteers went on a brick laying course recently and she really enjoyed that, she even brought back a great photo of a wall that she had made ! We are also offering some of our volunteers the chance to get their V50, a certificate that proves they have done 50 hours of volunteering, and all volunteers who stay with us for a minimum of 4 weeks will also get the chance to sit their health and safety test and gain their CSCS card which enables them to work on a construction site. The CSCS card is now a prerequisite for working on construction sites.
There are also many other valuable outcomes such as gaining confidence, meeting new people, trying new things and just getting out and doing something each day. There are lots of different reasons why people come onto the Hands On project and they do get a lot out of it.

LATCH Hands On Project What would you like the Hands On project to achieve in the future:
In the future we have a mission for the project to become a community building firm. The idea is that people can come along to the workshop, start to gain skills, go on to other training, become apprentices in the community building firm and then go out and do jobs for people who cannot do it themselves. For example the elderly and people with disabilities. We would like to provide a reliable and affordable service for them. That is a few years away but we are aiming to make it financially sustainable so that it will last beyond the grant funding. We are very lucky we have grant funding for 5 years but we dont want the project to just come and go when that funding has run out.
We have lots of ideas about what we want to do with the Hands On project and we want lots of people to get involved with the project especially local people. The waiting list for volunteers to help on the renovation is closed at the moment because we have had so much interest but we will have opportunities for people to volunteer again in the future. That might be on the renovation or when we have the centre up and running. By then we will be running different courses and activities from September / October, so there will be lots of opportunities then if people are interested and want to come along and get involved.

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