The Dreamshack, as our little workshop is known, began as a hobby with a few mates that grew and grew. Last year we had to make some grown up decisions about where to go with it, either shut the expensive doors, or set up as a "proper" business. We thought about setting up a car maintenance club or trying to do something else with this unwieldy and expensive thing that would be worthwhile. The shack had been our life, and we poured every spare penny we had into it, but we lacked direction .
It seemed almost fate that we ended up at Headley Court as we were going through this process, and in one afternoon, everything became clear. Headley Court is a rehab centre for wounded service personnel, and we went up with a couple of car clubs to give the lads and lasses a petrolhead fix.
When I came home that evening I sat down with karen and the kids and told them about those yound lads and lasses - and what they were facing going foward with their lives, there were a few tears.
Karen and the kids immediately said we should be doing that kind of thing all the time - so that evening we sat down on the floor, armed with a roll of wallpaper and marker pens, and started brainstorming and scrawling ideas on it as we went, complete with illustrations from the kids
Several months later, ideas laid down on the back of some wallpaper have borne fruit.
From a daft idea we have developed a charity that will not only be getting all sorts of disabled, disadvantaged, and life - limited people out for some real challenges and adventure with proper participation and interaction, but we are also offering workshop experiences for the same people who wish to come and get their hands dirty
Also the general running of the charity behind the scenes, all the design, building and maintenance of the vehicles and equipment is carried out by volunteers, as well as community service personnel giving something back to society and gaining pride in doing something for a good cause, as well as long term unemployed on training and mentoring schemes with us.
This is an important second aim for us, there are too many young people out there with no qualifications or skills, and little prospect of a job. We aim to restore their self esteem, build a work ethic and pride, and to bring their basic key skills up to a standard, in addition to giving them specific training in all aspects of the work environment, interview skills, CV and reference help, and to use our connections to find them a job placement at the end of the course.
We have had our first success in this, and our only paid employee is to be Joe, a lad who started with us on work experience and has been a terrific asset, so now he is to be the first of hopefully many Shack apprentices.
For more info on our work experience programmes download the overview PDF in the downloads section, just click the free downloads tab