Enterprize workshops teach valuable life skills

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Connecting Ripon is network of local charities and social enterprises which offers opportunities for local community services to come together, to innovate, connect and co-ordinate activities for the benefit of local communities within Ripon and the surrounding villages.

Our focus this month is on network member Jennyruth Workshops based at Bridge Hewick.

Jennyruth Workshops, a social enterprise and productive craft not for profit business, is a vibrant and challenging workplace where adults with a learning disability or autism learn a wide range of transferable work and life skills tailored to their individual needs and abilities.

Much of the craft work involves the use of wood, but workers are also supported to develop practical skills in metalwork, sewing, card making and art. Emphasis is also given to communication skills which are used in the marketing and selling of their quality products or when giving talks and presentations. The motto “Learning Working” provides workers with the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the business, from sourcing materials, product design and to office administration, marketing and retail sales.

Workers are also involved in fundraising and social activities, and have a representative on the Board of Trustees. Although based at Bridge Hewick, the Workshops provide the workers with every opportunity to be active participants, in the local community in which they live and the wider environment, working with other organisation such as schools, churches, other charities and businesses.

Jennyruth Workshops has been awarded the prestigious Duke of York’s Community Initiative Award for the second time, an award presented to organisations that are of real value to the community, and an inspiration to others.

The practical work is supported by a range of educational courses, some accredited, run internally or by external bodies, covering topics such as health and safety, literacy, numeracy, communication and IT.

These all prepare workers for the life and work experiences that they might expect to be challenged by over a lifetime.

One such course offered which has been particularly enjoyed recently, has focused on “business studies and development”.

This course, run by an experienced tutor from the WEA, has combined the practical, educational and community based aspects of Jennyruth Workshops with a series of environmental issues which could be easily understood by the workers.

The decline in the hedgehog population gave the opportunity for the workers to research the topic and extends the range of habitat products by designing and constructing a new hedgehog home.

Workers planned and delivered a workshop on the plight of hedgehogs to children in a local primary school, and established an ongoing working relationship with a local wildlife rescue centre. It was not only advice and knowledge that was gained but also the experience of seeing and handling rescued hedgehogs.

Towards Christmas, the robin was announced as our new national bird. This theme was developed, and the workers wrote a story about a robin which was used as the basis for extending the Christmas card range, designing and producing a new style robin box and visiting a local nursing home to share their story and newly acquired knowledge with the residents.

Outreach work is particularly valuable, building self-confidence and increasing the involvement of the workers in the local community.

The latest addition to the ever popular range of bird boxes is a goosander box, standing waist high with an entrance the size of a plate, now on the banks of the River Ure in a local nature reserve.

Recently the workers learnt about the decline in the bee population from a local artist and bee expert, and were able to contribute their practical work to a wider educational art project to go on display in the area later in the year.

The production of a new solitary bee house was linked to Valentine’s Day and a gift pack was made and delivered to retail outlets for sale.

One of the unique features of Jennyruth Workshops is the service offered to design and build bespoke work. Commissions for specific orders are relished by the workforce and give a sense of pride and ownership in the work done.

The purchase of a laser cutter has widened the range and quality of products available and also provided new experiences and learning opportunities for the workers.

To volunteer phone 01765 606620.

Jennyruth Workshops relies heavily on volunteers who bring their various skills to support the staff. This may be hands-on in the Workshops alongside disabled workers, or in other roles such as sales, fundraising, as trustees, marketing and producing newsletters. Offers of additional volunteers are always welcomed and anyone considering this is invited to visit the Workshops and see what goes on.

Jennyruth Workshops is a not-for-profit business and registered charity and has to supplement income by undertaking fundraising events and seeking grants in order to continue to offer the services it provides. Donations from very many loyal supporters and organisations have enabled the enterprise to become the thriving and respected enterprise that it is today.

The annual golf day in Ripon, to be held on July 7, still has places available. There are also places available for runners in this year’s Great North Run with support and transport provided by the Workshops. Details for both these events are available by contacting the Workshops on 01765 606620 or email info@jennyruth.co.uk