Emmaus Bristol

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A Companion-led initiative


A few weeks ago, Emmaus Bristol was invited to host 6 to 8 young Germans with disabilities spending some time in England on a work experience scheme.  Management and a small group of interested Companions met and put their heads together:  “What are we going to do with these people?  How can we occupy them usefully?” 6 main areas of work were identified at Emmaus Bristol: Woodworking, Electricals, Bike Maintenance, Retail, Warehousing and Vans.  A scheme emerged. The trainees would spend one week in each department being trained by Companions working in the relevant areas – a “taster” approach.

As plans for the visit evolved, the planners came up with a complementary scheme:  every new Companion would spend one week in each department and at the end of this would have discovered new areas of work, and have a good idea of what jobs they felt comfortable with and what they liked or disliked.  It was felt this was an enabling and in-depth way of allocating jobs to Companions and moving into exciting new areas, while teaching new skills both to Trainers and Trainees.  What’s more, we would get Government funding for our training.  Can’t be bad!

Two of our Trainers, Pat and Tony, are featured below:

Tony came to the Community full of ideas and soon specialised in creative woodwork, using scrap materials to make fun pieces of furniture – the trend in magazines such as “Your Home”.  He is our Mr Shabby Chic and you can see photos of items he has produced on our website (www.emmausbristol.org.uk).  His love of making old things new extends outside work, too.  A few weeks ago he bought an old boat and, having stripped her right back, is now in the process of rebuilding her.

Pat joined Emmaus Bristol in February 2011 intending to stay for a year, but the opportunity to use his skills and experience to train others has made him keen to stay longer.  With qualifications and experience dating back to 1970 in a wide variety of electrical and computing fields, he has been well placed to design a 5 day course to teach Companions practical electrical skills which will be both useful to them in everyday life (eg how to maintain electrical equipment in everyday use) and increase the value of the items we sell (eg by thoroughly cleaning white goods to food hygiene standards as well as PAT testing them). The training will combine a bought-in course with a video and on-line test, and hands-on experience in the workshop.  “A large part of what I’m trying to do with the course is to teach how things function so trainees will really understand how they work,” says Pat. Participants will receive a certificate and practical experience that will be recognised by employers.


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