“We left the workshop feeling accomplished and proud of ourselves for what we had achieved and it’s the most wonderful feeling to know that this furniture will be given to people that really need it.”
Author: Lucy Kidson
I recently spent the day at one of our upcycling workshops that Habitat for Humanity Great Britain host as part of our Empty Spaces to Homes programme. These workshops are offered to groups of volunteers, often from a company or organisation, to come for a day out, where they will take old, donated furniture and transform them into high quality pieces to furnish our Empty Spaces to Homes properties. We are refurbishing these properties with Barking and Dagenham Council to house young people leaving care and have currently refurbished three properties with a fourth one that will be finished in January 2024.
Only 2% of social housing in the UK currently comes furnished, leaving new residents who are already experiencing financial hardship, struggling to find the funds to buy essential items such as a bed, fridge or wardrobe. Our upcycling workshops take away this financial barrier by providing the flats fully furnished to give young people leaving care the best start to their independent lives. It’s also an extremely environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to buying brand new furniture, as it reuses and recycles old furniture that would otherwise be thrown away.
We started the day out with a look at a vacant, derelict empty space similar to the spaces that have been renovated in our Empty Spaces to Homes programme. Here we saw before and after pictures from the derelict spaces to the new fully refurbished flats that were now housing young people who had just left the care system. It was incredible to see the difference and the transformation these spaces had undergone. Standing in the vacant property, it was hard to imagine it as a brand new fully refurbished flat, but that is exactly what this programme is doing, taking some of the worst looking properties and turning them into a modern and affordable flat that actually feels like home.
After seeing the amazing work that the Empty Spaces to Homes programme is doing, we headed back to the workshop to get stuck in to upcycling the furniture. Our site coordinator Ken led the day and was amazing at teaching us how to upcycle the furniture and just making it a really fun day for everyone. There was lots of furniture to upcycle, this included tv stands, chairs, bedside tables and a chest of drawers. We started off by sanding down the original paint/finish of the furniture, which takes a while as there are many layers that need to be sanded down. In the afternoon, we then started the painting, which was definitely the best part and felt so relaxing as we painted away whilst chatting and asking lots of questions around the programme. We painted three layers to get a high-quality look, and then once dry we started on the waxing of the paint to buff it up and give the furniture that high quality finish.
It was incredible to see the furniture at the end of the day, as the difference was amazing, and the furniture looked brand new. I couldn’t believe that I had actually done that myself. I’m not a very artistic person but I had taken something that was worn and old and turned it into a beautiful piece of furniture through my own hard work and creativity. We left the workshop feeling accomplished and proud of ourselves for what we had achieved and it’s the most wonderful feeling to know that this furniture will be given to people that really need it.
If you are interested in getting your company involved in a fun volunteering day out at one of our workshops, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I couldn’t recommend the upcycling workshops enough they are such a fun and meaningful day out and a great way to spend quality time with your colleagues, getting to know each other even more.
You can also find out more about our Empty Spaces to Homes programme here or download our toolkit below: