I’m an upcycling volunteer at Emmaus Bradford. I first started volunteering at Emmaus Bradford when there was shop near me in Undercliffe in 2016. I used to walk in and ask whether they needed help with anything. I liked talking to customers, and helping people pick outfits. One woman stopped me in the city centre only recently because she remembered me doing this years ago. I like helping others and dressing in my own kind of hippy style.
Emmaus Bradford wasn’t equipped for upcycling back then, but when I came into the shop in the city centre recently, they were really keen on upcycling. In six months, I have worked on tables, drop leafs, units and nests of tables; furniture that wouldn’t have sold because of its condition. I don’t just varnish, I like doing furniture multi-coloured, in oranges and blues, for example. The way I see it, we all need more brightness in our lives. One of the first items I did, sold for a hundred and odd pounds to support the charity.
The best part about volunteering is socialising and meeting people. I’ve got a lot of empathy for people around me. If it wasn’t for Emmaus Bradford, I would just be sitting at home because I’m retired now. I need to be out there in the community. The expenses from volunteering buy my dinner, yes, but that’s not why I’m doing it. It gives you that get up and go. It’s somewhere to go and something to do, and it’s rewarding to have finished a piece of upcycling and sell it for a good cause, at the end of it all.
On a typical day, I go into the shop and greet everyone and have a chat about the projects I’ve been upcycling and how they’ve been selling. I work on my own upstairs, so I don’t see many people unless I stop for a coffee. Then I get my stuff prepared: paints, sandpaper and such , and make up all the colours that I’m going to use. I get my ideas together. I might go into the shop one day and just plan for the next week or go look around the shop to see what’s been in a while and hasn’t sold so I can restore it. There’s a lot that you can do just by changing the handles on some of my furniture projects. It’s all about saving money and making money for charity, and helping how I can.
I like doing volunteer upcycling projects that jump out at people and are a bit funky. For Emmaus Bradford’s community househouse people want to go somewhere nice and bright, because they’ve lived in darkness for such a long time when they’ve been homeless. I like making my upcycling colourful. There’s not a lot of colour in your life when you have lived on the streets.
I was born in Bradford and lived a life where I didn’t have anything. I came from a deprived background. I know what it’s like to be victimised, bullied and feel different and frightened to ask for things. I can relate to people who haven’t got anything. I’ve never been homeless, but I’ve lived in a property with no gas and no electric, having to borrow from Peter to pay Paul. I’ve brought up two children up on my own, worked around the clock and overcome cancer. You’ve got to keep pushing and not give in. If you can give back, do it. It’s not costing you anything but your time and imagination. Volunteering for Emmaus Bradford gets someone off the streets to a better life.