On the road to a brighter future

14 August 2019 | Midlands

Bardsley Youth Project

Unique classic car restoration giving youngsters hope.

Young people are revving up for a brighter future thanks to a unique classic car restoration scheme.

A team of youngsters at Bardsley Youth Project are working to get a traditional Mini and a Triumph Herald back on the road.

Along the way they learn about teamwork, as well as developing skills that will help them find jobs in the future.

“At the end of the day we want to show them what they are capable of with their hands, plus their hearts and minds,” says Simon Ree, from Bardsley Youth, which works with young people at risk of homelessness.

“It can be hard to keep a young person engaged. But this project seems to be fostering a sense of pride that keeps them coming back.”

The scheme initially came about after Coventry Transport Museum donated a 1982 Mini, nicknamed Bluebell, for young people to work on.

The project evolved organically and they are now working on their second car, a Triumph Herald. They rent a space and had all their tools donated, or grant-funded. Those involved have gained confidence, social skills, practical and decision making abilities.

Simon adds: “They are developing practical skills and experience, which will help them find work, as well as learning about teamwork and gaining the wellbeing and mental health benefits of working in a team.

“We have one girl who now even plans on becoming a mechanic. When she came to us her parents were about to lose their house, and her mother was terminally ill. She wasn’t in a good place. She came here and at first she just sat back and watched.

“But in one year she learnt so much, and got the confidence she needed. Now, she’ll happily pick up the spanner and get going. We are trying to get her on a work placement as mechanic.”

Bardsley Youth helps young people who are not in employment, education or training and those facing homelessness aged between 16 and 25. They regularly engage with more than 120 young people at any one time. They take young people off the streets and put them into emergency accommodation and visit them in hostels.

Simon first became involved when he needed help as a youngster himself.

As a young boy, he was powerless, rudderless and unhappy at home. He started attending the Bardsley Youth Project at the age of 12, started working there in 2006 and is currently their youth and homeless hub worker.

He says: “If you’re a young person who is homeless, it can be a scary, stressful and depressing time. But we will take them in and start the process of getting them back on their feet. Whatever it takes.

“When you don’t have a safe place to live everything becomes impossible. It even becomes hard to attend college, because if you have not had a good night’s sleep, you can’t concentrate. If you go for days without sleep, you end up dropping out. It’s a downward spiral.

“But it’s amazing when you see them doing well. It lets you know that you are not just wasting your time when you see the impact. But everyone deserves the chance to live in safety and the opportunity to hold down a job.

“I regularly tell people that without the opportunities I had, I’d probably be in prison or dead. When I first came along, I felt no adult had ever given me a chance. But I found a refuge here and they saw the potential in me. Now I have a wife and two fabulous kids and am holding down a job that helps other people who were like me and give them that same chance.”

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