Diamonds in the Ruff

21 November 2018 | North West England

Ruff and Ruby - Dawn Reynolds, Nicola Belford, Gill Langley, Marie Jackson, Lizzie Fry

This brilliant shop helps young people gain employment with life coaching, mentoring sessions, makeovers and CV writing classes.

It’s the innovative shop in Stoke-on-Trent offering hope and a future to the young people of the city. Ruby Girl and Ruff Diamonds helps young people to gain employment, by offering one to one life coaching and mentoring sessions, makeovers, craft afternoons and programmes including a “love me” course.

“Stoke on Trent is a city with a massive heart, and young people are at the heart of that,” says the charity’s founder and manager, Dawn Reynolds.

Dawn set up the charity in 2010, in a bid to improve self-esteem for the city’s young people, by offering a range of programmes to help them reach their potential. It is a fantastic example of when people help people - the whole community thrives.

“It’s always possible to help young people, and I just wanted to make a difference and give young people heart and hope,” she says.

One of the projects they offer is the VIP one, which stands for Valued Individual Person.

“This is where we help a young person who may live in poverty, for example,” she says. “We’ll send a team to their home and give their bedroom a makeover. One simple thing like that can change their lives forever – they get to see there is hope. Our motto is ‘twinkle don’t twerk’. We’re forever seeing people twerking in music videos and on TV. We say, ‘twinkle, shine, raise your aspirations.”

The social enterprise centre in the shopping mall is a booming success. With a kids’ play area, young parents can attend a literacy morning run by teachers or take classes on how to write a CV.

It also runs as a shop, with a coffee bar, selling vintage and customised clothes, trainer bar, nail bar and bicycle repair shop. All money generated from sales goes back into the shop.

“The café and bike shop offers a great way for young people to come in and volunteer, gaining valuable work experience,” says Dawn. “We may see people who’ve been in trouble with the police or dropped out of school and are struggling by on benefits, who thought their life was over, gaining such valuable life experiences. You see the smiles and hope returning to them.”

Dawn is immensely proud of the young people who’ve worked with the charity.

“Two success stories are one young man who worked in the bike shop, is now working full time for Halfords, and another is in the probation service,” she smiles. “We always tell them, you matter. It’s about progression, not perception. Look to the future, don’t dwell on the past.”

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