Community Remake Futures

Ali’s Blog Piece: My past two years at Remake

My journey with Remake began in September 2018. When applying for the job I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was Remake was a charity with the aim of stopping usable “stuff” from entering landfill – stuff that could have a new life. This concept grabbed my interest instantly and was my initial reason for looking to become a part of the Remake team. I loved the idea of working for an organisation doing such great work for the community and even the planet – no matter how small the impact in the grand scheme of things. The opportunity was given to me by Community Jobs Scotland (CJS), a government funded initiative to help create job opportunities for young people aged 16-29. I was given this opportunity because of my struggles with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

As I walked in on day one, I was pleasantly surprised to be so warmly welcomed by all the staff and volunteers – the bright cheery energy made it much easier for me to settle in. This was especially important to me, at that time, because I struggled to initiate relationships with people because of my anxiety. Everyone here has really helped push that part of me down and find new confidence in myself.

Remake Staff

Instantly there was so much to get stuck in to. The sheer volume of donations and customers was quite overwhelming at first but I soon got into the swing of things. I got involved straight away learning the basics such as manning the till, collecting and delivering furniture, uploading to the Facebook page, general tidying around the store and accepting donations.

All donations that come into Remake are weighed to keep track of how much we have saved from landfill. The current total saved since the beginning of Remake is approximately 106 tonnes and in the past two years that I have been at Remake, we have saved 73 tonnes of that.

Remake is an everchanging environment and you must be willing and able to adapt along with the perpetual change. This helps to keep the job constantly interesting and ensures that you learn a wide variety of skills. You could be cleaning one day, working the till the next and then arranging collections and deliveries.

My favourite thing about Remake is all the relationships I have developed with everyone. I have grown very close to both volunteers and staff. I have even built relationships with some of our more regular customers. The community aspect of Remake is very special – it is a place for people from all walks of life to come together and put their effort in to making a difference locally. Sometimes customers will buy an item in need of some attention and with a bit of work completely transform it. They inspire me to do the same and challenge me to explore my creativity, something I believe to be hugely valuable for mental wellbeing.

Before I knew it my first year had flown by! I felt proud of how far I had come in my journey in my CJS role. When I had first come into Remake I had struggled to talk to customers, hated answering the phone and was not confident in my own abilities at all. But being encouraged to constantly push myself out of my comfort zone really helped to highlight and develop my existing skills and show me what I could achieve. This meant that soon I was answering the phone no problem, laughing with customers and doing things I could not have imagined doing when I initially walked through the door. One example of this was being solely responsible for running the Pop-Up Scrapstore in Perth – a temporary small shop that was open on Saturdays in partnership with Zero Waste Perth with a selection of craft materials, tools, fabric and more. This was my first major step in gaining more self-assurance.

As my initial funded year was coming to an end, I began having to start thinking about what I would like to do after my time at Remake. I found myself at a loss – I could not think of anywhere I would rather be than Remake, so I was delighted when I was offered the chance to become a more permanent member of the team with funding from Ellis Campbell Foundation. I have now been working at Remake for two years including my first CJS funded year and it has absolutely flown by.

Since being offered my position as a full-time member of the Remake team, my responsibilities have increased and I can confidently say I have become an essential part of the team. Some of the extra responsibilities I have undertaken include writing and delivering a training programme for new staff and volunteers, writing feasibility studies for projects aimed at developing the growth of Remake, assisting with setting up and running the new online store on eBay and occasionally taking charge in managing the day to day running of the Scrapstore. That level of independence would have certainly been too much to handle for me two years ago – but now I can take it in my stride, one step at a time.

Working closely with Luke (a member of staff currently funded by CJS) has been a great chance to develop my mentoring skills. Seeing Luke go through the same process I have and being part of his development has been exciting. Mentoring Luke has been not only a great experience for me but has also worked as a way of reflecting how far I have come since starting here at Remake. I look forward to continuing to work alongside new CJS staff members and be a part of their journey as they grow in to more confident and qualified individuals.

Over my time here I have learnt so much and achieved some handy life skills. I am now first aid trained and a qualified PAT tester (a procedure to check the safety of electrical equipment). Other skills I have learned include basic upholstery skills, sewing and working with power tools. I am also frequently given the responsibility of cashing up the till at the end of the day which has improved my abilities in money management.

One thing I have really enjoyed is researching the value of some of the more specialised items we receive. One example of an interesting donation we have had was a mixture of various WWI and WWII memorabilia. This included a bullet from an M1 Carbine and a WW1 field syringe. Another couple of items that really stood out to me was a 19th Century meat carving set in surprisingly good condition for its age and a rifle bayonet dated 1876 on an inscription across the blade. I find these little pieces of history so intriguing and look forward to expanding my knowledge more on all sorts of antique and specialised items.

Personally, I think the most valuable thing I have learned is customer service skills. It is the most important skill to me because it is something I have always struggled with. This has helped me to develop my people skills both in and out of work. I now feel much more confident meeting new people and can let my guard down a lot more easily. I feel the benefits of delivering great customer service as customers will approach me and be extremely thankful for the service I have provided – these sorts of interactions really can make my day.

Another skill I have improved is my time management skills as I often have many tasks which need to be completed during a day. This can be challenging for a small team, but I am good at weighing up the urgency of each task and making sure I give myself the time to complete things based on how urgent they are. The delegation of other duties to other staff and volunteers can also help to free up my schedule and is something I do still struggle with. However, I am getting better at it. I have learned that it helps to know the strengths of your team so that you can give the right tasks to the right person.

Remake has recently begun trading online. It was always under consideration, but it was really kickstarted when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK. We quickly realised the importance of having an online store as Remake had lost all its income streams. After a bit of research, we opted for opening an eBay store. This has been a great development for Remake. It has opened us up to a wider audience which has vastly expanded our ability to spread our message of reuse. For me personally, getting stuck into developing the online shop and Facebook page have helped to teach me the importance for businesses to have an online presence in the modern world. It also has opened my eyes to all the difficulties you face when trying to provide excellent customer service on a virtual platform. However, because of my time with Remake, I have learned to quickly adapt to new situations and therefore have been able to find solutions to any problems that have popped-up, with the help of the rest of the Remake team.

Remake is a place of perpetual change and being able to adapt quickly to new situations is vital here. My technical skills were already quite good before starting at Remake but have improved due to all the online work I have done. I can now navigate the management of an eBay store – something which I would consider doing myself in the future, so this has been beneficial for me.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work for a charity that is doing such valuable work. It is something that is very close to my heart because I am passionate about living sustainably and trying to educate other people to do the same. I believe organisations within the “circular economy” (as it is coined) are essential for our modern society. We live in a world that is currently hugely wasteful. It is not sustainable to continue over-producing and over-consuming in the way that many people currently are. Even recycling everything is damaging to our planet because of the energy and time required for the recycling process. Reuse “Scrapstores” or organisations with a similar set up to Remake are a great way of tackling this problem.

Education is another key solution for both young and old – more people need to know the importance of reuse and repair. Once something is broken it does not need to be the end of its life. The skills required for repairing things need to be taught to all generations – especially younger generations as they are the future. This would help to increase the lifespan of all items and in turn save money for everyone. So, it is not only beneficial for the environment but also for our wallets. Lower income families and young people can benefit from this hugely as they might not have the money to buy everything brand new when say, furnishing a home.

Currently I believe reuse is not talked about enough because it is an excellent solution to the world’s waste problems. We need to discuss it more and more, get it in the public eye, shop second hand, fix things and make reuse mainstream!

The reuse sector is one that will inevitably grow – I have already noticed huge growth just here at Remake in the past two years. Being a part of the Remake team really opens your eyes, in and out of work, to the problems we face as a society. It forces you to think twice about your own impact on the planet and what you can do to make a difference.

All in all, I have loved my past two years at Remake and hope there are many more to come – I still cannot imagine working anywhere else. However, should the day ever come that my time with Remake comes to an end, I feel prepared and confident to move on to whatever lies ahead of me.

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