A wood recycling project is saving and transforming lives in Essex
New Life Wood, based at Wat Tyler Country Park in Pitsea, is a wood recycling project which provides volunteering opportunities to help to rehabilitate those with histories of mental health issues, crime or addiction.
The project helps deliver against the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC), Roger Hirst’s, priority to prevent crime, protect the vulnerable and reduce reoffending.
The volunteers can access the job market and vocational training, get support with CVs and job applications, as well as guidance in debt management.
During a three-month placement, they have the opportunity to work in the shop, workshop, on site or on the truck carrying wood collections.
For Stuart*, New Life Wood has given him an escape route from his abusive home environment and given his life purpose.
Diagnosed with a personality disorder and depression, he struggled to live a normal life, unable to attend college, to socialise, to sleep or to look after himself, leaving him feeling unvalued and isolated.
He said: “My confidence has greatly improved since coming to New Life Wood. People there are prepared to listen and to not judge me. My work at New Life Wood has given me purpose and I feel able to make a difference.
“I now know I have a place in society and have something of value to contribute. I no longer feel a burden to people and have been able to meet new people, build new relationships and gained new friends.”
The project is paid to collect waste wood from building sites along the Thames corridor which is then sold as it is, turned into firewood or made into wooden products to be sold to the public.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £18,000 to New Life Wood in the form of a crime and disorder reduction grant from the 2020-2021 Community Safety Development Fund to complete the building of a wood store. The PFCC invested £20,000 in previous years to the project.
Steve Currell, Chair of Trustees, is a retired Essex Police officer who has sat on the board of an NHS mental health trust, worked with detained patients reviewing their detention and advised prisoners on their finances in the past.
He said: “I saw people leaving detention and unable to get a job. Anyone who has been detained for mental health reasons or in prison, their confidence is going to be low and they will not have references to help them to find work. The risk is they will then go into a life of crime.
“We make a big impact on the people we work with. Some say they would have committed suicide if it were not for New Life Wood. People go on to get jobs and we see their confidence levels rise.
“The differences we make are significant.
“The funding support we have had from the PFCC has been huge; it is fantastic.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner said: “Projects like New Life Wood are not only important in keeping vulnerable people safe and away from crime but for improving our mental health. It has been a pleasure funding this project and it is great to hear people using it as a foundation to kickstart their lives and careers.”
*name has been changed