Welcome to Cadwyn’s staff blog series, Spotlight.
This is where you can find out all about Cadwyn’s fantastic staff and the incredible work they do. Expect to hear from lots of different departments including Neighbourhood, Corporate Services, Supported Housing, Temporary Housing and much more. We hope you enjoy reading about our fantastic staff and that you gain an insight into what Cadwyn life is like.
Today, we’re hearing from Ben Hodge – over to you Ben.
Hi, I’m Ben and I’m the project manager for NuLife Furniture. NuLife is Cadwyn’s carpentry and affordable furniture project. Day to day we take in donations of furniture and white goods, test and clean them, and then sell them on affordably to people from all over Cardiff, from all walks of life. We also run a training workshop where people can learn to carry out basic repairs on furniture, and eventually build things from scratch. This could be a small coffee table, a park bench, or even a bunk bed.
I started working with Cadwyn about six years ago, as a tenancy support officer, helping our tenants keep a roof over their head by working through difficult times in their lives, before that I worked in homeless hostels in Cardiff. NuLife was started as a joint idea to take furniture from our void properties and move it into the homes of people who were lacking household essentials.
I got into the sector by volunteering for Advocacy Matters Wales. At the time I was working in an admin job for the university and felt like I needed to make a career move, but it was tough to break into the third sector with no career history, so I took up unpaid work three times a week supporting people with learning disabilities to have an input into their housing, care plans and relationships. Through this, I got work with the local authority in hostels and eventually outreach support, which brought me to work with Cadwyn back in 2012.
Working at NuLife can sometimes be a huge challenge. Demand always outstrips supply, and more often than not we’re turning people who need furniture or essential household items away, or asking them to come back in a few days when the next deliveries are rolling in. It’s tough, but we always get there eventually, and where we can we’ll plug the gap with an airbed and a mini hob or a microwave until we can get something a bit more permanent in place for them. On the flipside though, day in day out we’re improving people’s prospects, whether it’s by giving them a bed to sleep in on the first night in their new home or a fridge so they can keep fresh food at home.
The main goal for us at the moment is to become financially viable and independent. We’ve got funding for another ten months, but we want the project and all the good it does to outlast that funding so we can keep on driving change at a grassroots level, changing people’s lives through our volunteer opportunities and our massively affordable furniture. As well as our core work of furnishing homes and supporting marginalised people back to work, or at least out of isolation, people might not know that we run a full carpentry workshop and have fitted out coffee shops, retail spaces, and even local temples with our handmade furniture.
The one thing I’d say to anyone looking to get into any role in social housing or the third sector, is to get out there and volunteer to build your skills, increase your contact time with the groups that you want to work with, sometimes that means working for nothing, and often that’s the most rewarding work.