We’re delighted that our brand-new workshop and partnership with local upcycler, Emma Whyte, is well underway with the aim of teaching formerly homeless people skills in furniture repair and restoration.

Our charity provides accommodation, work experience, training and support to people who have experienced homelessness, with the aim of helping our companions to rebuild their lives, live independently and secure employment.

The new workshop is located at the our site on Oxford Road and is the base for upcycling, restoring, and repairing old furniture. Partnering with our charity is the local upcycler, Emma Whyte, who is visiting the workshop once a week to collaborate with companions Shane, Karl, and Tom.

Emma is an upcycling specialist with nearly twenty years’ experience of creating bespoke furniture after retraining and studying furniture restoration in France in 2002. Emmaus originated in France, which is where Emma first found out about the charity, before moving back and discovering Emmaus Oxford.

Speaking about the partnership and working with Shane, Karl and Tom, Emma said:

“Working with Emmaus Oxford has been a long time in the making, and I feel very excited to finally see it become a reality. A lovely little workshop has been built at the Cowley site and we spent the first few weeks organising the workshop and getting the correct equipment. There’s a lot of necessary background work involved before restoring furniture!

“Our first project is a pair of benches which need restoring to their former glory. I’m delighted that we have a brilliant mixture of skills in the team that can be made use of and built on. Shane qualified as a cabinet maker while he has been with Emmaus and it’s obviously quite a passion for him, so that’s working well because he’s already highly skilled. As well as helping in the workshop, Karl will be taking the lead on all our admin and is doing an Excel refresher course and Tom has a background in media so he will be helping with photography, social media, and blogging to share our work with supporters.”

At 22, Shane became homeless and spent two years sleeping rough before finding Emmaus Oxford. With a home for as long as he needs at our charity, Shane has been able to take the steps needed to fulfil his dream of a career in joinery and furniture restoration. Since joining Emmaus in 2017, Shane has completed his BTEC Level 1, 2 and 3 in Cabinet Making at Rycotewood Furniture Centre, with our workshop and upcycling partnership providing a new opportunity to use and enhance his skills.

Commenting on the new opportunity at Emmaus Oxford, Shane said:

“For me, Emmaus is about developing skills and putting yourself in a better position than when you first walked through the door. I’ve always had an interest in furniture making through watching my grandad work and that interest has developed more and more over the years. After completing my college courses, I was hoping for a space where I could use the skills I’ve learnt, pass them on to others and maybe learn a few new ones too. Now that the new workshop is up and running at Emmaus, I’ve had the opportunity to do all those things.”

To fund our work, we collect and sell donated furniture in our Barns Road store. Projects for the workshop team will be a mixture of donated items that need a new lease of life, as well as bespoke projects commissioned by individuals.

Making the workshop a possibility for us is down to one major individual donor, as well as the grant-making organisation, the Rank Foundation, which is financing Emma’s time. Employees from our corporate partner, Penningtons Manches Cooper, also supported the project by volunteering to prepare our garden, ready for the workshop to be installed.

Commenting on the support received, Hannah Hutchings, Head of Fundraising at Emmaus Oxford, said:

“We wouldn’t be able to offer this amazing opportunity to the people we support without the generous contribution from the Rank Foundation and the amazing donation we received from a local supporter in order to build our workshop. We would like to say a huge thank you to them and to the volunteers from Penningtons Manches Cooper in Oxford who helped us get up and running.”

The Emmaus Oxford workshop team will be posting regular updates on the charity’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. To keep up to date, follow @emmausoxford. To make an enquiry about a bespoke furniture commission, contact [email protected]