Volunteers make a huge difference!

The week started with glorious sunshine, nervous smiles and a lot of apprehension at the enormous task that lay ahead, we were attempting to do as much painting and decorating as possible with a team of youngsters (including some of our current students) and volunteers, a minimal budget and a huge dose of enthusiasm.

Having split into small teams, Innerflame youngsters (from the TEAM programme run in partnership with the The Prince’s Trust) threw themselves, and a lot of paint, at the upstairs flat. The old lathe and plaster walls had been made good or replaced, the holes in the ceiling repaired and the water pipes and electric wires had been put back into place so the whole flat was ready for the onslaught.

With human dynamo Justine determined to make sure we met our target by doing two upstairs rooms almost single handed, we were well on course and the team soon moved on downstairs to join Crabby who, like many of the taller members of the group, was happily painting the ceiling with both feet firmly planted on the floor!

As every area of the site being worked on, it was difficult to create a space for refreshments and resting, initially outside, thanks to frequent downpours we had no choice but to find more shelter. Finally it was decided to move the whole operation (including the marquee!) indoors. Unfortunately with no budget yet available to replace the roof on what will eventually become our workshop, it was literally raining as much indoors as out but it was a little more sheltered so unpreturbed and determined to keep everyone's spirits up, Debbie and Junior valiantly fought the elements and cheerfully kept everyone fed and watered throughout the week.

By Wednesday we were moving on fast but were really happy to meet and greet the fantastic, and extremely cheerful, additions to the team of willing volunteers kindly seconded from Network Rail and Intel for the day, with a bit of help from Jo Banks from Involve.

It was a truly wonderful, and very emotional time for us, we could see the place taking shape and transforming before our very eyes! From dark and dreary to bright and cheery within hours! The community spirit was amazing, it truly felt like everything we are trying to achieve from this project was with us, here  and now. Everyone contributing however they could from the wonderful ladies from Network Rail in the old kitchen scrubbing years of layered grease off the walls so we can decorate them, to the youngsters frantically painting, skilled craftsmen plastering, building cupboards and replacing wooden cladding to the ladies from Intel re-painting the toilets and the gents attacking old plasterwork revealing some of the ancient stonework hidden underneath.

Even Jo Riches from the Red Cross who helps provide First Aid training for our students came down and spent an afternoon shovelling up old tarmac!

The mood was unbelievable as life was slowly breathing back into the old building and the light started was flooding into each of the rooms, all we need now is to be able to remove the security shuttering.

The final part of the week was hard and heavy going, despite the heavy rain, hail, bitter winds and dark gloomy skies, the sun shone through intermittently allowing progress to continue inside and outside the building. Indoors, Martin picked up on the work so brilliantly started by the Network Rail team whilst Max slogged on supportively helping finish off upstairs. Kesley, Chris, Luke and Lauren helped Crabby downlstairs whilst outside, the garden team, led by ‘little’ Greg, aided and abetted by Ryan and Lucas, battled with the rotivator through what can only be described as a quagmire with attitude, to clear the area of stones, litter and other debris. They also put in drainage building on the work one of our students, Brenden, had started previously.

An unexpected bonus came in the shape of a wonderful print of our new Wizard sign for the school landrover, kindly donated, along with 'frosting' vinyls for the front windows, by Aura Signs.

As the sun set on this small corner of Swindon late on Friday we walked around the site after everyone had gone home, with a tear in our eye, we could finally see our dream turning into reality. It was not just the physical ‘paint on walls’ that we found so moving, which was in itself quite an amazing transformation, but the way in which a community had come together to create this special space for all to share. More than anything, they had, if only for a few short days, filled it with such an amazing feeling of support, warmth, positivity, enthusiasm and willingness to help others, that we knew this project WILL be all that we are working so hard for and hoping it will be.

Thanks guys!!  

Some of the team of volunteers from

the TEAM Programme run by Inner Flame in partnership with the Prince's Trust

Back row, from left; Graham (team leader), Justine, Chris, Luke, Lauren, Debbie, Dave (Inner Flame). Front row from left; Max, Lucas, Crabby, 'little' Greg

 Check out more photos from this amazing week in our gallery

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