by Giulia Candussi
Whether you are a student looking for a cheap second-hand bicycle or a creative artist who wants to give a new life to an old piece of furniture or you just want to get your hands dirty while doing something good for the community, there’s a place to go: Community Gift Exchange.
The charity shop is located inside the Kyle Shopping Centre on High Street in Ayr.
“We want to be a bridge between addiction and long term employment” says Alan Priestnall, who, together with some friends, founded this Scottish Charity with the idea of overcoming poverty by helping into employment people with a history of addiction, unemployment, mental or physically disadvantages or generally the ones who are usually marginalised from society.
“We offer practical workshops where people can get skills that are required from employers and hopefully help them get stable jobs in the future” says Alan. The services that they offer to the general public are up-cycling and sale of second-hand items such as bicycles, pieces of furniture, music instruments and vinyls at affordable prices.
The whole recycling process provides different opportunities for different people to do whatever it is they like: it might be the logistics, or the maintenance, or the up-cycling, or retail. People can get their hands dirty by learning how to fix a bike or drive a van to distribute or collect items donated from the public.
People that work in the shop come from different backgrounds.
Some people with history of addiction or health problems that led to crime don’t cope with the pressure of going back to full time employment and eventually revert to the bottle. “I realised that they needed a place where they could go without feeling that pressure: it will help them overcome their addiction by just being with other people, being busy and learning new skills” says Al, “and hopefully they will be able to move into a stable employment in the future”.
Others have long term disability and don’t need to work for income but they do like to come out of the house and be around other people. “It helps them reduce their social isolation, increase their self esteem, or simply have a bit of company” says Al. “Work is good for people, in the right amount, not too much, not too little”.
These people are trained by local professionals or students who decide to dedicate some of their time for this cause. “I am always amazed by the generosity of the general public: we often receive donations of old furniture which are worth quite a bit of money, but people are happy to help this charity because it is locally based.”
Anyone can pop in to do some volunteering or they can bring their own piece of furniture and up-cycle it with their own hands in the laboratory.