A truly considerate community project – Willmott Dixon graduate volunteers refurbish Age UK centre

The two-week refurbishment and makeover of Age UK’s Healthy Living Centre in Bermondsey, South London, was part of Willmott Dixon Interiors’ graduate trainee challenge.

All of the work at the centre in Southwark Park Road, including new floors, walls, a kitchen and new salon was carried out entirely by 18 trainee volunteers as part of the annual challenge.

Graduate Trainee, Connor Lambourne, who managed this community-enhancing project said:

“The centre provides a social hub dealing with exclusion, isolation and loneliness within elderly members of the local community.

“During the refurbishment we will be giving a makeover to the entire building including new floors, walls and kitchen as well as a new salon. The kitchen has been redesigned to increase its capacity, reduce its energy consumption and accommodate cooking classes for the local community.

“We are also completely renovating their garden area, building in walking paths, allotments and a memory garden aimed at the members of the centre with Alzheimers and dementia. The garden will also be available to use for the local community and gardening club.”

Another part of the challenge involved the help of a charity called Thames Reach; the Willmott Dixon team worked with its Employment Academy and graduates involved in its Moving In Moving On (MIMO) programme, helping disadvantaged, homeless and excluded women back into work.

Connor said:

“The aim of the challenge is to help them gain valuable work experience, build their CVs and gain future employment. To do this we ran a week training prior to the project where they were able to gain qualifications and trade skills.

“They have since been working on the refurbishment of the Healthy Living Centre gaining valuable work experience. Upon completion we have secured employment opportunities for all involved including painting and decorating apprenticeships, a surveying placement and work experience with our community investment manager.”

Below is a video of the Willmott Dixon Trainee Challenge from this particular site.

You can find out how the team addressed the challenges of the project, as well as reading about Willmott Dixon Interiors’ many other examples of best practice by clicking on the sliders below:

  • The site provided a week of construction-based training for 15 disadvantaged, homeless and excluded women, including a talk from Women in Construction.
  • All labour was donated by Willmott Dixon Interiors’ staff, subcontractors, charities and members of the local community.
  • Time lapse cameras and drone flights were set up to capture progress.
  • All trainees wore Pride laces throughout the project.
  • Over 400 leaflets were sent out to the local community and there was an information poster campaign.
  • All flower beds were built out of ‘up-cycled’ donated scaffold boards.
  • Food vans were invited onto site on a daily basis to feed all the volunteers and these included a hog roast, pizza, Mexican, Chinese, burgers and fish and chips (all free of charge).
  • Colour schemes in each room where chosen by elderly members of the building via ballot.
  • All leftover materials and tools were donated back to the local community; one example was that all carpentry-related items were earmarked to the MenDer’s club in Peckham. This is a local club which teaches members of the community DIY skills, building and repairs.
  • Two of the flower beds were designated to the local primary school for their science project.
  • An opening ceremony and awards were held on the final day with the Mayor of Southwark and Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement in attendance. All of the local community was invited.
  • The project team measured the impact on the women it was helping, as well as the elderly members of the centre, local community volunteers and its own staff.
  • The volunteer team repaired and remounted plaques onto a ‘memory bench’ for the members of the centre who had passed away.
  • The kitchen was redesigned to increase its capacity, reduce its energy consumption and accommodate cooking classes for the local community.
  • Environmental awareness and asbestos awareness training were provided.
  • Four new water-efficient toilets were installed and all met DDA regulations.
  • Operatives grew plants in their own allotments and donated these for new gardens, with a further 300 plants donated.
  • The garden was also made available to the local community for use of a gardening club.
  • Project’s carbon footprint measured and offset by planting trees and plants.   
  • Fifty per cent of the workforce were female and the site was promoted by Women in Construction and MIMO (Moving In Moving On).
  • An open door policy was clearly evident. Numerous on-site training was carried out one week prior to commencement with face-fit IOSH First Aid and Fire Marshal training.
  • Providing opportunities for local disadvantaged people included employing 15 trainees, 10 apprentices and two work experience placements, plus Graduate Trainee, Connor Lambourne.

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