Norwich Menshed is a registered charity inspired by the original concept of the men’s shed which started in Australia. Norwich Menshed started in November 2013 with support from NCF and the People’s Health Lottery and since then they have grown with over 150 men accessing our services annually and 70 active members at any one time.
Men’s Sheds have proven to be effective in enhancing men’s mental and physical wellbeing. Men in recovery from a mental or physical illness, from drug or alcohol dependence, or who face a major life transition such as retirement, loss of a wife or partner through divorce or death, are said to be vulnerable to loss or relapse of their mental health as a result of social isolation, a lack of positive activities that would provide meaning and sense of purpose, and a connection to their local community. The Norwich shed not only is aimed at increasing men’s mental and physical well-being but also has a diverse demographic of members including older men, social isolation, unemployment, homelessness and ex-offenders. Their well equipped workshop offers activities include woodworking, computing and electronics, metalworking and of course a chat and a cuppa.
Norwich Menshed was awarded a grant from the Birketts fund in June 2019 to continue providing practical opportunities and activities to vulnerable men. Since then an incredible 106 men have accessed these valuable services. In addition over a third of members have come through a support worker referral or health service recommendation some of which would not access the usual support services which highlights the significance this service provides for men’s well-being. The results speak for themselves as once men have participated they have often felt an increase in self-confidence and thus in turn can have a positive impact on their families and the wider community.
Furthermore the shed creates a community and a peer support base for men where participants get the choice of creating their own personal project or community based project as the charity often works collaboratively with local groups who request commissions to make items for community benefit. This gives service users the change to engage with like-minded people, share their skills and knowledge. Plus member have hosted or attended a number of community events and from June 2019 a number of community projects have taken place like a creative family friendly workshop run by the members as part of Norfolk and Norwich Festival, they have made theatre props and even created a ¼ scale model of a Sopwith Camel alongside educational and research trips.
Some service users had a transforming experience from the workshops like B, who was signed off work with depression and through a GP recommendation accessed Norwich Men’s Shed.
At the beginning B had struggled with low confidence and self-esteem and so he initially visited the workshops with extra support and encouragement from a family member. He really did feel welcomed by all, was encouraged to join by the other members and he quickly got stuck into all the activities with great gusto. He attended most days and he quickly became popular with other members. Whilst B joined with beginner level woodworking skills he was keen to learn and soon he started making quirky, original items – he was ecstatic when he made his first sale of a bee hotel.
Shedder B described himself as a “broken computer that needed a reboot”, but has said the shed provided far more than this and he now felt like “a brand new shiny upgraded computer!“.
As a result of his improved mental health, Shedder B has returned to work where he started on a part-time phased return and now he is working full time once again. Additionally, because he identified ongoing attendance as crucial to maintaining his wellbeing, his workplace agreed to arrange his working week to enable continued attendance of Shed activities.
Overall the Shed activities really have made a difference to vulnerable men promoting self-confidence, a place to socialise and develop hands on practical skills to assist them in the future.