Countrywise Repairs has recently funded and has delivered a number of projects to benefit individuals and communities across East and West Kent, as part of its 2019 community investment fund.
Over the past six months, Countrywise Repairs, a joint venture partnership between Town & Country Housing and Wates Living Space, has completed various installations and improvements for charities and residents in need.
Paul Heath, Commercial & Operations Director, explains that working in the local community allows Countrywise to do more for Town & Country Housing’s residents and “support lots of good work going on locally that people aren’t always aware of.”
Supporting local communities
Town & Country Housing works closely with Take Off, a mental-health-focused charity in East Kent that runs many popular cooking and wellbeing groups. With the support of Countrywise Repairs they delivered a state-of-the art industrial kitchen at its headquarters in Canterbury. This follows work to complete another fully equipped kitchen space for baking and cooking healthy meals which Countrywise installed last year at Take Off’s Dover office.
Mark Kilbey, Director of Take Off, said, “Town & Country is among the biggest supporters of Take Off. Our space in Canterbury is a very different place from five years ago when we first wanted to do a cooking group but had no kitchen – just a sink and a microwave. We also have had an amazing kitchen in Dover installed too, thanks to TCH and Countrywise. The support across these two sites has been an incredible thing.”
The kitchens bring people together and give them the confidence to go and prepare their own meals at home, as Mark explains: “The work done has made the whole environment lovely. Every Wednesday we run a cooking group for locals living in an area of deprivation in Canterbury. People come here and learn to cook for the first time in their lives, and people who are largely house-bound are joining in and socialising again (in some cases, for the first time in years) and making incredible changes to their lives.”
“People come here and make incredible changes to their lives.”
Mark adds: “It’s also had a very significant impact on our Sunday crisis group, and allowed us to bring vulnerable people in desperate need of some socialisation together through baking on a very lonely day of the week. It’s outstanding the impact having these spaces to cook and bake has on people.”
Countrywise also recently joined forces with Mental Health Resource (MHR) in Tunbridge Wells, to solve the issue of soundproofing a room used for music practice. Sound-absorbing panels have been installed on the kitchen and lounge ceilings to reduce noise levels and allow music-focused sessions to continue.
“Our staff, volunteers and members have all commented on how much better the acoustics are, and the panels and new LED lights have also modernised our rooms and given them a much fresher feel,” said Rachel Corry, Charity Manager at MHR. “We are absolutely delighted with the work and really appreciate all the help and support from Countrywise and Town & Country.”
At the Kitchen Table, a mental wellbeing-focused café in Tunbridge Wells, Countrywise supplied IT equipment to allow the café to offer computer access, in addition to its breakfast and lunch offerings.
Investing in the future generation
Countrywise Repairs also invests in the development of young people through apprenticeships: “It’s not only nice to help and support the community, but we also have a bigger investment in terms of local people,” says Paul Heath. “We strive to have 100% of our employees living in the local area (i.e. Tunbridge Wells or Dover areas) – this means salary and wages are going back into the community and supporting local businesses, and this encapsulates our whole approach.”
This year, one business apprentice completed his one-year tenure with the company in Tunbridge Wells, and another recently started the next level of his electrical apprenticeship on his path to becoming a fully qualified electrician through working with our Dover team.
“We’re proud that our previous apprentice was able to enter the working world, and we’re excited that our most recent recruit is on board with us after sponsoring himself to Level 2 at college,” says Paul.
Making a difference to individuals’ lives
In addition to community work and apprenticeships, it’s about supporting residents in need of having more independence – one of whom is a 28-year-old tenant in Canterbury who is seriously disabled following a car accident.
The Countrywise team worked to transform his garden area, which can now be accessed by a newly created path. “Everything is now much easier maintenance-wise and the shed gives me a bit more independence – it’s been great to be able to go in, store things and have my own space,” explains the resident. “It’s also allowed me to invite people over and not be ashamed of the garden.”
As well as these larger projects they will continue to take on smaller ones as part of Countrywise’s community investment fund. This year they cleared poorly installed decking and rubbish from a vulnerable resident’s garden and helped another, whose gas cooker had been deemed unsafe, by installing a new electric cooker that had been donated to them. “Sometimes the value of something financially may only be small, like installing a cooker, but the actual value to a resident is a lot more.”
“It’s great to be able to identify people whose lives we can make a difference to, and give them support they may not otherwise receive,” concludes Paul Heath.