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SOH Storytelling: Odyssey House partnership story

Switched On is proud to have supported Odyssey House in Christchurch to set up a social enterprise supplying window sashes and frames for social housing projects. The initiative provides training opportunities for men in Odyssey’s residential service as part of supporting them to re-enter the community.

Watch the full video story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVy8Xk-ULKg

The partnership came about after a meeting between Switched On and Odyssey House to discuss Odyssey’s under-utilised on-site workshop. Switched On’s Trades Services Manager Ken Howat had already set up successful partnerships with other community organisations to supply building work, and could see an opportunity for Odyssey.

“We look to identify opportunities where we can have an impact in the non-profit sector through our supply chain. The business outcomes for us are the same and we get a great product delivered, but though choosing suppliers like Odyssey we are also making a positive impact,” Ken says.

Switched On supported Odyssey to set up their workshop for the job. It was equipped with the right tools thanks to funding from the Christchurch City Council; a discount on supplies was offered by Carters; and Switched On’s partner business Viking Builders provided training on how to use the machinery.

Anna Christophorou, Operations Manager at Odyssey House says that the support of Switched On and other organisations has given residents access to a hugely valuable new training and employment opportunity.

“Re-integration into the community is a crucial part of what we do here at Odyssey House and having opportunities to experience meaningful work on-site is essential for our residents’ wellbeing. Not only do they learn new skills and gain confidence, but they are also making a contribution to the community that can go on their resumes. This initiative is a stepping stone for them,” Anna says.

The first Odyssey resident to be trained through the social enterprise has engineering experience and was excited about the opportunity to get back to working with his hands. He is now supporting others to learn in the workshop.

“I think it’s important to have opportunities like this at Odyssey to encourage the guys to move forward and move into a better way of life – to not repeat the mistakes of the past and to give them an opportunity to prove themselves and make something of themselves,” the resident says.

The workshop and new social enterprise are key parts of the therapeutic process for residents at Odyssey and everyone in the adult men’s programme has the chance to experience hands-on training. For residents who wish to extend their skills, paid employment can be offered in four-hour blocks to complete the window work required for Switched On’s social housing projects.

Anna from Odyssey says that the ability to scale by working with Switched On is exciting and ideal for residents who wish to progress slowly into more regular work.

“The soft start offered by Switched On has allowed us to reorganise our workshop and for our workshop staff to learn the new process before working with residents. The steady increase in volume of work has meant that we are able to offer our senior residents part-time paid employment, while they work with our reintegration and outreach workers to secure full-time roles in the community,” Anna says.

The partnership has been in full operation since May 2019 and has to date seen 12 windows produced and repairs started on more, bringing in valuable extra funding for Odyssey House.

The initiative has also inspired conversations with other not-for-profits and businesses looking to enter the social enterprise space, and Switched On and Odyssey are collaborating to provide their learning and advice.

ends

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