"Tools with a Mission has been around for over 30 years. We have grown from a borrowed garage to a national organisation with Refurbishment Centres and Support Workshops across the country.
Our growth and our success is down to our volunteers. We have just six paid staff and rely on over 450 volunteers to collect, refurbish and ship our tools to the developing world.
Within Africa, where we focus our efforts, we also rely on volunteers to distribute our tools and support the thousands of projects who benefit from our work.
Volunteers are our lifeblood and without them we would not exist.
Volunteers join us for many reasons, for some it is our environmental credentials as we save hundreds of tonnes of tools from landfill every year. For others, it is the fact we offer a hand up, not a hand out by giving tools that create livelihoods rather than a dependency on a lifetime of charity.
For others, it is the friendship and genuine care for each other that comes with being part of a volunteer focused organisation, where everybody is there because they want to be. For others, it gives them a sense of purpose and of still being useful and valued. Some see it is an expression of their Christian faith.
For me, while I am paid, it is so I can sit next to a widow called Felicia who I met in Zambia and will never forget. She poured out her heart to me and told me how she had lost her husband and been left with six children. Then her daughter died, leaving her with another five children. Through tears she shared about how she struggled to keep a roof over their heads, and how the whole family often went hungry for days on end. She spoke of the despair she felt that none of the children went to school because she never had money for school fees.
But then a sudden smile of hope as she explained that a local church had just trained her in tailoring and she just received her very own sewing machine from TWAM. With this she said, "I will be able to make clothes, feed my children and send them all to school."
She could have asked me to send her hundreds of pounds, for years to come, to help support her children and grandchildren, but, no, all she wanted was a sewing machine.
I find it mind-blowing that something as simple as an unwanted donated sewing machine could transform Felicia's life and that of her entire family. This is why I do, what I do.
But we all do what we do for different reasons. Four of our volunteers give their reasons below. I'd love you to join us and help us to continue to see lives like Felicia's transformed by tools."
Merve and Sue
Carpentry Kit Assembler and Haberdashery Team Leader (Ipswich)
“It gives us structure and purpose in doing something much bigger than ourselves. We miss it when we don’t come in with our friends.”
Sue says, “It was about recycling for me and then livelihood creation which is so biblical. What better way to love your neighbour we thought. I work in the Haberdashery preparing packs of materials, zips, buttons and much more for sending out with the sewing machines. To get income the tailors need material to make their first sets of clothes for sale, to raise money for buying their own local fabric.”
Merv says, “I had some time to give, I get a sense of purpose and it gives us some structure to our week. I get great fellowship and comradery too. I really enjoy the practical hands on, it uses skills from when I was a carpenter and joiner. I refurbish tools for the carpentry kits and drive the van to pick up tools from our volunteer collectors”