RESIDENTS at the James Thomas Court Hostel, Sebastopol, no longer sit by themselves in their room. A few times each week they gather as a group and like little elves, with the help of some eager and helpful volunteers, turn pieces of wood into toys, ornaments and utensils. Looking around their light filled work room there is not much that these eager workers have not tackled. And you and I can purchase these handmade goods as presents for others or us.
Woodwork coordinator Martin Relouw started the group over 8 years ago and a way to break the boredom for some residents. “I was asked to do activities with the residents. People kept on saying how bored they were so I thought maybe we can make blocks,” he said. “It go passed by the boss so we cut out the blocks, painted them and donated them to kindergartens, then we made other bits and pieces and donated those as well and then we came across cartoon characters. “We bought patterns from America and the United Kingdom, we asked for a donation from staff and visitors for the pieces they wanted and we were able to keep supplying our own gear. The residents can keep whatever they make.” Mr Relouw said the group was started as a men’s only group but he had more ladies than men turn up and language or handicaps are no barrier either. “It (woodworking) takes them out of their room. If they have enough of the woodwork they can still come and sit and maybe do other things, they come for the company rather than be on their own,” Mr Relouw said.
“When we give a donation a group of them (residents) will actually go to the kindergarten and meet the children.” There isn’t much that the group does not try their hand at from simple blocks to the alphabet, trains, trucks, beautifully turned bowls, cheese platters and pot holders, wall art, the list just goes on. “The main thing is the variety for the sake of the residents,” Mr Relouw added. “We can have up to twenty here working away because the room opens up to other groups, as well. “We welcome anyone (in the community) to come in and have a coffee with us, have a look at what we make and if you like anything you can purchase it.” Mr Relouw said he has seen some wonderful transformations in the demeanour of some residents. “We had a lady who told her daughter not to come on a Wednesday because she was too busy and the daughter came and told us, I apologized profusely and she said no it was great, her mother had never done anything like that in her life,” he said. James Thomas Court Hostel is located at 117 Morgan Street, Sebastopol.