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Workshop scheme aims to provide practical skills to combat men’s mental health problems

PUBLISHED: 11:54 10 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:17 11 November 2018

Lighthouse Community Church senior pastor Rev Ian Savory with community pastor Rev Dan Wade (left) and youth pastor Peter Skvington (right).
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Lighthouse Community Church senior pastor Rev Ian Savory with community pastor Rev Dan Wade (left) and youth pastor Peter Skvington (right). Photo: KAREN BETHELL

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A Sheringham church hailed a ‘huge’ success story when it was built five years ago at a cost of £1.6 million is hoping a new £300,000 scheme will help men experiencing loneliness, isolation and mental health problems, by providing them with a space to forge friendships while working on practical skills.

Lighthouse volunteer maintenance manager Derek Baldry planting bulbs along the front of the Cromer Road church, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Photo: KAREN BETHELLLighthouse volunteer maintenance manager Derek Baldry planting bulbs along the front of the Cromer Road church, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

The project will see the Lighthouse Community Church launch a ‘Men’s Shed’ in the town’s former St John Ambulance headquarters.

The run-down building, in Wyndham Street, was bought with £165,000 of funding from a Norfolk-based charitable trust. with other grants including £15,000 from North Norfolk District Council’s Big Society Fund.A further £100,000 will be spent on a refurbishment programme transforming the building into a light and airy venue featuring a flexible downstairs space with workbenches and woodworking machinery, as well as a first floor area with a TV and sofas, and room for art and relaxation classes.

Lighthouse Church community pastor Dan Ward outside the Wyndham Street building set to be transformed into a 'Men's Shed' venue.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLLighthouse Church community pastor Dan Ward outside the Wyndham Street building set to be transformed into a 'Men's Shed' venue. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

The Men’s Shed, which will have a lift and disabled toilets installed, will also include a small kitchen and will be open to men of all ages.

Lighthouse senior pastor Rev Ian Savory, who led Baptist churches in Norwich and Great Yarmouth before taking over at Sheringham three years ago, said the project aimed to encourage men to open up about issues ranging from retirement worries to depression.

The former St John Ambulance headquarters in Wyndham Street, Sheringham, which is being transformed into a 'Men's Shed' community venue.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLThe former St John Ambulance headquarters in Wyndham Street, Sheringham, which is being transformed into a 'Men's Shed' community venue. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

“One of the biggest epidemics our country faces is loneliness and I think that, with men, if they are going to talk, then they are more likely to do it while they are working on something,” he said.

“The key thing is that it will give people a safe space where they can feel comfortable talking - it’s about having that sense of community.”

Volunteers help make dresses for Ugandan youngsters at an eight-hour sewathon held earlier this year at the Lighthouse Community Church. Photo: GARETH GABRIELVolunteers help make dresses for Ugandan youngsters at an eight-hour sewathon held earlier this year at the Lighthouse Community Church. Photo: GARETH GABRIEL

Community pastor Dan Ward, who is managing the project, said the facility would be user-led, with the people taking part deciding on the classes and activities on offer.

“Rather than setting out a programme, we want it to be led by people’s interests, so they decide what they want to do,” he explained.

The opening of The Lighthouse Church in 2013. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYThe opening of The Lighthouse Church in 2013. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Men’s Shed is due to open early next year and Mr Ward is hoping to secure a further £30,000 in grants and donations to kit out the workshop and social area.

“What we would like to do eventually is to introduce a green space element, maybe even taking on a piece of land,” he said.

‘Shedders’ get together to share skills and friendship

The Men’s Shed movement, which originated in Australia, aims to improve men’s health and wellbeing by giving them an opportunity to build friendships while learning and sharing practical skills.

Since the UK Men’s Shed Association was founded by north London retiree Mike Jenn in 2013, the movement has grown year on year and today there are more than 500 Men’s Sheds in England and more than 100 in Scotland catering for thousands of ‘shedders’.

The workshops, which can be housed in office buildings, garages, community centres – or even garden sheds - run activities ranging from woodworking, model making and furniture restoration, to car maintenance and computing.

Some Men’s Sheds also get involved in community projects, building equipment for schools and libraries, carrying out repairs for elderly or disabled people, or helping maintain parks and playing fields.

For more information, visit www.menssheds.org.uk

Supporting the community: a ‘beacon’ for other churches

Hailed a ‘beacon’ for other churches when it was built five years ago to replace a cramped 1950s building on Holway Road, the Lighthouse boasts facilities ranging from a multi-purpose auditorium, to a cafe and children’s soft play area.

As well as running lunch clubs, a toddler group and activity groups ranging from table tennis, to arts and crafts, the church hosts children’s clubs, is home to three football teams and provides a meeting place for a host of community groups.

Church members also help run Sheringham’s annual Beach Life children’s summer activity week and, in 2013, the Lighthouse Charity Trust set up Reed People, which supports a school in southern Uganda.

As well as building a toilet block, making desks and concreting classroom floors, teams of church members have visited the 250-pupil school to hand out clothes made by local people at annual ‘sewathons’.

Project leaders also hope to build a secondary school and technical college on land the trust has already bought.

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