VIY’s Gemma tells us what Pride means to her

30 May 2023

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a time to remember our individual journey. I went to high school under section 28, the law that forbade any “promotion of homosexuality in schools” which meant there was no support for students and bullying was rife. I came out in the year 2000, the summer I left high school and though my family embraced me with open arms, society wasn’t always as accepting.

I remember when I qualified as a teacher in 2010, not being able to be fully open about my sexuality and struggling to find a school which would accept me for what I was. I used to hide myself behind a fake shield of heteronormativity in the professional sphere – despite being out, proud and accepted at home. It made me feel like I could never be myself.

In the 23 years since I have been openly out, further progress towards equality has been made, for example we can marry, we can adopt. But we are aware that these changes have only occurred because of the social action and protesting of the LGBTQ+ individuals that came before us.

Pride to an out LGBTQ+ person represents our time to reflect, to protest, to party and to remember not only the individual journey and collective advances towards acceptance that we have made, but the road where challenges and threats still lay ahead and the work yet to do.

It may seem like a massive party but what the LGBTQ+ community knows is that years of repression can only be counteracted by a large collective outpouring of self expression and freedom.

This is what makes the essence of Pride.

What does Pride mean to you and your life in Manchester as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

Supporting the wider community is a duty to all LBGTQ+ individuals. Throughout history when people are under threat they come together and support each other from within. It’s something the LGBTQ+ community does naturally, especially in the years since the Aids/HIV crisis in the 80s. The community has faced years of attack, oppression, isolation, fear and death and has largely been left to look after itself. It’s the same now with transgender people particularly under threat and trans youth largely unsupported.

This year the loss of trans teenager Brianna Ghey shook the community further. I was proud to be a part of the community involved in planning the Manchester vigil, which saw over 2,000 people pack into Sackville Gardens in Manchester to remember her and the work we have to do to avoid this happening to young people in the future. There I spoke with parents and teenagers, who were scared for their future. This fear only highlights the inequalities still faced by many LGBTQ+ individuals.

Being a DJ is usually being the focus point for fun, bringing the party. At Pride – we do both. I am not just an agent of fun and freedom to provide dancing and laughter, but being recognisable within the community means I have a social responsibility to support others within that community.

In 2017 I won Village’s Got Talent, which was a fundraiser for the George House Trust. The prize was £500, I donated 50% of it straight back to the charity on stage. As a DJ I have worked fundraisers for: AXM Charity, George House Trust, Terrance Higgins Trust, Stonewall, The Proud Trust, and with the Village Business Owners association also fundraised over £5000 to provide safer sexual health packs in all LGBTQ+ venues.

I’ve even DJ’d a silent disco which raised money for the Russian LGBT foundation at a time when Russian LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya were being murdered and the officials said that “gay people didn’t exist there”, hence we chose a silent disco for a silent protest as LGBTQ+ Russians were being silenced!

It was a pleasure to perform alongside MIRI on the main stage at Manchester pride in 2018, as her guitarist. We performed a re-written version of the Cyndi Lauper hit – “Girls just wanna have fundamental rights.” Pride and protest go hand in hand.

Though Pride starts in June, each city has its own celebration. In Manchester where I live, Pride takes over the August bank holiday weekend. It starts on Friday and day one consists of protests, to alert us to the journey and issues of the future.

On Saturdays we have the Pride march, which is a celebration of solidarity from organisations/workplaces/community groups and a celebration of support in the present. Sunday is largely handed over to more family friendly acts, youth pride and helps us give support to the LGBTQ+ youth of the future.

Then on Monday there is the candlelit vigil, where we gather around the Alan Turing statue in the park next to Canal St, to remember those we have lost over the last year, to either discrimination, to HIV, and cherished members of our Gay Village community, our allies and our pioneers.

As they say in the film Hairspray – “I know where I am going, I know where I’ve been.” This is why we bathe ourselves in glitter, wear rainbows, drink (more than we probably should) and march in protest and solidarity.

Each one of us has a social duty to now do our part, remember those who came before us and knowing that only through visible action can we create visible change and a safer world for the LGBTQ+ people of the future.

Gem x

Visit Stonewall’s website for further information and guidance on supporting the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in the workplace, as well as their useful glossary of inclusive language terms.

VIY Lead Mentor Alan nominated for Role Model Award

12 May 2023

Tradesperson to Mentor

After a tough upbringing in care, Alan began carpentry at 17. Following years at London firm, Ideal Handyman, Alan joined us in 2016 thanks to another of our longest-serving Mentors, Bill.

With us, Alan began mentoring young people who, like him, haven’t had the smoothest start in life; not in education, employment or training (NEET), or at risk of disengaging, needing a different pathway in life. With VIY, by helping young people to learn trade skills whilst renovating community spaces, he discovered a love for teaching and upskilling the next generation in construction, and has been a Lead Mentor for over four years.

Here, Alan shares what VIY means to him seven years later and how he’s become a role model for the construction industry:

“The main reason I switched from working flat out on building sites is the learners. Targets, budgets, timescales still exist, but it’s all about those learners on site. It just works, I’ve helped thousands of young people on well over 100 projects. Mentoring is unique, it’s not just showing them how to use tools. Whether it be life advice, switching from PAYE to self-employment or telling them about trades and the potential future earnings. I don’t think I’d be the real me without VIY and being able to help all these young people – getting them into a better place than when they met us.”

Developing the next generation

One of Alan’s proudest achievements has been developing young tradespeople like Jada, one of the Junior Skills Mentors who joined us through the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme. She’s now been employed by VIY for over a year following Alan’s mentoring.

“A little bit of inspiration is what Jada gives me each time I work with her. Just like when you’re building something, I get that same sense of accomplishment when I see Jada mentoring, furthering her own ambitions to become a leading female in the trade.”

Mentor to Mentor

Just like Alan and Jada, Bill acted as Alan’s own Mentor in the trade, helping him through tough times and into the job he loves so much with VIY. Here Bill talks about his lifelong friendship with Alan:

“As well as all of the young people I’ve volunteered alongside through VIY, I’ve made friends for life. Before VIY, I mentored a guy in my local area, got him into the trade with me away from trouble and we struck up a great working relationship. I was building my own next generation in the trade. When I started working for VIY, I brought him with me and now that man is Alan Dalton, VIY Lead Mentor [pictured above together]. We’re still great friends now, more like father and son.

“Alan is a real example of how we can build the next generation, through volunteering, nurture and mentoring. Whether that be a tradesperson becoming a VIY Trade Mentor or one of the young people we work with, VIY makes a real difference to people’s lives and their community.” 

Alan also starred in Channel 4’s 2018 mini-series ‘Building Britain‘; a four-part documentary where he became a VIY role model.

Fancy being our next role model?

If you’ve been inspired by Alan and would like to find out more about doing #SomethingConstructive with VIY as a Trade Mentor, hit the button below.

Become a VIY Mentor

Celebrating nine projects and 200 accreditations with Toolstation

13 April 2023

We’re celebrating two milestones with one of our key trade partners, Toolstation, whilst working together on the redecoration of TPF Gymnastics Club in Norwich; home to gymnastics, parkour and free-running, the space is also used by a local cubs and scouts group. In total the facilities are currently used by around 200 locals aged between 4-20 years.

The aim of the project was to improve the surroundings for all users and attract new members.  As well as the brightly coloured paint work, we’ve upgraded the male and female toilets by installing glazed tiling, mirrors and a new coat of paint.  

Co-funded as part of our programme with Norwich City Council and match-funded by Sport England, we’ve created a more vibrant space that reflects the energy and positivity happening in the club. 

The colour scheme using bright paintwork including yellow and orange was chosen following feedback and requests from users of the facilities. The paint was donated as part of our trade partnership with Dulux, with the colour scheme being chosen from Toolstation’s Dulux Paint Tinting Service

Chrissie Roe, Founder of the club, has already seen huge interest since the redecoration: “This gym is a vital space for local young people to come to feel safe, be with their friends and do something energetic in a secure environment off the streets. The new modern murals and  our new toilets will massively help to inspire them further, and for us to attract new members with a great first impression when they come to check us out. Since the work has been going on, we’ve received such amazing feedback in person and online, that many new people have been phoning to find out how they can join the club and previous members returning from before the pandemic.”

The logo and mural artwork were created by Kevin Parker, a local community street artist, who also created our gamechanging mural at Kaset Skatepark.

Kevin said: “It’s great to bring an old building like this back to life, give it some vibrance. I’ve loved working with VIY again on another important community building in Norfolk, helping inspire our local young people to do something positive through the power of paint and parkour!”

The project saw over 20 young volunteers between the ages of 16-20 pledge up to a week’s work on the project, with 60% of participants being awarded a City & Guilds Entry Level 3 accreditation in Painting & Decorating. Eight volunteers from the club and local community also helped to prepare the venue before the works began.

Most of the volunteers have joined through the Aspire Progression programme, a re-engagement initiative through City College Norwich to support those whose education may have been disrupted or those looking for an alternative pathway to gaining skills.

Millie, 16, volunteered at TPF Gymnastics, her fourth project with VIY and her fourth City & Guilds accreditation, having already achieved Entry Level 3 in Carpentry, Health & Safety and Brickwork.  After gaining her fourth accreditation here in Painting & Decorating, she’s now taking this further, going on to study art at City College Norwich in September.

“With the first [VIY] project, it was more trial and error, seeing what it’d be like not being in a classroom all the time, instead of college. And then it turns out I really like being outdoorsy, I like learning new things that I hadn’t learned before, and in turn, I’ve used them outside of this as well. I’ve learned a lot from VIY.  This project has been my favourite as I really enjoy painting and decorating, I find it therapeutic. Brickwork was actually a really good one because I didn’t really expect there to be so many different components to laying brick!”

Toolstation plans on co-funding a further four VIY projects throughout the year and in 2023 has set a target to help over 100 young people gain qualifications and consider a career in the trade. 

Forrest Brown, Regional Manager at Toolstation, visited the project and said: “It’s brilliant to witness VIY enriching lives with passionate mentors helping to develop young people not in employment or education. This project had a real community feel and its great to see the engagement with younger people. VIY offers an excellent environment to learn new skills, share stories and get advice.” 

Greg Richardson, Head of Marketing at Toolstation says: “We’re passionate about our partnership with the VIY team, and I’m delighted to continue to support their work with the TPF Gymnastics Club in Norwich.  This project illustrates the power of paint by creating a vibrant place to meet and learn for the local community, and it will also encourage young people to develop confidence and learn practical trade and building skills and earn a qualification.”

Head here to see our previous community projects in partnership with Toolstation

Helping the Midlands Think Active

13 March 2023

Together, we’ll be refurbishing six community spaces across Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire to enable more physical activity to take place and ultimately, help more people in their local area to be more active.

This follows successful VIY projects in the region to date, such as creating an outdoor spectator and events space for Coventrians Rugby Club and refurbishing The Tin Music & Arts Venue, also in Coventry.

Ciara Grogan, VIY Programme Director for Sport, said:

“We’re really excited to be expanding our sports programmes across the Midlands, working with brilliant partners like Think Active. Not only will these refurbished spaces help attract and increase the number of people being active, but they will have enabled young people from the local area to boost their skills and confidence to take a positive next step towards their future.”

Lijana Kaziow, Partnership Manager from Think Active, said:

“It’s great to partner with VIY in supporting young people across Coventry and Warwickshire to attain City and Guilds qualifications, whilst giving local community spaces much needed TLC. Be it a face lift through brightening a room with a new coat of paint, or upgrading facilities to make them more appealing and welcoming to the local community, we’re excited to see the impact of this on the usage of the facilities, the community and how we can all come to volunteer and work together to enhance community hubs.”

Anne-Marie Corbett, Centre Manager for Canley Community Centre, the first project to benefit from this partnership, told us how much the works mean to them:

“We’re so grateful for the refresh VIY and nine local volunteers have given to the centre. As a charitable organisation ourselves, the centre hasn’t been painted in 10 years due to slim resourcing and funds. In order to be able to best serve our community, through our food bank, local youth groups tackling knife crime and soon, local sports activities like yoga, dodgeball and fitness classes, we need to be looking our best to attract more people to use the centre and our services, whilst feeling comfortable to be in a bright, welcoming space, when they’re here. This full redecoration of the centre will do just that.”

As well as funding from Think Active, these projects will be supported with match-funding from Sport England, plus material donations from VIY Trade Partners Dulux (whose support also includes four volunteers on this project), GAP Tool Hire and Travis Perkins.

Our next projects together renovating community spaces for more local people to engage in physical activity include Bradby Youth Club in Rugby and Manor Park Rugby Football Club in Nuneaton. 

Vouch-For-A-Friend: £10 Amazon voucher

26 August 2022

Your questions answered: Vouch-For-A-Friend

What’s Vouch-For-A-Friend?

Young people tell us all the time that they would recommend a VIY project or that they know someone who would enjoy the experience too. To say thank you, we are rewarding the young person who successfully recommends a friend onto a VIY project (a friend who turns up and  participates on a VIY project too) with a £10 thank you voucher.

What is the voucher for?
The eligible young person who has successfully recommended VIY to a friend will receive a £10 Amazon voucher. You can find further details and terms & conditions of the voucher here. This incentive is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Amazon.

Who is eligible to participate and receive a voucher?

As a young person, you can participate in a VIY project if you are:

  • 14-24 (16-24 in some areas)
  • not in education, employment or training
  • excluded/at risk of disengaging in current work/training setting
  • in Alternative Provision
  • with a disability or special educational needs
  • other criteria can apply – please discuss with your VIY Youth Engagement Co-ordinator

Both young people (including the friend being recommended) must meet this criteria to volunteer on VIY projects and for the original young person to receive their voucher. The young people can come from the same organisation but do not have to be volunteering with VIY on the same days to receive the voucher.

Both young people must turn up on time for at least three days of a VIY project that they have registered for, with no unseen absences or delays.

The chosen friend must be referred, or refer themselves to VIY, by email by using this link or by mentioning the name of the person who recommended VIY during their email or telephone registration.

How do I receive the voucher?
The voucher will be sent to the email address associated with your registration with VIY – this may be your own, a family member’s email address, youth organisation, school or college so please check who is organising your place on a VIY project to ensure you receive your voucher.

When do I receive the voucher? 
You will receive the voucher within 14 days following the referred friend completing three days on a project.

Can I only get one voucher, for one friend?
No, a young person can receive a voucher for up to three friends. So if you refer three friends who successfully turn up to a project, you get three vouchers!

What is the timeframe within which I have to refer a friend to be eligible for a voucher?
The friend must successfully participate in the same project as the young person referring the friend.

VIY retains the right to amend these terms and conditions or remove this incentive at any time.

Please contact if you have any unanswered questions ahead of recommending and ‘vouching for a friend’ with VIY.

VIY shares Impact Report 2021-22

31 May 2022

Enabling volunteering to create social change

We’re passionate about the impact of volunteering to create real social change. It’s part of our three year vision to inspire more people to volunteer for the first time and/or more often in their communities – with the associated health and wellbeing benefits volunteering can bring.

  • from helping our young people to upskill and consider construction as an engaging career pathway
  • to local tradespeople volunteering their skills, experience and knowledge
  • to our partners giving back as volunteers on site
  • to our own people volunteering in their personal lives
  • all to help build better places and spaces for communities to thrive

In the past year we’ve celebrated 10 Years of VIY, awarded our 5000th City & Guilds accreditation, expanded our team by 25%, which is now providing the expertise to help us to deliver impact for our young people and communities on a scale never seen before for VIY. Retaining a quality experience and expanding the horizons of the young people we support at the same time.

Tim Reading, CEO of VIY, said:

“The 2021-22 operating year for VIY has been a story of recommencing full delivery and bouncing back after a tough period of Covid lockdowns and restrictions. Our model has felt more relevant than ever with so many young people having been adversely affected by Covid and so many essential community facilities and venues struggling to survive.

So the past 12 months have also been a story of positive impact, as told by this report, for young people at risk and for local communities in need – and all fuelled by volunteering and a brilliant ‘team sheet’ of cross-sector partners and funders.”

We look forward to working with all of our funders, partners and organisations through 2022-23 and beyond. We love doing #SomethingConstructive with you all and long may we continue to positively impact the lives of young people and local communities together. Thank you for your continued support!

What volunteering means to Team VIY

26 May 2022

Alex Berwick, Data & Impact Officer

“I started volunteering with Re-engage in 2015 (formerly Contact the Elderly, who work to combat social isolation and loneliness), and have volunteered as a tea party Group Coordinator, Driver and Host. The tea parties take place monthly and we pick the guests up and take them to a host’s house where everyone (including the volunteers) sits down to a tea party together. Over the years, I’ve seen the difference that these tea parties make to the older people who attend, but I also get so much out of it too (and no it’s not just the cake either!) Getting to chat to the tea party guests and hearing about their life stories, and seeing that you’re making a difference, make the tea parties one of the highlights of my month.

I also volunteer as a call companion for Re-engage. This involves a weekly call to a lovely gentleman called John. We’ve been speaking most weeks since March 2020 and I’ve been so lucky not only to hear about his life story (which has taken him from the east end of London in the 1930s), but to chat about more day-to-day things like football and what he’s been up to during the week.”

A quote from a lovely Re-engage recipient

Hannah Green, Communications Manager

“I volunteer as a Run Leader for weekly social run group Run Brum Crew in Birmingham city centre. It’s a great chance to start the week off right by getting out of the house on a Monday evening, helping other locals do the same and providing the vital social interaction we’ve all missed.

We’re there to help encourage people to simply get their trainers on, get out for a jog and a chat, to help both our physical and mental wellbeing. We also end up in the pub for a drink afterwards to carry on the conversation, meet new people and relax into the week together. Mondays are never the same without Run Brum Crew!”

Hannah with Birmingham city centre based Run Brum Crew, come rain or shine!

Tess Bettison, Project Executive

“I have volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing For The Brain programme since I was at school alongside my Dad (circa 2012/2013).  Singing for the Brain offers those suffering with Alzheimer’s and their carers a chance to come and have a sing, choosing a different theme and songs each week. The sessions provide a nice chance for socialisation, a fun activity that helps with brain functionality and offers the carers some rest bite, all in all creating a lovely community of support.

The Alzheimer’s Society is a charity very close to the hearts of my family as my Nan suffered with the disease for the last 10 years of her life and I always enjoy a good karaoke in whatever form it comes!”

Tim Reading, CEO

“I volunteer to run the junior cricket section at my local cricket club, where we have over 100 junior players drawn from our town and the local villages. The cricket club is the epicentre of my son’s life (he’s fully addicted to the game!) and has done so much for his development and confidence – so I want to help and encourage other young people to enjoy the game and benefit more widely in the same way.”

500 volunteers with Sport England

8 March 2022

Following Sport England’s vision to ‘transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity’, together we’ve been renovating less formal ‘active spaces’ such as community centres or youth clubs that host physical activity, and these 500 young people have hit some great headlines together already:

  • 1,500 hours of volunteering
  • 30+ community spaces transformed
  • 60% of which are located in local communities among the 20% most deprived nationally
  • 450 City & Guilds accreditations gained


Vanessa Mae Watson, volunteer & 500th participant with Sport England

Vanessa is a resident with the Amber Foundation, a wonderful organisation we’ve worked with many times over the years, who support young people overcoming homelessness and unemployment, and has been volunteering on a recent project along with fellow residents from her Amber residence. 

They’ve been working with our Trade Mentors to create a new youth and community space at Wembdon Village Hall in Bridgwater, Somerset. They’ve been putting up new walls, creating wooden storage, laying flooring, as well as plastering and decorating together. Here’s a mini tour of the space so far from our Head Mentor, Alan Dalton.

Vanessa’s become our 500th participant on our projects in partnership with Sport England and kindly took some time to tell us about her experience.


Young female, wearing a grey t-shirt and grey protective gloves, leans into a timber stud wall frame, smiling at the camera

Vanessa, what does volunteering on this project mean to you?

VIY is very gratifying, and offers what I feel to be a great opportunity to learn new skills, that otherwise would not be offered to us. I myself have mental health issues that are preventing me from looking for work, on top of bidding for properties through the council that I am looking to move into, so my experience with VIY thus far has been one of the best opportunities that I have taken on.

What has your VIY experience helping to renovate this village hall taught you?

It’s not only showing you what it’s like on the job but shows you in a unique and fun way, and also provides you with qualifications after your time with them. The time with them may seem short, but actually you have just used your time productively.

The mentors are a wonderful group of people who also take into account where people are starting from and always include everyone in the group. They keep things light hearted and fun, always welcoming and love to have a laugh with you, while also following health and safety guidelines. They also understand if you have worries and encourage you to overcome them. 

Since volunteering with VIY, how have your thoughts about your future changed?

I have really enjoyed the opportunity you have given me, VIY has been one of the best opportunities I have been a part of and others that I live with and for that I thank you. 


In partnership with Toolstation

Our Sport England match-funded projects are delivered in collaboration with a variety of other stakeholders such as national sports governing bodies, local authorities, building and construction sector employers, as well as key VIY trade partners like Toolstation. 

Wembdon Village Hall is Toolstation’s fourth project in partnership with VIY. As the UK’s fastest-growing multi-channel retailer of tools and building materials, this one is right on the doorstep of their national HQ in Bridgwater. Our young volunteers across all four projects, including Vanessa, have so far collectively gained 92 City & Guilds accreditations thanks to funding across this first phase of the VIY-Toolstation partnership throughout 2021-22. Their futures are now looking a little bit brighter thanks to this opportunity to participate in helping their community.

Lesa Stanton, PR and Charity Manager at Toolstation, commented on the partnership:

“We are really proud to support Volunteer It Yourself and to help young people learn practical trade and building skills and earn a City & Guilds qualification.

Toolstation has supported more than 100 participants and is currently carrying out its fourth project with VIY. We are delighted to play a part in helping young people like Vanessa gain practical and potentially life-changing trade skills. The construction sector is facing a shortage of workers and we hope that this initiative will inspire more young people to consider entering the trades.”

Our work continues at Wembdon Village Hall through the spring, so keep an eye out on our social channels for the full transformation!

Kickstarting careers at VIY

23 February 2022

We’re delighted to see Jada Sandy and Konradas Rukas, two of our first participants from the Kickstart scheme, the six month placement funded by the government designed to reduce youth unemployment following the Covid-19 pandemic, progress into roles following their time working as Junior Skills Mentors with VIY.

Jada will be joining VIY as a Peer Mentor, furthering her ambitions to run her own female-led trades business. Having mentored and worked alongside Jada on all of the projects she’s supported across the South/London, our Head Mentor, Alan Dalton, is full of praise for Jada: “A little bit of inspiration is what Jada gives me each time I work with her. She is exactly the reason I do this job. It makes my job worthwhile. She is what every site needs.”

Jada Sandy smiles and laughs with young people inside a changing room renovation at Kent Phoenix American Football Club

Meanwhile Konradas is following his calling as a plumber, graduating onto an apprenticeship with Woodford Heating & Energy, an opportunity he’s been seeking since finishing college. On departing VIY at the end of February, Konrad said “I’ve had fun at VIY and have enjoyed learning new things/skills and meeting new people.”

Kickstart male colleague Konradas Rukas opens a tin of Dulux paint inside the Dublin Castle music venue

Both Jada and Konradas have consistently impressed all of our Lead Mentors across the projects they have worked on during their six months with us, including the Dublin Castle in Camden, Wembdon Village Hall in Bridgwater, Kent Phoenix American Football Club and YMCA Dickerage.

We’re so pleased both of them are continuing to develop their skills and pursue careers in the trade. Our thanks to Travis Perkins Plc for acting as our Gateway Provider for the Kickstart scheme, enabling VIY to help young people benefit from this experience and further our mission to support young people into the trade, to help build a future pipeline for construction and ensure the next generation are not left behind following the pandemic.

The next cohort of Kickstarters will be joining VIY in the coming weeks. Make sure you’re following our social channels where we’ll introduce them!