Name: Graham Weaver
Job: Charity manager at The Bren Project
Lives: Vicars Cross, Chester
Education: Deyes High School, Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan University
Family: I live with a wonderful bunch of people: my wife, six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son
I set the alarm for about 6.45am and then begin the mad dash to get the kids up, dressed, breakfasted and equipped with packed lunches before it’s time to run them to school.
Most days, I go to work by bicycle, so taking the kids to school is a bit tricky. Usually I walk the bike, while my son rides on the pannier rack and my daughter cycles or scoots alongside us. Once I’ve dropped them off at school, it’s just a short bike ride to our office on Hoole Road.
I’ve only been charity manager at The Bren Project, a small, independent charity which has been working in Chester since 2007, for a couple of months, but I’ve been involved with the charity for a number of years. We offer supported employment opportunities, in a wide range of working environments.
Last summer we launched Bren Bikes, a social enterprise based in Chester. This is our own workspace, where beneficiaries get to experience working on unwanted bikes, recycling and refurbishing them and offering them for sale. When beneficiaries have finished a placement at Bren Bikes, they go for an eight week placement with an external organisation which has been handpicked for them. All beneficiaries are provided with a one-to-one job coach who will support them throughout the placement.
My days are often very different: in the morning, I’ll check my emails – on a good day, I’ll have an email or two from local organisations who want to become placement providers – check our social media feeds, and then it’s on with the work of the day. I spend my time talking to employers about all the great reasons to become a placement provider, checking that our beneficiaries and staff are happy, fundraising to keep the organisation going and trudging through spreadsheets to ensure the successful financial management of the organisation.
It’s a very diverse role: one moment I might be designing cycling jerseys for our team taking part in the Prudential RideLondon 100 in July, the next moment I might be off to the Bren Bikes workshop to help out down there.
After wolfing down my packed lunch, I might find myself accompanying one of the project co-ordinators to meet and profile a new beneficiary or going out to attend a local third sector forum. Raising the profile of the charity is a really important part of my work: I want everyone in Chester to know what a great job The Bren Project is doing!
At the end of the day, I get to cycle home: 10 minutes of quite reflection before I resume my other job as a climbing frame for the kids...
What do you wear to do your job? I’m a bit scruffier than is ideal, I’m afraid: shirt, jumper, smartish jeans and Doc Martens.
What is the favourite part of your job? It’s really great to see adults with learning disabilities and autism reach their potential. In the years I’ve been involved with The Bren Project, I’ve seen a huge number of success stories where individuals have outpaced the expectations of everyone around them. When someone’s mum, dad or carer rings us up to say what a difference we have made in someone’s life, that makes me very happy indeed.
What is the least favourite part of your job? Because we work so hard to find the right employers and get the placements exactly right for our beneficiaries, sometimes our beneficiaries have to wait longer than they should for a placement to start. If there are any employers out there who would like to become placement providers, then please get in touch!
What would be your dream job if you weren’t doing what you do now? When I was a boy, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I imagined a life of high adventure: sailing around the world, scuba diving and wrestling with giant squid before returning to my cabin to drink rum and write in my journal. That still holds a great deal of appeal.
How do you relax when you are not working? I love reading and collecting books, and I took up running last year, after nearly 40 years of being the North West’s least sporty bloke. I was amazed to find that I love it. It’s a great way to spend half an hour or so alone with my thoughts in the beautiful Cheshire countryside. I’m just about to run my second half marathon while a couple of years ago I would have rather have been late for work than run for a bus!
What is your favourite film? Blade Runner.
What is your favourite book? I’m a real book lover, and have a shortlist of about 20 books that could qualify as the answer to this question, but today I will say The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.
What is your favourite song? Debaser by the Pixies.
If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play you? Jason Statham could pull it off if he was prepared to really let himself go.
Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet? I think appearing in this column may well be it!
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