WHAT IS THE COWSHED?
The Cowshed is a new charity which provides support to people of all backgrounds in a time of personal crisis. The aim of The Cowshed is to provide good quality cleaned and ironed clothes and other essentials free to anyone in need. The clothes are donated from the general public as well as retailers and manufacturers; they are then sorted, washed and ironed at our premises ready to be delivered or collected by social services, other health professionals or our clients. The idea is that our clients feel they are receiving a gift to assist them in a time of crisis rather than some old clothes that are over worn, marked or damaged.
The Cowshed was established in 2018. It has been fully operational since mid-February 2019 and we are growing fast, receiving increasing numbers of referrals each week. Our referrers include Health Visitors, Social Services, Foodbanks, Schools, Refuges, Churches, Doctors and a number of other local charities. We provide the items that are requested free of charge and our clients have the opportunity to come to The Cowshed to select and try on items should they wish.
The Cowshed has a three-way impact: helping those most in need in our communities, recycling used clothing and creating community groups.
THE HELP WE PROVIDE
We are privileged to have been able to support a variety of individuals of all ages in very different but difficult situations including those fleeing domestic abuse, individuals and families experiencing emergency rehousing, health issues resulting in poverty, the homeless, emergency custody situations, poor housing conditions to name but a few. All of these people are in our local community and required help with clothing, shoes, bedding, curtains and other essential items.
The principle costs that we face are the rent on our HQ and the purchase of items that we are unable to supply second hand such as underwear, duvets and bedding which cost the charity in the region of £300 per month. We have created an Amazon wish list for these and have had some donors purchase items on our behalf. We are continually working with our trustees to work on fundraising events and grant applications.
We are very fortunate to have found an amazing location in Hurst where we are based. We have established our first centre in the Wokingham area and this covers all of Berkshire. We hope to expand to other areas as soon as the funds are available. There is currently no other national charity providing this service in the UK.
THE ‘FAST FASHION’ PROBLEM
In a recent report The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee stated that there is a basic problem with an industry that relies on persuading people to throw away good clothes because they are “last year’s colour”.
It quotes evidence that:
- British shoppers buy far more new clothes than any nation in Europe
- People are buying twice as many items of clothing as they did a decade ago
They believe swift action is essential, because if current clothes consumption continues “…they will account for more than a quarter of our total impact on climate change by 2050”, Chairwoman Mary Creagh told BBC News. “Three in five garments end in landfill or incinerators within a year – that’s expensive fuel! Half a million tonnes of microfibres a year enter the ocean. Doing nothing is not an option.”
HOW WE RE-USE AND RECYCLE
We use all the clothes that are donated to us – the good quality items are washed and ironed ready for our clients and the slightly damaged clothes/bedding are repurposed by our community arts and crafts group into items for us to sell, and tote bags for us to put our referrals in. Any remaining textiles are collected by a recycling organisation to raise further funds to help sustain the charity. We are averaging donations of between 3 and 4 tonnes a month, all of which has been recycled in some way, either for direct use for our referrals or in our other initiatives, saving a huge amount from landfill.