Halfway Update !

We are 6 weeks in to our 12 week programme. So here is an update on what we have all been up to! – Mike



Dewi & Dave
“During our work so far as Volunteer Project Assistants in the Business Services department David and I have split our time between two different projects. Firstly the Big Energy Saving Network which aims to raise awareness of energy tariff options and assist people with making informed decisions about switching suppliers. This project revolves around delivering advice presentations to various groups such as people on employability workshops. So far we have both delivered one of these presentations each.

The other project we have been working with is an energy efficiency project in partnership with Six Town Housing. This work requires us to knock on the doors of specific residents in various areas of Greater Manchester including Prestwich, Ramsbottom and Ainsworth. We have had some success in getting people to sign up to receive free energy efficiency measures and advice on these issues.”


Mike & Laura
“During our time at Groundwork so far myself and Laura have been mostly working together to complete our projects. I’ll go out in the field and take photos and footage, Laura will write up the press releases and research. So far we have taken part in projects like the Princes Trust Team’s community project handover to Oldham Rugby Union FC, creating new Marketing schemes and updating social networking / the VPA blog.

However we also work on individual projects, so far I’ve documented projects like the 6 Town Housing scheme, the BCO participants, the practical countryside skills programme and The Princes Trust Teams assistance with MENCAPS’s tree growing. I’ve also taken part in more specific projects like senior management’s company profile photography and assisting with photography workshops.

Laura has set up and created instructions for a Groundwork Instagram, increased social networking numbers, created and held surveys, copyrighting and written up case studies.”

“After commencing on the practical countryside skills course from September to November 2013, I began on the VPA programme (both at Groundwork Oldham and Rochdale). For my placement I decided to participate in the Digital Inclusions project based at Sholver Youth and Community Centre in Oldham; one of three projects activities offered by Groundwork Oldham and Rochdale under the Community Coaches programme.  The project aims to teach people who would not have access to a computer for various reasons an understanding of basic I.T. literacy, including usage of the mouse, keyboard and the basics of the internet. In my role I am assisting my team leader (Tobias Jones) with help in recruitment for the course, promotion, setting up creative tasks for volunteers to be undertaken (i.e. tasks on the internet such as journey planning and shopping), and researching I.T. skills pertaining to the project as well as trying to implement them in a creative manner.”

“My main placement role is to assist in the delivery of the Practical Countryside Skills programme with Dene and Matt. So each week on a Monday and Tuesday we’ve engaged in outdoor practical conservation work. So far we have undertaken path clearance, woodland management, pond clearance, litter picking and site clean-up work. On a Wednesday the learners stay at the Groundwork office to take part in classroom work. We have focused on a variety of topics – hand tool maintenance, animals in the wild and in society, pests and diseases.”

As well as my main project role, I have also taken the lead in writing a funding bid for Littleborough based charity Animals in Distress at the Field of Dreams centre to improve an access road to their site and the Pennine Bridleway. In order to gain project management and organisational skills I have also been helping to organise a number of growing days at Fulwood nature reserve and two volunteer sessions for the Practical Countryside Skills groups. These projects are on-going.


Beyonce and The Princes Trust create a once in a lifetime opportunity!

I will actually be a steward at Beyoncé’s next two gigs in Manchester, however, if you are lucky enough to be actually going to watch the queen, please take a look at this. In my job here at Groundwork I have some involvement with The Prince’s Trust as we are a delivery partner of the programme. I have worked with young people who are currently on the programme through Groundwork and previous to this job and I can honestly say that the programmes delivered by The Prince’s Trust do change peoples lives. You can donate £3 or donate an item of clothing at designated donation areas within any arenas in the UK where Beyoncé is playing. In return you will get a #BeyGood sticker, and Beyoncé’s team will be wandering around the arena randomly selecting those with #BeyGood stickers to sit in VIP seating. The money goes to The Prince’s Trust which, as I said, is a brilliant organisation, and VIP seats for £3 is a brilliant opportunity.

If aren’t going to the concerts, but are interested in finding out more or donating, take a look at the website here 🙂



A week in VPA land


Ending a week with cake is the VPA way, especially when it’s been a busy one!

This week has been a hectic one for all of us to say the least. Mike and I have started to research and prepare for the revision of The Princes Trust Team marketing materials and have been out and about in doing so. David and Dewi have been speaking to residents in Prestwich and Ramsbottom about effective energy saving techniques. Nathaniel has been busy on his new digital inclusion project, and Emily has been practising her bid writing skills and has successfully written a bid to improve access to the Pennine Bridleway in Littleborough.

Unfortunately for us (Not for Edward), we had to say goodbye to Edward on Thursday as luckily for him he found the perfect job – in the Isle of Wight. This Thursday is also our last day with VPA Coordinator Gemma which will be a sad goodbye, but from all the VPA’s, we wish you the best of luck in your new job!

So as you can see, we definitely needed not just one, but two cupcakes to scoff today to bring a very yummy end to a very stressful week!

Hope you have all had a fantastic week and have a lovely weekend!

Laura X

Smithills Farm

This is basically just going to be a post of cool pictures of the VPA team with some animals. We went on a trip to Smithalls Farm in Bolton on Thursday and due to the fact that we had such a fantastic day, I just had to blog about it. Yes, we are all 21 and above. Yes, the farm was full of kids and their parents. Did it stop us being over excited and absolutely loving our day? No. Did it heck.

The staff were all absolutely lovely and really informative. We fed animals (including the cutest little lambs), held animals (Me, Mike and Edward held a Python – which I was fine with, until I was told it could crush me) and stroked some of the little furry friends. We even got a tractor ride!!

I’d recommend that people of ALL ages go and have a look round. They have a nice little cafe on site for a spot of lunch and as it is set within 70 acres of countryside, there is plenty of opportunity to make a day of it and go for a nice walk once you’ve seen all there is to see! And the best bit – it’s cheap as chips!

With it being half term this week (where I am, anyway), It’s definitely a winner for a family day out! Wrap up warm, though. And you might want to book in advance!

Check ’em out here 🙂

Photography by Mike Warren – Check out his flickr here for more photos of this day and lots of others too



Andy taught us about photography!


Although we already have an expert in our team – as you can see from the wonderful pictures in the other blog posts – our marketing manager Andy thought it’d be helpful to teach us a bit about photography so we can take some good snaps! We all started to get the hang of it in the end and found out things about our cameras that we never even knew! We also had a laugh when we had our first go at attempting to edit our images!

Cheers Andy, it was a great day and we all definitely benefited from it. However, I don’t think my family and friends appreciate the fact that I now think I’m a professional photographer!

Food for thought!!


Weekly cooking workshops took place at The Oldham Academy North in Royton. Local residents had the opportunity to come down and meet new people, learn new skills and even get their personal recipes published in the Great Oldham Cookbook – a collection of recipes from the Oldham community.

Mike went down with his camera on Thursday the 23rd of Jan which was the last workshop. He got some great images of the range of different people who attended showing off their new skills!

I don’t know about you, but those cookies look good to me!ImageImageImage

Did you know we like cake?


It is a VPA ritual on a Thursday that we all meet up, and yes, you guessed it – we eat cake. These fabulous minty cupcakes were made by our VPA team leader Jo!

Here’s the recipe:

100g butter

100g sugar

2 eggs

150g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

75g choc chips, mint choc – Jo used mint aero!


50g butter

150g icing sugar

peppermint extract

green colouring

6 chocolate squares in half – after eights


Give it a go and enjoy!

Marketing and communications team!


Last but not least, the lovely, amazing, wonderful dream team (I’m not biased, honest).

Meet Michael Warren and Laura Isherwood (myself)!

Mike has an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design with honours from The University of Salford. He chose groundwork as he felt it would be relevant experience and an opportunity to get some great shots and pieces of work for his portfolio. Mike also hopes to strengthen his CV by volunteering for Groundwork.

There seems to be a running theme here, but I don’t disagree with it – Mike has also gone for a cheesecake as his favourite cake. However, he did pose the question ‘Does cheesecake count?’ and now I’m wondering myself. Is cheesecake a cake? hmmmm


Last but not least – a not so good photo of me, but wonderful photography by Mike! I am Laura Isherwood and I graduated last year from Leeds Metropolitan University with a 2:1 in BA (hons) Psychology with Criminology. I chose Groundwork as they had been recommended to me by a few people, and when I looked them up and saw their brilliant opportunity to get on the VPA scheme as a Marketing Project Assistant, I jumped at the chance! By doing this placement, I hope to develop the experience I already have in PR, Marketing and managing social media accounts, but I also hope to gain new experience, such as project management. I love the type of work that groundwork do and some of the stories I hear about different projects really make me smile. 🙂

Ok – fave cake. That’s a toughie. Is sticky toffee pudding a cake?! I don’t know. If not, I do love me a bit of carrot cake! Mmmmmmm. On that note, it’s lunch time.



I hope you have enjoyed reading about the new VPA team. We’ll be posting regular updates on the trials and tribulations (Dramatic. I wanted it to sound exciting) of the Groundwork VPA team Jan-April 2014!