The Workshop hopes to provide a space for men

Cameron Bauer gets creative in the Lochaber Hope Workshop. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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Lochaber Hope is a well-established support service in Lochaber offering many mental health and wellbeing services in the community.

While many of the Lochaber Hope projects are well attended, the main service users are women.

While statistics show that men are far more at risk when suffering from mental wellbeing, with UK suicide rates in men being up to three times higher than women, it is recognised that asking for and accessing support appears to be harder for men.

Projects like men’s sheds can help to create spaces for men to learn new skills, reduce social isolation and loneliness and be part of a community project.

A boat building project had long been on the wish list for Lochaber Hope and in 2019 Cameron Bauer, a skilled joiner and woodworker joined the team with a vision for a social enterprise for boat building and beyond. The Workshop is a place for people to build in every sense of the word.

I spoke to Cameron about the vision for The Workshop and what the plans are for this exciting space.

Cameron is from a small town in Maryland, USA and told me that one of the first things that struck him about Fort William when he moved there with his wife was how few of the services and provisions in the area were designed with the people who lived there in mind.

‘So many of the shops, cafes and other local businesses are here for the visitors, not for the people who call this place home,’ he said.

‘Feeling as though there is nothing for you in the place you live undermines your sense of self, of importance. In my home town in America all of the services were for the people who lived in the town.

‘When I moved here I really wanted to work doing something which used
my skills and served the community.’

Cameron’s handiwork as a joiner can be seen in various hotels, bars and other businesses in the area and in 2019 he joined Lochaber Hope to take the lead on the boat building project which has now secured funding and began working on a vision for The Workshop.

Cameron explains: ‘We were due to launch with the skiff build in early 2020 and then to become a space for people to come together, using the skills within the community; to share in a safe, positive environment and to encourage those who are experiencing vulnerable moments to engage, achieve and have a sense of belonging.

‘The Workshop aims to combine the practical with the mental wellbeing support of being in an inclusive, open space.’

Lockdown has meant that the boat building project is currently on a shelf and due to social distancing measures the space is unable to open up and welcome people in real life for the time being.

However, Cameron has been able to offer training to a young apprentice and is creating regular online tutorials in joinery skills.

Once fully back up and running The Workshop will be providing workshops and training opportunities, and community building projects including the skiff.

In the meantime, though, The Workshop has launched its bespoke furniture building services for Lochaber individuals and businesses.

Cameron added: ‘In line with the Lochaber Hope mantra of ‘truly the community helping the community’ we are creating high quality pieces of furniture with 100 per cent of the sales going directly to the work of Lochaber Hope projects.’

For more information about The Workshop go to https://www.lochaberhope.org.uk/the-workshop