Practical skills are a huge benefit to a PTA. But a lack of time and knowledge can make it difficult for busy parents to help. For some groups, Men’s Sheds are providing the answer
Clare Dervan, chair at the Friends of St Edward’s PTA in Oldham, says: ‘When our PTA needed props for the summer fair, I contacted our local shed. I had heard about Men’s Sheds as they are local to our school. I told them what we wanted and asked if they could help. I also sent photos and arranged to go the shed to discuss the finer details. They agreed to make three items: shelves for Play Your Cards Right and Shoot A Duck, and a board with holes in for Ball In A Bucket (above). The men are so helpful – they even volunteered to make the items with a collapsible frame so we can store them more easily. We’ll be making a donation to the shed, and will definitely contact them again.’
Following the example of the successful Men’s Shed movement in Australia, Mike Jenn set up a shed in Camden, North London in 2012. A year later, he formed the UK Men's Sheds Association. There are now more than 800 sheds operating in the UK with another 200 in development.
Sheds are non-profit organisations that provide a group space where men make and repair items for themselves and the community. But there’s more to it than just work – the sheds are saving lives.
Charlie Bethel, chief officer at the UK Men’s Sheds Association, says: ‘As men get older and their lives change due to retirement or friends moving away, loneliness can become a big issue. Working shoulder to shoulder with other men makes it easier for them to open up. When you’re cutting a piece of wood, you need to concentrate and that takes your mind away from your problems. Then, before you know it, you’ve swapped life stories with the person next to you. Some sheds include women – it’s up to them – but we still suggest having some men-only sessions. 97% of men say they’ve made a new friend in the sheds.’