“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”
- Chinese Proverb
Fresh starts are exciting. New diaries, unfulfilled calendars, the chance to start again.
We had a serious adventure in our first year. From sharing our stories with tens of thousands of people at the Belfast Christmas Market, reaching over 10,000 donation hats to give away, adding five new members to our team, launching 14 new products, and imparting our vision at over 20 events, we have so many memories look back on and be thankful for.
But as Publilius Syrus once famously said, “a rolling stone gathers no moss”, we too recognise value of continuously moving forward, and have no intention of slowing down.
There is still so much work to be done in seeking to achieve our goal to see millions of lives rescued out of homelessness, and this is just the beginning.
We are a social enterprise with big dreams for the future, and although we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of conquering our aims, we are already so encouraged by the potential that is right in front of us.
The movement may have started with a beanie, but the vision goes far beyond the products.
An enterprising person is one who comes across a pile of scrap metal and sees the making of a wonderful sculpture. An enterprising person is one who drives through an old decrepit part of town and sees a new housing development. An enterprising person is one who sees opportunity in all areas of life.
When we look at our products, we look beyond the sale and the piece of clothing in front of us. We see an opportunity to bring someone who is homeless in employability through making our products.
We see the opportunity to support local homeless charities by providing them with clothes.
We see the chance to give society the power to make a statement by wearing something that carries meaning. We see the chance to show someone living on the streets that we care.
This is our vision for 2018. To look beyond our products, and the see the difference they can make in the lives of broken, vulnerable people. From providing retail and manufacturing jobs for the homeless, to tackling deep rooted emotional problems through addiction help and counselling, we want provide holistic care for those in intense poverty.
Currently, we are working alongside local charities in Belfast to see how we can make this vision a reality. A daunting step, but a move we are very excited about.
A few weeks before Christmas, we had the honour of teaming up with The Manshack Barber Shop and District Coffee, to run a special event for the homeless community of Belfast. The Manshack opened their doors one Sunday afternoon, and provided free haircuts and beard trims to over 30 people living on the streets or in homeless hostels in the city.
After being pampered by some of the best hairdressers in town, each guest left with their very own OutsideIn wash bag, full of both essential toiletries and luxury items, and several items of their choice from our new winter range.
The feedback we received from the homeless community was incredibly touching. To see guest after guest leave with their heads held high and their days made was a gift to us. But more than that, we got to hear their stories. We got to listen to their hopes and dreams for the future, and be inspired by their indestructible perseverance in the face of tragic circumstances.
We wanted to give them a Christmas they would never forget, but they gave us far more in return.
One of the stories we treasure the most from this event happened through a simple conversation between two men who had more in common than they thought. Amongst the busy noises at the salon, one of the barbers asked the man sitting in his chair if he had any dreams and aspirations for the future. The man answered: “I’ve actually always wanted to be a barber, even since I was a kid! It’s all I’ve wanted to do”. Within a matter of minutes, the conversation was passed onto the salon manager, numbers were exchanged, and the man was offered a place on a hairdressing-training course with the prospect of a job at the end.
Within a matter of moments, this man’s dream became a reality. In the right place, at the right time, something he deemed would never be possible, became possible. Just like that.
We couldn’t be more ecstatic.
This is what we want to see more and more of – more stories that inspire, more opportunities to build a better future for those who need it most, more negative perceptions around homelessness to be crushed, and more lives transformed out of poverty.
Yes, we have high hopes for 2018 and beyond, but if the event at The Manshack taught us anything, it was to never shy away from speaking out your hopes and dream big.
You never know, the opportunity to make these aspirations a reality could just be a conversation away.
We’re excited to keep moving forward in 2018.
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