OVER its five-year duration, The Makers Gallery & Bistro was invaluable to some Clackmannanshire residents.

The project came to a close on Friday, March 17 and had helped 155 people with employability.

The training scheme offered by Reachout with Arts in Mind, which was behind the project, was instrumental in helping people develop much-needed skills.

Darren Main was a participant in the charity’s partnership programme with Wasps Community Club and Coalfields Regeneration Trust ‘Sportsworks’.

Being unemployed for an extended amount of time had really impacted on his confidence and this was creating a barrier to achieving his goal.

Darren discovered the range of opportunities available in The Makers Gallery & Bistro and applied to work in the kitchen.

He initially enjoyed being a responsible member of the team, the variety of tasks and soon realised the positive impact the training programme was having on his life.

He said: “I used to just make pizza but now I make healthy soup for myself and my gran.

“Not only has my diet really improved, I also had to learn how to communicate with the team in the busy kitchen environment which made me feel more confident to put myself out there socially.

“Working in such a positive environment getting along with everyone I met gave me the self-esteem to increase my social circle.”

Darren applied to train for the army infantry and in January 2017 he left for the Catterick Garrison.

Meanwhile, while a student studying art and design at Forth Valley College, Harmony Rose Smith approached Reachout to volunteer in the studio.

Initially she thought she might be interested in teaching but wasn’t sure if this was the career path for her.

She was also producing a successful range of art products under the pseudonym, Harry Roxford; everything from paintings, to greetings cards, jewellery and textiles.

Progressing to the gallery and enterprise training programme in October 2014, Harmony developed her jewellery brand, led art discussions and portfolio workshops for Reachout members.

She supported children with autism in creative graffiti workshops through Reachout’s outreach project funded by Cashback for Communities.

Now working full time as a probationary teacher in Struan School she feels her training provided her the opportunity to change her life.

She said: “My training at the Makers Gallery & Bistro set me up for this. It allowed me to work with different groups of people, from Play Alloa to Reachout; being encouraged to plan and structure lessons; having to communicate appropriately with my trainers and my learners.

“I soon realised that teaching was for me.

“My confidence, social skills and communication with others outside of my family circle really benefitted me.

“I felt validated by this different environment and that was a big factor in my growing self-esteem and confidence.”

She now credits this tailormade programme of learning activities as helping her establish her future direction, giving her a level of freedom within clear negotiated boundaries within her self development plan.

Harmony initiated and delivered a trainee evaluation workshop, where she encouraged fellow trainees to explore their feelings and opinions about their experiences of the training programme.

She would like to remain in the post at Struan House should it become permanent but in the meantime she is applying for post graduate SEN teaching courses.

With the Makers Gallery & Bistro wrapped up, Reachout is forging ahead with its other projects.