Ben Carpenter: Update September 2020

Portrait of Ben Carpenter: A Smiling man in his 30's with blue eyes, stubble and medium length light brown hair.About me:

grew up in a single parent household and home life involved equal measures of love and chaos in the shape of addiction, violence and mental health problems within the family.  

 didn’t engage well at school and moved out of home with friends at 17 and in my early 20’s mum passed away from cancer. This was my catalyst for change.  

went travelling for a year that turned into 3 years, being in the right place, at the right time resulted in sailing half way around the world as crew on many yachts. can’t even swim!  

This experience allowed much time to reflect, to grow in confidence and come home with a clear goal to become a Youth and Community Worker. 

Ex-teacher and now Grassroot Communities Director Isobel Clark recently said ‘You always wanted to be a social worker and help others. Ironically if you had had the support of someone like you at 15, it wouldn’t have taken you so long to get where you are today’.    

started volunteering at youth projects on my return from traveling, whilst getting paid work in a secondary school behaviour department and then other paid roles in a variety of Bristol youth and community organisations. This allowed me to develop a varied skill set, a wide network of professional contacts and understand the different dynamics of communities across the city. More recently I’ve worked as a Senior Youth and Community Worker at Youth Moves in Knowle West and amongst many other projects built a youth and community club (roundhouse) and developed an acre growing space with young people and adults from the community! 

I’m now a degree qualified youth and community worker with over 13 years practical experience of working across South, Central and East Bristol. Also a qualified and experienced forest school leader that recently completed Shift Bristol’s yearlong Practical Sustainability course. 

Work I do:

founded Grassroot Communities in 2017 to deliver school, youth and community led projects in Bristol communities most in needThe aim is to connect people with their communities and nature to improve quality of life.  

The following innovative and community led project models give you a flavour of the work Grassroot Communities is currently or soon to be facilitating in South Bristol and across the city in the future. 

  • COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS Learning new skills, resilience and inspiring the next generation of leaders and positive role models through social action 
  • GRASSROOT ADVENTURES Inspiring young people causing anti-social behaviour in their community to become positive role models 
  • MENTORING Supporting young people/ adults at the edge of care and custody, and involved in serious and violent crime in South Bristol. I am BCC Safer Options team South Bristol Community Consultant 
  • DETACHED YOUTHWORKoperating across South Bristol without the use of a building or activity and taking place where young people “are at” both geographically and developmentally. We deliver informal and social education 
  • GROWING STREETS TOGETHER Engaging all ages of local people through positive activities, supporting them to plan and deliver a show stopping street party  
  • POWER OF NATURE supporting and inspiring Bristol schools, youth groups and communities to reconnect with the power of nature 
  • RECONNECT Improving relationships between carer and child through activities and adventure in nature. Please check out the Reconnect – Hartcliffe project video.
    • A dad’s feedback I feel closer now to XXXX, than I ever have and am extremely thankful to have had these opportunities to have spent with my son’. 
    • A daughters feedback ‘It has brought me closer to my step dad and gave me chance to relax and get out the house and do something without my 4 brothers and sisters’.   
  • RIDERS OF THE STORM Inspiring young people suffering from mental health to start their own self-help group. Utilising discussion, practical and creative ideas and activities in nature culminating in learning to surf!  

How I do it:

When you boil it down, all these projects are based on connection, relationships and opportunities. I/we always meet and consult local people of all ages where they are, listening and then acting (and reflecting). The community led projectcreate a safe, welcoming and fun environment, participants feel more open to sharing experiences, telling their stories and learning from each other as well as then shaping projects based on their own and collective wants and needs.   

Since recently being made a UoB City Fellow for the School of Education, I have been able to develop the yearlong Grassroot Activators Programme (GAP). Grassroot Communities above project models act as engagement tools, interventions and stepping stones and alongside new trailblazing modules have helped inform GAP. We are in the process of funding this life changing opportunity and would welcome any support in doing so and to discuss adding to our already amazing list of GAP partners! 

GAP develops pathways for young people from 16-25 to believe in theme selves, learning life skills, nature connection and supports them to thrive, not just survive. Having the confidence to grasp future opportunities in both hands such as in education, volunteering, apprenticeships and employment. 

Importantly GAP provides a solid foundation, practical experiences and skills to start filling the widening skills gap in youth and community work with localised workers. GAP will inspire young people to be the changes they want to see. Furthermore, within the process of engaging in the programme young people will practically cascade the positive impact of their various social action, social enterprise and environmental projects on communities in the margins of our city and create our diverse community leaders of tomorrow.  Young people are the solution, not the problem...