Posted in Features

Decorators help charities

Decorators help charities Posted on 2 May 2024

Pre-Apprentice volunteers and staff from West College Scotland outside the Accord Hospice in Paisley

Neil Braidwood shines a light on the students and decorating centres from all over Scotland that are getting stuck in and helping charities in need of some help.

We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis and money is tight for everyone, especially the charity sector. 

Government funding has been cut and people are donating less and less. So it’s heartening to discover that all over Scotland, help is at hand, as colleges mobilise painting and decorating students to assist with refurbishment projects.


One such project was at the ACCORD Hospice in Paisley. After posting on social media asking for help to decorate its new Bereavement Hub, Derek Smillie, the Curriculum Quality Leader at the Paisley campus of West College Scotland, got in touch. The team pictured above, including some Pre-Apprentice and Apprentice students, visited the hospice to assess the scope of the works and put the wheels in motion.

ACCORD Hospice kindly agreed to fund the cost of materials and also kept the students fed and watered for the duration of the works. The space is now transformed into a welcoming space for bereaved family members and staff at the hospice are delighted with the results. 

A spokesperson for ACCORD said: “We are absolutely delighted with our new-look premises for the Renfrewshire Bereavement Network, a place you can come to if you are experiencing loss or dealing with grief following the death of someone close to you. Creating a warm and welcoming place was something we wanted to achieve, with many thanks to the students from West College Scotland for their professional job. Thanks to everyone for the support of the Hospice and the Renfrewshire Bereavement Network.”

Derek said: “It was a pleasure to assist this worthwhile local charity and in turn, give our Pre-Apprenticeship learners on-the-job training. The learners did a fabulous, professional job, supported by our lecturing staff. The learners gained valuable experience for their portfolio.” 

Transforming lives 

In a heartening collaboration, the City of Glasgow College Painting and Decorating department partnered with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain to undertake a redecoration project, breathing new life
into social housing for Ukrainian refugee families in Scotland.

The initiative was spearheaded by Oleksandra Wierzbicka in summer 2023 and has had a resurgence recently. Oleksandra, a former student at the college, and secretary/community coordinator for the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, Glasgow Branch approached the Built Environment team with
the hope of assistance.

Oleksandra’s passion for supporting displaced Ukrainians led to the project’s conception, aiming to make temporary accommodation more comfortable and homely for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

Under the guidance of lecturers Michael McEwan and Alan Henderson, the NPA Painting and Decorating class, along with apprentice classes, took on the task of transforming social housing flats in Govan, Easterhouse, and Carntyne. The focus extended beyond aesthetics, with the goal of creating warm and comfortable environments that truly felt like home. Associate Dean Andy Pollock for City of Glasgow College said: “The Built Environment team at City of Glasgow have a long history of social values and community engagement projects but when the request to support the settling of those displaced by the Ukrainian conflict came up, we had no hesitation. All staff, students and even our suppliers were keen to get on board. The students themselves expressed a great deal of pride in being able to give a small amount of pleasure to those so drastically affected by the conflict by simply putting decoration and colour in their new homes.”

Local paint companies, The Paint Shed in Parkhead, and Dulux Decorating Centre Maryhill, generously donated all the materials for the project. This not only highlights the spirit of community support but also emphasises the positive impact that collaboration between educational institutions and local businesses can have on societal wellbeing.

The students, armed with the skills honed during their time at the City of Glasgow College, turned outdated interiors into aesthetically pleasing spaces. The initiative not only displayed their craftsmanship but also underscored the transformative power of their work on the lives of the individuals and families benefitting from it.

This project demonstrates how training apprentices can make an unprecedented impact, offering them valuable real-world experience while highlighting the tangible difference their efforts can make in people’s lives. Oleksandra said: “I want to sincerely thank the City of Glasgow College from the bottom of my heart for not only providing excellent education but also for showing humanity by supporting those facing challenges. Your ongoing support means a lot to us, and we look forward to making a positive difference in the lives of more people. Thank you for your continued support.”

The success of this collaborative project serves as a powerful reminder of what can be achieved through the thoughtful allocation of resources and a dedicated group of individuals. Beyond the physical transformation of living spaces, it reinforces the idea that craft skills have the profound ability to create environments where individuals can thrive and enjoy living.

Tunnel vision

An old Victorian railway tunnel in Ayrshire has been given a new lease of life thanks to Pre-Apprentice students from Ayrshire College. Alloway Railway Tunnel ART SCIO, a local charity, has been working with Ayrshire College on all manner of things to get the tunnel transformed into a safe space for the community, involving people from the area to help create an engaging, colourful mural, telling local stories. 

At the end of last year, the painting and decorating students basecoated the 150m-long tunnel with masonry paint in readiness for the mural which will be partly painted by artist Chris Rutherford in collaboration with schools in the area. The themes of the mural are – Robert Burns’ life and times (the Tunnel is in Alloway, adjacent to Mungo’s Well on the route of Burns’ epic poem Tam O’ Shanter) and Ayrshire heritage and social history – people, farming, fishing, mining and industry. This should be completed by January 2025.

Cameron Bell, Head of Construction Technology, Trades and Renewables at Ayrshire College said:
“This project is a great opportunity to demonstrate the students’ skills and get real life and work experience on a project that’s going to be here for years!

“As well as doing the painting, they have been given the responsibility for completing a risk assessment and they have really taken ownership of that. They have had to estimate how much paint they need, what materials and tools are required and this has helped them develop their core and method skills.”

The paint the students used was provided free of charge by Johnstone’s Decorating Centre and Crown Decorating Centre in Ayr. The paint used included Johnstone’s Stormshield Smooth, Sandtex High-coat Smooth and Macpherson Powercote. 

By law, the Pre-Apprentice students were not allowed to paint at height, so additional volunteers were drafted in to help paint the ceiling vaults.  

Boy zone 

A Boys’ Brigade group had their hall completely rejuvenated for Remembrance Sunday and it didn’t
cost them a penny.

The 1st Vale of Leven Boys’ Brigade (BB) Company and Girls Association was part of a West College Scotland project that saw learners from the painting and decorating department revitalise its home in Alexandria.

And giving the initiative a real boost, Crown donated all the materials required for the scheme, allowing the work to be carried out entirely for free.

Under the guidance of Curriculum Quality Leader, Andy Corbett, and Quality Enhancement Lecturer John Currie, a group of highly skilled first-year apprentices from the Clydebank Campus gave the building a fresh coat of paint.

BB captain Hugh Hutchinson said the group would have struggled to get the site looking as good ahead of the poignant weekend. He added: “The project has saved our charity a great deal of money on refurbishment work in the hall.”

Rapid response 

Two groups of students from Forth Valley College came to the aid of Falkirk Ambulance Station to revive the décor in its mess room last year. This area is where the paramedics eat their meals and relax before call outs, so it needs to be a relaxing and calm space to be in. 

Painting and Decorating Modern Apprentices set to work transforming the area by preparing and painting the walls and ceiling. Then Art and Design Portfolio Production students from the Creative Industries Department designed and painted a wall-hanging mural with the Scottish Ambulance Service badge for the staff to mount with pride on their wall.

Michael Denzey, a lecturer in the Department of STEM and Construction, said: “I am so proud of my apprentices for taking on this live project and helping to brighten up the working conditions of the staff at Falkirk’s Ambulance Station. They all did an excellent job and I am sure their efforts will not only benefit their future careers, but also enhance the working lives of some very important essential workers. A big thank you also to Johnstone’s Paints who provided the supplies needed – for free – to help the group decorate the room.”

Hayley English, Clinical Team Leader for the Scottish Ambulance Service at Falkirk Ambulance Station, said: “Staff had requested a makeover of their mess room. I thought, what better way of doing this than approaching Forth Valley College? The lecturers thought this was a great idea as it would provide the students with an opportunity to work on a real-life project as part of their studies. 

“As part of this project, we were also very thankful to Michael and his painting and decorating students
for their hard work in painting the mess room. This along with the new art installation has made for
a bright and cheerful room for the staff to relax between emergency calls.”

Dulux donation

A Dulux Decorator Centre based in Kirkcaldy helped Fife Deaf Club last year after the charity appealed for support to renovate the organisation’s run-down premises. The retailer provided the charity with £250 worth of paint as well as free pre-mixed paint returned by customers.

David Torrance, Kirkcaldy MSP, said that the latest donation from Dulux showed the continued community spirit in the Lang Toun. 

Mr Torrance said: “Dulux has been in Kirkcaldy for quite some time and has assisted several community projects already. But now with the company offering to help support Fife Deaf Club’s quest to revitalise its new home is a true show of community spirit and a testament to the company’s community-based ethos.

“I can’t thank Bill Stott and Dulux enough for coming forward to help the Fife Deaf Club in its time of need.”

Bill Stott, Dulux Decorator Centre store manager, said: “Myself and Dulux are more than happy to support local community projects and charities with any initiatives that they may be undertaking. I’m born and bred in Kirkcaldy and through my work here at Dulux I can help to support these groups – that’s what it’s all about.”

Fife Deaf Club treasurer, Bill Darrach, thanked Dulux for its offer. He said: “The club wants to thank Dulux for its kind offer of paint to spruce our new home up. Again, we feel so lucky to have the support of these businesses in Kirkcaldy and it makes us proud to have our new forever home here.”

Get it together

Staying in Fife, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been intrumental in getting businesses to donate items to the Big House Project, a charitable coalition set up in January 2023 by Amazon’s Fulfiment Centre in Dunfermline and the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy.

Half a million essential products have now been donated – including paint – which has come from Scottish Decorators’ Federation Members The Paint Shed and Fife-based paint manufacturer Craig & Rose.  

Reuse, remodel

AkzoNobel is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Community RePaint Network.

The charity is a UK-wide paint reuse network that aims to collect leftover paint and redistribute it to benefit individuals, families, communities and charities in need at an affordable cost. It was launched through funding provided by Dulux and has been solely sponsored by the brand, now boasting 75 different schemes.

The network has collected 7.8 million litres of paint and distributed 5.4 million litres of paint to those who need it since its launch.

The equivalent of 14.5 million kilos of CO2 has been saved by the paint the network has reused – this is the same as taking over 70,000 flights from Heathrow to Madrid.

In 2023 alone, 261,521 litres of paint have been collected with 213,977 litres reused which has helped 1,578 organisations and 25,810 individuals.

 With an estimated 55 million litres of paint wasted in the UK every year, Community RePaint was established in order to tackle these challenges and make it easy and convenient for people to reuse and properly dispose of their leftover paint. Paint that would otherwise go to waste is collected and redistributed, adding colour into thousands of people’s lives.