TWO teachers travelled from Kenya to Kendal to see how “upcyling” old furniture is helping people into work.

The East African visitors were welcomed to the Furniture Warehouse, where a steady supply of old tables, chairs, chests of drawers and sofas is refurbished for sale by young people with learning disabilities.

The social enterprise is based at premises on Mintsfeet Industrial Estate and is run by Right2Work, whose director is Andy Blackman, former mayor of Kendal.

The “growing and thriving” venture is part of the Oaklea Trust, which helps disabled and disadvantaged people lead independent lives.

According to Oaklea’s newly published annual report, the Furniture Warehouse helped divert 130 tonnes of waste from landfill last year, thanks to its bulky waste contract with South Lakeland District Council. Around 5,300 items were collected in the past year, with 74 per cent of them reused or recycled.

Meanwhile, 293 learners gained new skills such as woodworking, delivery, collection, upholstery, domestic appliance repairs and retail skills. Fifty-seven people are now in paid work.

“The result is young people who really feel valued in the workplace and training environment,” stated Oaklea’s report.

The two Kenyan teachers, Brian Wachiya and Joab Sifuna, saw how such an enterprise could help their own village community, where more than half of people are out of work.

Their two-week stay has also seen them visit Kendal’s Heron Hill School, where pupils are learning about social enterprise. The lessons are being echoed at the teachers’ own school in Kenya, the Open Arms Academy, in rural Eldoret.

The visit was funded by the British Council Connecting Classrooms initiative.

Meanwhile, the Oaklea Trust's chair Cate Grimes has stood down after 17 years with the charity. In the annual report, she said she was "incredibly proud" of Oaklea's staff and their achievements.

The report also shares the heart-warming story of a young Oaklea client who took bags of goodies to paramedics at Kendal's ambulance station, to thank them for the care they have given him during call-outs.