Saving lives with unwanted products. The incredible work of ‘Phoenix Resource Centre’
Charity / Tue 27th Feb 2018 am28 08:44am
NESTLED discreetly into one of the lesser developed corners of Harlow Town Centre, Phoenix Resource Centre is often mistaken as an arts and crafts shop.
However, the unassuming shop with toilet roll crafted dinosaurs and dinner plate animals decorating its shopfront is part of arguably one of the most effective and efficient charities in the world, a charity that has already saved thousands of lives across the globe and is relieving a sizeable burden from the global environmental crisis.
‘The initial business plan was that we would save about 5 and a half tons of waste a year from going to landfill. Our 5 year business plan we had outgrown in 3 months. So the first year we saved something like a thousand tonnes from going to landfill. Over a five year period we saved the equivalent of an entire landfill site.’
Incredible statistics like these roll so effortlessly off of the tongue of Andrew Richardson that it defies belief that the charity he set up with his father eight years ago, ‘Phoenix Resource Centre’ is not yet a household name.
The concept of how Phoenix Charity operates is surprisingly simple, and phenomenally effective. It takes unwanted goods from large companies/councils/schools and redistrubutes them to people in need across the globe and within the UK.
‘Companies might get perfectly good office chairs and might decide to change the colour or the premises. its very rare that we actually take second hand stuff, but sometimes we do most of the stuff we get is brand new but its surplus to requirement, old style, part of it might be damaged in someway, i.e. the outer box is damaged and its all about the presentation in the western world and if a product is in a damaged box you’re not going to buy it.’
Phoenix has suceeded in utilising negative aspects of our throw away culture, and on a massive scale.
The charity has made good of the frustrating loopholes that force large businesses and governments to discard perfectly good products; unable to give it away due to a myriad of reasons, ranging from over zealous health and safety concerns to worries of branded stock being resold.
Having secured contracts with major retailers (tesco/sainsbury’s etc), NHS trusts, medical companies, office depot, as well as numerous schools and councils, the goods being redistributed can vary from chairs and tables to life saving medical equipment.
‘We ended up sending containers of aid with west africa relief. We sent medical containers during the cholera outbreak. One of our containers saved 22,000 lives. Thats the kind of impact that we can have. And that was half a days work for us.’
With only two paid employees globally (with salaries capped at a basic living wage), Andrews talks confidently and breathlessly about the strict ethical practices he abides by, and tries in vain to hide his disdain for the way many of the larger aid agencies operate.
‘I dont want to be too negative about these big charity organisations because the work they do is essential, its imperative, but the volume of money they spend to achieve what they do is obscene. Every pound of what you give to these big charities, only 20p will actually go to the work they do. The rest is on salaries/ marketing.’
Reading from a completely different script, Andrew and his father were putting up to 20 thousand pounds a year out of their own pockets into Phoenix until a couple of years ago, and rather than ask the general public for donations, Phoenix generates money through multiple social enterprises.
Remarkably, by offering services and utilities that people are willing to pay money for, the charity is entirely self sustaining.
One of their more recent social enterprise success stories has been ‘Phoenix Live’, the music venue that has been instrumental in helping Harlow’s live music scene recover following the loss of the The Square.
Phoenix Studios is regularly fully booked and is used by bands, local theatre groups, people with learning difficulties, and momentum is slowly building for its live music events.
Adam Smiths Black Wax has succeeded in bringing many well respected artists through Phoenix Live’s doors in the past few months including Henri Herbert and Brandy Row.
‘The beautiful thing about Live Lounge, is that people are giving to charity by having a good time. Every penny you spend in the bar goes straight into helping the charity. So the money you spend on a bottle of beer could be going toward one of our projects that helps people in the UK with autism, downs syndrome or other learning difficulties. Or the money could end up helping to send medical equipment to a hospital in Liberia, or blankets to Kazakhstan. People can come out, have a good time, have a drink, and they are contributing to multiple good causes.’
Andrew’s dedication to his work is admirable, and his tenacious appetite for social change is inspiring. Phoenix is unknown to most people because of the lack of praise the company has sought out for the work it does and its almost stubborn reluctance to ask for donations.
There are no opportune photo shoots with disadvantaged children they’ve helped, or advertising campaigns urging you to put your hand in your pocket.
What can be found is an organisation that is helping to restore our collective faith in charities, at a time when scandals continue to taint the good work of some larger organisations.
Instead of spending obscene amounts on marketing and paid staff to co-erce you into making a donation, Phoenix rely on innovation, integrity and a network of dedicated volunteers to complete the incredible work they do across the UK and around the world.
“When people tell us we’re doing well i feel like telling them we’re not doing enough. Once we no longer need to help anybody, then i’ll be happy.”
Support Phoenix by attending any upcoming shows at Phoenix Live.
Purchase tickets to upcoming shows at https://www.ents24.com/harlow-events/phoenix-live
You can also support Phoenix by making use of Phoenix Resource Centre.
A lifetime membership to Phoenix Resource Centre costs only £10. Tokens cost £15 each, and allow you to take home large quantities of supplies that would retail way above the cost of the token.
Discounts apply to Schools/Playgroups/Charities/Scouts etc