Phillip Clarke is not your average tradie and his Sydney-based charity, Palletable Furniture, is actually not a charity at all.
Phillip, a seasoned craftsman with a background in youth services and carpentry, takes a practical approach in empowering at-risk young people by teaching them the tools of his trade; crafting upcycled and recycled wooden furniture.
“I do the training but the young people are the backbone of the organisation because they do the work and make the furniture,” Phillip says.
Operating primarily out of the back of Phillip’s truck, the Palletable Furniture program specifically aims to engage young people. While teaching at a Sydney TAFE for over seven years, Phillip saw a number of social enterprises established for unemployed and borderline homeless people. None of these, however, were aimed to engage disadvantaged youth.
"Shocked by the fact that youth were not considered for the federally-funded social enterprises, Phillip set up Palletable Furniture..."
“Young people are often left at the bottom of the hoop, so if you can empower them, that is really important,” Phillip says.
Shocked by the fact that youth were not considered for the federally-funded social enterprises, Phillip set up Palletable Furniture on the side. Initially coordinating the social enterprise by himself, Philip now works alongside other organisations, such as Father Chris O’Rielly’s ‘Youth Off The Streets’ program, in order to provide young people with the knowledge and skills to become fully independent.
“A lot of young people don’t have much self-esteem and don’t think they are capable of much; the projects that they make help them realise their own potential,” Phillip says. “It’s grounding for them to move on to bigger and better things.”
Operating Palletable Furniture for over seven years now, Phillip has seen a lot of success stories along the way. One remarkable outcome of Phillip’s hard work is L + M Designs: a furniture business set up by two girls that went through the Palletable Furniture program. Still in the process of establishing themselves as a business, the girls currently build and sell all of their own furniture.
“One of the girls has also started doing a lot of the coordination for me with the Palletable Furniture training program. Now she’s the one helping other people,” Phillip says. “That is success for me.”
Phillip’s passion to empower youth is infectious; he considers all the extra hours and hard work worth it when he sees his students succeed in what they do. “The best advice I give my students is to believe in themselves and if they want to do something, to work hard and be passionate about it,” Phillip says.
Palletable Furniture is based in Sydney. You can check them out on Facebook.