Who we are
TWAM is headquartered in Ipswich, with additional Refurbishment Centres in Rugby and Halstead, five van teams, and over 500 volunteers across England and Wales. We have five local groups across the country formed by volunteers, and we are supported by seven independent workshops, including Men’s Sheds. Information about where we are located can be found on the Find Us page.
Locally, we provide volunteering opportunities to older retirees who struggle with loneliness and isolation after retirement, as well as opportunities for people with physical and learning disabilities and support for community groups and refugees. We work with organisations such as WS Training in Ipswich, offering skills training and experience to young people with additional needs and preparing them for employment. We have also provided tools to local community groups in the UK who use them in projects for people with special needs and have provided sewing machines and tools to organisations such as Suffolk Refugee Support.
We send to six partner countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi, and DR Congo. Our primary beneficiaries are vulnerable individuals such as single mothers, school dropouts, street orphans, homeless people, people with physical disabilities, and ex-sex workers. By working with registered charities, we ensure that the tools are used as intended, providing individuals living in extreme poverty with the resources they need to develop manual skills and sustainable careers and feed their families every day. Our work is crucial in offering a way out of poverty for those who cannot afford to buy their own tools and have limited access to education or career opportunities. Through our partnerships, training and support are provided to individuals who may otherwise be trapped in exploitative labour, often facing physical harm or abuse, or led into lives of crime and sex work.
Our Core Values
We are committed
to the poor.
We are called to serve the vulnerable and ultra-poor and work with those who share our compassion to alleviate their poverty and suffering.
‘For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother (and sister), to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’’ Deuteronomy 15:11 (ESV)
We are stewards of the Earth's resources.
We take great care to collect donated useable tools and save thousands of tonnes of tools destined for landfill every year. We practice good stewardship of all our resources, whether donated tools, financial gifts, or the opportunity to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities to people across the UK.
‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.’
1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)
We are partners.
We work with charities, churches and communities across the developing world who share our compassion to reach the neediest of people. We recognise that we are not called to work alone, but to seek out those with whom we can stand in our calling to alleviate poverty in Jesus Christ’s name through livelihood-creating tools.
‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.‘ Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
We are Christian.
We follow the teachings of the Bible and the example of Jesus Christ.
“The second (commandment) is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31 (ESV)
Trevor joined TWAM from a career in Health and Safety and health care management. He ably leads a large team of volunteers and one member of staff in preparing all our containers for dispatch. He also oversees our Health and Safety compliance.
Ipswich Refurbishment Centre
Mike joined TWAM from many years working with The Leprosy Mission in 2015. He has led TWAM through a period of significant change and growth.
He tells us, 'The mission of TWAM to place donated tools into the hands of trainee craftsmen and women in Africa is so simple, yet life-transforming. It is great to combine this with our green credentials. TWAM is a visionary work and I am very privileged to be a small part of it."
Paul looks after our volunteers, including leading our recruitment campaigns and processing all applications.
Lyn has been with TWAM since 2015 and oversees the exporting of all TWAMs containers. She prepares all the detailed documentation for the tools kits and liaises with our UK staff and volunteers, as well as our shipping agents and in-country partners.
Fundraising and Communications Officer
James joined us in June 2021 to begin his journey in fundraising. He currently runs our social media pages and studies all aspects of fundraising in his apprenticeship.
Albert joined us in 2023 to help us run our Rugby Refurbishment Centre.
Rugby Refurbishment Centre Manager
Ipswich Refurbishment Centre Supervisor
Sheldon joined us as a volunteer when he was 16. He became our first-ever apprentice at 17 in January 2020. He quickly became an irreplaceable member of the team
Head Office Manager
Jonny joined TWAM in 2020 and manages the day to day admin of TWAM, ably supported by a team of volunteers.
Linda prepares our quarterly prayer diary and collates prayer requests and information from across Africa. She is also our Country Coordinator for Zimbabwe.
Rugby Refurbishment Centre Apprentice
Caleb joined us in 2022 to help in our Rugby Refurbishment Centre.
Jan joined the team in September 2016 and is responsible for all day-to-day finance matters.
How it all began
From small seed to giant mustard tree
In 1978 Jack Norwood, a deacon at Belle Vue Baptist Church in Southend was asked by the Baptist Men’s Movement (BMM) to head up a project making incubators. This was followed by a request for solar powered incubators and Jack went out to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) for a year (1981) to develop them. A teacher from Waterlooville, John Bennett became interested and from this partnership and Tools with a Mission was borne.
As John became involved he extended his interest as he discovered that tools were badly needed and soon involved pupils from his school collecting all kinds of agricultural tools. Under his supervision the pupils cleaned, renovated and painted the tools ready to go to Zaire. They organised a “sponsored event” to get the money with which to ship them, and that was the first Tools with a Mission shipment sent to Zaire (now DR Congo).
This idea began to formulate in John’s mind, and he decided that there must be others in the same situation trying to pass on skills to people who badly needed them, but with little in the way of actual tools. John suggested the idea to the Baptist Men’s Movement who adopted the idea and launched Tools with a Mission in 1984.
From garage to barn
Initially, it operated out of a double garage and shed in Bexleyheath but after just five years the work had to look for larger premises.
In response to an article in the Baptist Times, Bill and Beryl Dewhurst offered the use of a barn on their farm on the outskirts of Ipswich. Thurleston Lodge Farm became the new home of TWAM and a regular work team was established. Initially, it was monthly, then weekly and soon daily.
Space was again soon at a premium and it was at this point that rented premises had to be sought in order to obtain the kind of space required. TWAM moved into Perry Barn, in Sproughton, just outside Ipswich which had 2,300 square feet of warehouse space, plus the luxuries of heating, toilets and a canteen area. TWAM was now growing at a rate that was unimaginable in the early days.
By this stage, the output had increased dramatically, due to the fact that all operations could now be carried out under the one roof. It was decided to register as a charity in 2004. TWAM quickly established itself as an interdenominational charity, gaining support from all the major denominations as well as many secular organisations. In spite of additional storage space being created by using two 20-foot containers and a Portakabin to accommodate the office staff, operational space quickly became a premium.
From barn to warehouse
After much prayer, the TWAM board were led to take a twenty-year lease on a unit, on Hadleigh Road Industrial Estate in Ipswich. This gave just over 6700 square feet of floor space, which increased by a further 1000 square feet when a mezzanine floor was added over the workshop area.
Just two years into the lease the owner offered TWAM the opportunity to purchase the property, which we were able to do for £270,000. Appeals raised over £185,000 with a bank loan covering the remainder. This was quickly paid off.
Since then TWAM has continued to grow with the addition of workshops in Coventry, Kenilworth, Penarth, Halstead and Cowdenbeath. These were all volunteer led and contributed to the signifcant growth in the output of tools and containers sent to Africa.
TWAM was soon sending tools to countries in Africa and Eastern Eurupe and by the early 2000's had settled on DR Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
2015 saw the begining of signigfficant growth for TWAM as new staff were recruited and the mission began a refocus. Over the ensusing years TWAM focused on DR Congo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe with 18 containers a year being despatched to these countries containing around half a million individual tools. Ipswich was revamped, the van fleet increased and modernised and overseas teams established.
The growth was acheived with the support of a number of independent workshops standing with TWAM and making offering a huge support. These included Tool Aid Ringwood, Medway Volunteer Group, Tools4Africa, Sheffield and Tendring Tools4Africa.
The next major step in our history
In 2020 Mike Griffin (CEO) and the Board of Trustees agreed a five-year strategic plan that would see an ambitious goal to double the output of TWAM and the amazing impact of our tools. The goal was to reach one million tools sent to Africa every year.
To achieve this, it was agreed to take the tough decision to close the smaller centres and commit to opening a large Refurbishment Centre in the Midlands capable of matching the output of Ipswich and sending up to 18 containers of tools a year. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our truly heroic volunteers accepted the decision to close Penarth and Cowdenbeath and emptied their centres and handed them back to the landlords. Kenilworth closed, but reopened as an independent workshop under the leadership of St John's Church in Kenilworth. As of June 2021, the volunteers in Penarth have set up their own charity and are looking for premises to reopen as an independent workshop.
2022 was an amazing year for TWAM as it saw the opening of the second major Refurbishment Centre alongside Ipswich. At 12,500 sq. ft, it is the largest centre TWAM has ever had. The centre was identified in December 2021. Its manager, who initially worked out of our Coventry site, joined us in March 2022, and we took possession of the building in August 2022. This prompted the closure of our small Coventry site with most of our volunteers transferring with us. Click to download the PDF of the 'journey of a building' which was a talk given by Mike Griffin our CEO at the Commissioning and Dedication service on 4th September 2022.
In line with this significant growth, TWAM is expanding into new countries starting with Malawi and Tanzania in 2023.