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Sunday 22nd September 2019 was world 'car-free' day, which encouraged motorists to give up their cars for a day.  It also promoted the use of mass transit, cycling and walking, and "the development of communities where jobs are closer to home".   However the reality for many is that there aren't jobs close to home - that may be due to living in a rural location, availability of vacancies or suitable skills. 

We know that many GEM participants do not have cars and rely heavily on public transport, and sometimes this can make jobs further away hard to get to.  The GEM Participants Council wanted to raise awareness of this, and to encourage those of us with a car to experience a working day without one.

We also support the NUS Green Impact Scheme, and are always looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment. So on Tuesday 17th September, colleagues from the GEM team, including Navigator Developers joined our participants on public transport.  Here are some of their experiences...

"My watch is slow so what should have been a leisurely walk to the bus stop turned out to be a 5 minute trot! Puffing and panting I negotiate a price with the friendly bus driver a to take me to Gloucester Quays...£3.50 and no discount for cash. I can tell by the smile on his face he can tell I’m a novice.  

 Arrive on time, asked the driver for a selfie. Enjoyed this much more than I thought I would, less stress, no road rage and feeling relaxed....think I should do this more often."  Tony, Opportunity Hunter, GEM Project 

"To get to and from work, I take six buses a day which equates to just over two hours a day spent on a bus. To make sure I get to work on time, I have to leave the house at ten past seven, and most days I don't get home until quarter to seven in evening. That almost a full 12 hour day.

My first bus is at 07:16, which takes me from home into Cheltenham town centre. It gets into town at 07.28 which gives me just over five minutes to hot foot it through town from one bus stop to another, as my next bus is as 07.35. This second bus takes approximately 45 minutes to get into Gloucester City centre. If the bus gets in on time or slightly early, I can just make the 08.25 bus down to work. If I miss that 08.25 bus the next bus is the 08.40.

On any given day, how early or late I am to work depends on how the buses are running, as can adverse weather conditions.  There is also a cost factor that comes with getting a bus to work and back. It is cheaper than running a car and paying for petrol, but the weekly bus fare does mount up, and in the last two years, I have spent roughly £1,740 on bus fare. 

Travelling by bus isn't the quickest way to travel to work, but for me, it's the only way I can get to work without relying on lifts or having to cycle."  Seonaid, GEM Project Administrator

"I’m normally based in Cheltenham but I had a pre-booked meeting arranged in Gloucester so I had to look into various public transport options. After looking into both bus and train timetables I decided to travel by train as the timings and location of the train station better suited my family commitments that I had to undertake before starting work.

I found the train to be quick and quite relaxing, although it did mean that I had to carry out and plan my journey in advance rather than just hopping in the car and allow extra time just in case there were any train cancellations.

In terms of expense, I think it worked out about the same when taking into consideration parking costs. Overall i found the experience very positive and I’d be tempted to use the train more often." Tracy, Navigator Developer, GEM Project

GEM supports car-free day

by Becky Boseley

Our GEM participant was previously a qualified social worker living in London. However, in 2004 she came back to Gloucester as her family was living in the area and needed some help. Her mum was registered blind, but she began to notice she needed more support. Year on year her mum's health deteriorated until she become totally dependent on our GEM.
For the last five years I have been so overwhelmed, being relied on day and night has definitely taken it’s toll. The level of care needed was so high, I was unable to even leave my mum for 30 minutes.

It’s now been around 18 months since my mum passed, in which I realised how much these 14 years of caring for her has impacted on me; my own health had dramatically decreased, I felt socially isolated and lost so many skills. I felt like I lost everything, all confidence and assertiveness.

I didn’t want to go back into social work as felt it would have changed so much over the years but felt I was ready to head back into the working world. I really wanted to focus on working with children.

I applied for so many jobs, often with no reply or being told I was unsuccessful. I used to be such a strong character, so this made my confidence take a further dip.

Then through the care service, I found out about GEM and met with my Navigator Developer and things just seemed to click. He made me look at things in a more structural way; it was so helpful having someone there to offload on, make things seem more rational and help me to focus, guide and support me.

He helped me with job application processes when I needed it and provided opportunities to help begin to boost my confidence again with mock interview practice. After further interviews and applications, we contacted a local school to look at volunteering opportunities to help read with the children. Through this I was told about a Key Worker Assistant role and was offered an interview which resulted in me getting the job.

My Navigator Developer and I worked together for over a year but I’m so pleased to say I finally have a job I love! It’s only a temporary contract and even if I’m not offered a permanent post once the contract comes to an end, I’m still so much happier as it’s really helped me to get back into the working world.

The biggest thing for me has been the massive boost in my confidence, helping me with my journey getting back into work. Having that support and someone to guide you through the process, that reassurance that someone is there to literally hold your hand if you need it.

I’m so thankful for the GEM Project and the help it has given me to get my life back.”

GEM participant shares her experience as she moves from a social worker to full time carer before finding work again through GEM

by Nikki Davies

Richard, Company Director at Sound House in Gloucester shares his experience of working with the GEM Project. He provided a five-week work placement to one of our GEM’s Rob.

“Rob was a keen musician but has mental health issues so therefore we needed to be realistic with what we could offer and support him with whilst he was with us.

Over the course of the placement we found that Rob found it hard to smile, maintain a conversation and use his own initiative, but his attention to detail was very good. Any tasks we set him that weren’t in public view where he was able to work independently, we found that if we set Rob clear instructions, he delivered these really well such as stock control.

It was really interesting dealing with someone with social issues. I’m an extremely honest and upfront person and felt that it was good for him to get an honest appraisal of his role.

We felt it was our responsibility to help Rob understand what job roles would be suitable and discover what could work for him, particularly as based on his strengths and weaknesses a customer facing or retail role wouldn’t be the most suitable.

Despite having to sometimes "spoon feed" Rob and make adjustments where relevant, this experience also helped our Assistant Manager Ben who is new to his role. It gave him the opportunity to develop his people management skills, learning how to talk to someone and get to grips with the ways that you manage people. It’s been a great first-hand experience for him.

We all saw Rob as a friend and wanted to help him as much as we could. We really enjoyed the experience and would be more than happy to take on more people to help them find their feet. It’s important to always put your faith in people, take people at face value and not let their past impact on their future.”

Sound House is a small independent musical instrument shop based in Gloucester, specialising in guitars, drums, keys, brass, woodwind, orchestral strings, sheet music, P.A and live music tech. The store has recently been awarded the GEM Exemplar Employer award for the support they have provided to Rob and the project. 

Sound House Company Director shares his experience of working with the GEM Project

by Nikki Davies

Exemplar Employer Specsavers in Cheltenham headed to Parliament earlier this month to attend a special reception following a nomination by local MP Alex Chalk as Cheltenham Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2019.

After previously visiting the store and hearing about the team’s community inclusion work, Mr Chalk came forward and nominated Specsavers. Emily Ashman, Community Engagement Manager at Specsavers and newly appointed Navigator Developer for Inclusion Gloucestershire, attended the reception to celebrate the chosen champions.

Emily comments, "This is an amazing achievement for the store, and it was absolutely fantastic to be able to go down to London. We are delighted that our work promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and local community has been recognised."

Alex Chalk, Cheltenham’s MP, says: "I’ve previously highlighted the fantastic work of GEM in Parliament after visiting the local branch of Specsavers and hearing some really inspiring stories. It’s great to see local businesses such as Specsavers become so involved in the community, and I’m pleased to have nominated the Cheltenham Specsavers store for the Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2019."

The 2019 Constituency Responsible Business Champion is a national award presented to businesses that have been active members of the community. The criteria to be nominated includes offering apprenticeships, investing in healthy workplaces and reducing their environmental impact.

Exemplar Employer Specsavers in Cheltenham have been nominated for a national award by local MP

by Nikki Davies

On Wednesday 10th July, over 50 GEM participants past and present, along with their Navigator Developers came together for a GEM Summer Gathering at Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester. Organised by the GEM Participants' Council, participants were able to socialise with other's whilst enjoying food, music and other activities. 

Sophia Taylor, former GEM participant and Co-Chair of the GEM Participants' Council shares her experience of the day.

"GEM participants were invited to a summer gathering hosted and organised by members of the Participants' Council, which includes current and former participants. Some had moved on from the GEM programme into their own catering business and donated towards the buffet lunch. 

The event had music playing in the background throughout with live acoustics playing well known songs from Travis, Oasis and Coldplay. The two guitarists were Paul and Dan, a Navigator Developer and a GEM participant who provided a great atmosphere with their music pieces. 

A slideshow presentation showcasing GEM's achievements and latest news was replayed frequently for attendees to watch and read at their leisure. Additionally there were displays outside the venue showing further information about the GEM Project, as well as other success stories. 

Also outside attendees found gazebos with seating for comfort and shade, giant outdoor games and a henna stall. The henna designs were unique and to a very high standard, I witnessed a few ladies thrilled with their results. 

A lovely displayed lunch buffet was provided, thanks to former GEM participants and others. There was a wide selection of foods including sandwiches, Arabic cuisine and Caribbean inspired options which also catered for vegetarians, vegans, gluten free and halal. Desserts too proved successful. 

After lunch, Navigator Developer Julie from Stroud Valleys Project provided an insightful tour of the surrounding natural area. Julie gave information in regards to nature and wildlife around, as well as taking any suggestion for future improvements. 

The event was finished off with a brilliant raffle, which each attendee had a free ticket for. There was much excitement in the air as well as smiles from the winners. It was the perfect finish to a Summer Gathering and importantly a great opportunity for all participants across Gloucestershire to unite, learn and celebrate GEM's achievements." 


The GEM Participants' Summer Gathering; organised by GEM’s for GEM’s

by Nikki Davies

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