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Gwilym Roberts recently completed work experience at GEM Exemplar Employer Coventry Building Society. He shares his experience and what he has achieved on his GEM journey. 

"Hi, I’m Gwil. I am about to take you with me on my journey and an insight into my work placement experience with the Coventry Building Society and let me tell you it has been a very positive, interesting and enjoyable one.

I’ve been out of work for a while now and found out about the work placement via the GEM Project. As a GEM participant - GEM (Going the Extra Mile), is an organisation designed to help people who have been out of work for a while and/or have obstacles that prevents them from gaining employment with help and support towards growth and development. It was through the GEM programme that I had heard about the opportunity for a work placement with the Coventry and decided to grab at this opportunity by applying for it. It was a big step for me personally and it was one I am glad I took. I was offered an interview and gratefully accepted. Following the interview I later met with Martin Lewis (Lewy), which I did on a very wet day turning up like a drowned rat but enthusiastic and eager to be here, and wanting this experience which for me personally; is a great opportunity to further my goals of getting back into full-time employment.

The meeting with Lewy went well and I was soon heading to Coventry a few weeks later for a two-day corporate induction at Oakfield House. The induction went well and was interesting to learn about CBS. Meeting new people was exciting and also nervy as this was all new to me.

A week later I began at Charlton Court where I met my mentor Will, along with other members of staff.  Will showed me the ropes by explaining and demonstrating his role and tasks with his ongoing tutoring which ranged from running and testing the generator, checking first-aid equipment, testing lights, fire alarms, water temperatures to arranging rooms readying them for meetings to maintenance and the cleaning/washing of the pool cars, and more. I also completed the LMS’ (Learning Management System). Being made to feel welcome and taken under Will’s wing was a huge help with progressing through this experience.

I met again with Lewy for a progress chat catch-up which went well. Not long after that, I travelled with Will to Heathcote to pick up supplies from the printing office and visited the training facilities in Coventry, meeting more people and learning about their roles, which I found interesting.

There was a BBQ and fundraising day and an Exemplar Employer award presentation from the GEM Project awarded to the Coventry Building Society. It was nice to meet and mingle with more people and enjoy the fun games and the food!

From this work placement I have gained valuable experience while learning and participating in the running of the Charlton Court facilities and about the corporation, too. Being in a working environment, meeting and working with new people and traveling to new areas to further my experience has all helped with improving my confidence, and it feels great to have a purpose and structure to my day(s) which I will continue on with by now feeling more motivated, encouraged and more hopeful than I was before to finding future long-term full-time employment.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience, feeling useful, acknowledged and part of a team, and feeling I’ve taken a massive step and made a huge achievement that can only help vastly towards my future goals. I can honestly say I have loved every minute of this opportunity and I have taken a lot of positives from this experience that I will take forwards with me.

I am thankful and appreciative to the Coventry Building Society to have been given this opportunity and to all involved to make this happen. Big love and respect to all."

GEM participant shares his experience of his time on the GEM Project

by Nikki Davies

You may have previously read the success story of GEM Julie. Initially Julie trained as a Graphic Designer but has also worked as a chef, until a back injury as well as mental health issues changed things. Suffering with anxiety and depression, she got involved with Artshape where she has since spent countless hours on her beautiful artworks.

When we met with Julie earlier this year, she told us she'd like to donate one of her pieces to a local children's charity.  Julie said: "I've always liked helping people. I'd like to think of children and parents who are going through difficult times or who are unwell, having the opportunity to escape for a moment and get lost with the fairies in my artwork."

Julie chose to donate three pieces to the James Hopkins Trust, who provide nursing respite care to life limited and life threatened young children in Gloucestershire, either at their centre or in the family home.

Community, Events and Volunteer Manager Ria told us: "We were delighted to welcome local artist Julie Green to our specialist centre, Kites Corner in Barnwood this week.  We were thrilled to receive Julie's generous donation of three stunning, original and unique pieces of her artwork.   We will be incredibly proud to have Julies work displayed for the children to enjoy.  Thank you to Gloucestershire Gateway Trust and their GEM project for making this this possible."

We were delighted to join Julie and her Navigator Developer Donna from Artshape to deliver the artwork to Kite's Corner and meet some of the children. 


GEM success story Julie donates artwork to local children's charity

by Becky Boseley

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK, running from 10 - 17 June 2019. It also helps people who don't think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.

There are 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers. They will be looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older.  This years campaign focuses on getting people connected, and for many carers getting back into work or finding a role that fits around their caring responsibilities may seem impossible, but with the right help from somewhere like the GEM Project, it can be done and can offer carers a great way to meet people and do something for themselves.

One of our GEM Navigator Developers, Ian Mackay, works at partner organisation Forwards, and was assigned a new referal from a carer last July.  "I had a referal from a lady who had been a full time carer for her mother, who had eventually passed away. After a period of mourning, she felt the time was right to start looking at returning to paid work and sought support from the Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Project. 

She had lost all confidence in her abilities and was apprehensive at  the whole scenario of even where to start looking into the employment market. I helped her to update her CV, and we worked on interview techniques to bolster her confidence. I was able to support her on a one to one basis which is a particular strength of the Going the Extra Mile (GEM) project. After a number of job applications and interviews, the participant was successful in securing paid work as a child support worker in a local school. She was very happy and grateful for the support the GEM project via her Navigator Developer provided and firmly believes she would not have secured her employment without that help and support."

If you know someone in a caring role or who has recently come out of a caring role and needs support to get back into the workplace, the GEM Project is here to help.  

For more information about Carers Week you can visit the main campaign website for additional support in other areas.



Helping Carers back into work with the GEM Project

by Becky Boseley

A new exhibition of words and images has opened at Stroud and Stonehouse train station, celebrating the railway and the Stroudwater canal. 

The work was a collaboration between one of the GEM Project's partners Creative Sustainability, in partnership with Great Western Railway and the Association of Community Partnerships, along with Park Junior School, Stroud College and people from the local community which included two GEM participants. 

The exhibition was designed to build confidence, create opportunities and develop skills, by providing local people the chance to get creative, have a voice and showcase their work in public. 

The images for the exhibitions were created by Stroud based photographers Ruth Davey and James Kriszyk, photography students from Stroud College and local photographers, including the work of two participants enrolled on the GEM Project. The words and poems that supported the exhibition were written from pupils at a local school. 

Anna Reeves, Navigator Developer at Creative Sustainability comments, 

"Our 2 GEM participants were delighted to go along to the opening of the exhibition and see their work on public display as posters on the station platforms. They have both gone on to do further photography courses and it is likely that they will both be exhibiting work at the Stroud Festival of Nature. I'm hoping that a third GEM participant will also be joining them and exhibiting work."

Creative Sustainability would like to thank Great Western Railway and ACoRP for this opportunity as well as sponsoring the project. 

Stroud and Stonehouse railway exhibition showcases GEM participants' work

by Nikki Davies

Q:  Many people see the new year as a fresh start, do you see lots more people coming into The Nelson Trust? 

A:  The start of the year is often a really busy time for the staff at the Nelson Trust as people are either making decisions to start their year afresh and change their outlooks, set some aims and make some changes, or others find it really difficult to manage at this time of year due to depression.

Q: Are people also more keen to talk about getting back into work? 

A:  A lot of clients and participants are keen to start the year with fresh objectives to get training, gain qualifications or get into work. Nelson Trust staff often refer their clients to the GEM project and the majority of my participants were clients at some point. With a bit of experience, we tend to keep the clients with their key workers so that I can focus on education, employment and training with them to support them with developing their future.

Q: What happens the first time you meet a new participant?

A: The first time I meet a new participant, I go through a series of questions, I will either meet them with their key worker, or if they’ve been referred through the GEM Project, I carry out an initial assessment for both the Nelson Trust and GEM. I tell them all about what the Nelson Trust and the GEM programme offers and see if they think it’s appropriate for them. You’d be surprised how much people open up, even on that first meeting and by the end of the first meeting, we have usually set up a future meeting in a couple of weeks time.

Q:  How do you motivate your participants, and keep them motivated when there are bumps in the road?

A:  My clients frequently suffer from anxiety and depression and have days and weeks or even months where they really struggle to stay motivated. They frequently don’t even contact me or come to the meetings we have set when they’ve had a big set back. At these times, I try to stay motivated and positive myself, I try to help them see the positive side of their experience, I try to motivate them to get feedback or look objectively with them at what went wrong where ever possible.

I encourage my clients to keep gratitude lists and use positive affirmations. Sometimes I direct them to books such as The Secret so that they can learn more about being positive, and tell them about motivational speakers or life coaches they can find online. I encourage my participants to attend courses to help them gain confidence and life skills, make new friends and have positive experiences. I’m lucky that we have a lot of positive things going on at the women’s centre for our women that I can direct them to including Emotional Health & Wellbeing, lunch club, art therapy, art courses, craft group and and more.

Q:  What’s your personal motivation or mantra?

A:  I do yoga as often as possible to help me to stay grounded and calm, I keep a gratitude list myself and always try to stay positive. I often use positive affirmations, such as:

‘I am ready to attract abundance into my life’.

Q: What would you say to anyone considering getting on to the GEM Project?

A:  The GEM Project is more than just an educational or training programme, it is about offering personal, support which is tailored for the individual. There are also lots of opportunities that arise through the GEM Project that participants can benefit from, which they might not be offered if they had never been involved with the GEM programme.

by Becky Boseley

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