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Success Stories

This section provides the chance to read about real individuals and their unique journey in how the GEM Project has helped them to move closer towards employment.

The GEM Project is jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and European Social Fund. 


Tewkesbury | GRCC

Faye joined the GEM Project as a young mother of two pre-school aged children. She wanted to find work that was rewarding and meaningful, yet also fitted in with her young family. Faye is also not able to drive so she needed to be able to work locally.

Her Navigator Developer Sophie based at GRCC worked with Faye to help her look at suitable roles and supported her with the decision to pursue a career as a Teaching Assistant. Faye is now enrolled on a Level 3 Supporting and Teaching in Schools course to enable her to achieve this goal. She is also completing a work placement in a local school to develop her skills further.

“I was recommended the GEM Project by a friend who had a great result in her career prospects through the programme. I had an initial meeting with Sophie who was really friendly and understanding of my situation as a Mum of two out of work for a while in a new area. She helped me gain the confidence to take the plunge into retraining as a Teaching Assistant at my local primary school. I honestly don't think I would have done it without her or the project. Thank you GEM for all of the support. You really made a difference!”


Gloucester | Inclusion Gloucestershire

Bel used to work at a University teaching Psychology, with experience in mental health therapy, eating disorders and research. A few years ago, she was in a car accident which resulted in a serious injury and led to ongoing physical and psychological difficulties. Taking into account her background and experience, this hit Bel really hard.

“I joined the GEM Project to find out what possibilities are available for me now considering I know that it might take me a while to get there. I miss working, it has always been so important to me and I miss having that part of my life. I’ve always worked before the accident. I’ve been very scared due to the nature of my health issues and any potential adjustments that may be needed.

I knew I needed to start somewhere especially with being even more isolated due to the Covid outbreak. Emily has really helped to get me going; she has been so patient, caring and supportive right from the start.

Even having no laptop was such a scary thought, I couldn’t pretend to be functional if I didn’t even have the tools which would be crucial to my day to day life, particularly with the majority of activities now being online. Through the GEM Project, I kindly received a laptop which was such a relief.

GEM has also got me taking part in new activities through their GEMonline programme to help my general wellbeing; including planting, yoga and art which have all been great distractions. The Creative Stressbusters session in particular really helps channel my calmness, I feel like a weight comes off during this activity.

I’ve also completed some accredited audit training which resulted in me undertaking four Green Impact audits as part of the GEM Project Green Impact scheme, led by SOS-UK (Students Organising for Sustainability UK).

The team leading this were so pleased with my contribution, they actually asked me to complete some further GP based audits which were much more demanding and complex. Having a key responsibility for this voluntary role and the fact that I was asked to provide further support, has really helped me to feel like I have accomplished something again and started to rebuild my confidence and self-esteem.

I’m definitely further along that I thought I would ever be and GEM is key to that, I wouldn’t have had the confidence without Emily and GEM. She has given me hope that I can have a future.

Before the accident, I was very much ‘work hard, play hard’, but I now need to learn that’s too much pressure for me. I am living a life that’s much different but am now starting to find possibilities again. There have been many bumps along the way, but Emily never treats them as a problem, she always finds a possibility or solution.

Even just helping me get to a position where I can apply for roles again is a massive step for me and I’m so grateful for all the support so far. I’m now able to trust and engage more with people and I even laugh more now than I did a year ago!”  


Cirencester | The Churn Project

Jamie had a long history of drugs and was also brought up around substance use.

In 2010, he was involved in a serious car accident which resulted in him breaking his neck, fracturing his spine and cracking his skull open which led to a bleed on the brain. This paralysed him on the right side of his body and also resulted in memory loss and brain damage. After being told he would never be able to walk again, he fought against the odds but is now forever disabled.  

A few years ago, he struggled with a really bad year, which brought back memories of his accident and he was struggling with PTSD. This led to him meeting Amanda at The Churn Project.

“I used to have lots of confidence, but lost this due to my accident, instead I felt like I was being judged with my tattoos and appearance, branded a bad boy.  

I was recommended the Churn Project and GEM to see what support was available to try and find some part time work. I wanted a proper career but realised that I needed an English qualification to make this happen.

I was originally going to look at a job in the IT sector as I felt like I would still be able to do this even with a disability. However, after meeting Amanda, she introduced me to acting lessons at a local theatre to help build my confidence back up and learn how to speak properly to people again. After a year of doing this and looking at my options, my dream now is to become a school support worker, visiting schools and sharing my life story about how I have turned my life around.

In September I am going to be starting a course to learn about challenging behaviour in children, as well as a class to complete a GCSE equivalent grade in English.

If it wasn’t for the Churn and GEM Project, I wouldn’t have the drive to start my life again. This experience has given me the confidence to talk again; I used to lock myself away but I have learnt to get that strength again and live my life with my son.

I don’t want my history to influence or set who I am now. My son is everything to me and I love being a parent. You can turn your life around if you’re given the right tools to do it and that’s what Amanda has helped me do. No one judged me about my past, just helped me to better my future."


Cheltenham | Inclusion Gloucestershire

With no family in the area, James was feeling isolated and spending most of his time alone at home, therefore decided to register with the GEM Project to look for a new opportunity.  A wheelchair user for nearly ten years, James often found places difficult to access which in turn was making it difficult for him to socialise and meet new people. 

James and his GEM Navigator Developer Emily considered different job opportunities and voluntary roles, but most would involve travelling to other towns. Emily then contacted a local community social club to ask for advice regarding accessibility in the town.  Manager of BeSocial@TheCentre Vicky kindly invited James and Emily for coffee at the Centre itself which is located close to James’ home and is fully accessible.  Vicky suggested he might like to try volunteering at the Centre which would give him the chance to meet new people in the area, helping members with crafts and various activities on offer at the centre.

“When James started with us at the Centre, he was quite quiet as many people can be in a new unknown environment with lots of new people to meet” said Vicky.  “As he settled into his role his confidence grew.  He started to come out of his shell and then we really got to know James.  He began to converse and engage confidently with our members and befriended the staff and other volunteers.  James took more of an active role in the activities for our members.  However, the major ‘breakthrough’ came one day when he was given the role of ‘Quiz Master’.  Since then he has made the role his own and even made his own quizzes to suit. James is a valued team member and can be relied upon to be proactive and adaptable, he is an absolute pleasure to have as part of our team.”

Before long James decided to increase his voluntary sessions and started helping with paperwork in the office once a month.  

James comments: "Finding this role through GEM has made such a difference to my life. I enjoy helping others and I feel useful again, we have a lot of fun at the Centre too!  I have made some wonderful friends and I like being part of such a great team.  Members of the team phone me regularly for a chat and it is very reassuring to know that I can call on someone if I ever need help.  I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at the Centre for giving me this opportunity and for their friendship."

Lockdown restrictions meant that the Centre had to close for a while.  However, James still prepares a quiz every week which is run virtually on a Sunday evening.  Maintaining contact with his friends and colleagues has been incredibly important for him during this difficult and unsettling time. 


Stroud | Creative Sustainability

GEM signed up to the GEM Project at the start of 2020 after taking a break from work to look after his partner before she sadly passed away.

“Before taking a break from work, I had been in the same job for 30 years so was really unsure about the whole process of job searching and interviews. I also wasn’t a very confident IT user so wanted to build my skills to help me apply for roles.”

Working with his Navigator Developer Anna, GEM began using the library IT buddy scheme to develop his skills and then went on to complete a basic IT course. He was looking at a wide range of roles and as his confidence began to increase, he started to apply for various positions.  

When the COVID-19 lockdown was announced, GEM didn’t let this interfere with his employment journey. He continued to be proactive and apply for jobs whilst starting another online course. He also supported his local community by helping his neighbours with tasks such as their shopping during this difficult time.

A role at his local supermarket was advertised and GEM applied for the post. After following up his application whilst shopping in the store later that week, the manager personally took his application to the administration office and he was invited for an interview the following day.

His persistence and proactive approach led to him becoming part of the team at Morrisons, completing various roles including replenishment, baking and general customer service.

“I’m really grateful for all the help and support from Anna, she was so patient with me. My role is only temporary for now, but it may lead to something more in the future. I’m just really happy to be back at work.”

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