A range of services has been delivered from the Centre spanning courses in literacy, numeracy, language classes, ITC, health sessions, arts and crafts, fashion design, study support and a specialized female employment project. The overriding concern of all our endeavours has been to ensure that each individual client was assisted to take the next step towards becoming empowered and fulll their potential
A characteristic of all our services was to take an individualized approach that ensured that each and every person was dealt with their particular concern in mind and we avoided a one size ts all approach. In the course of our service delivery we had to ensure that a signicant amount of time was spent in mentoring at every stage of their involvement with us.
Our engagement in a diverse range of settings has given us the experience and strength to continually move forward and embrace new arenas of work. That has meant that we are capable of steering an individual from the stage of basic skills development to a level of capacity building that enables some to move to the world of employment and income. Our key objective in all our project work is to create a progression route for individuals which maps out the possible entry points alongside a practical forward strategy. The end of a designated course or activity does not mean the end of engagement with us. We lay great stress on an evolving mentoring and pastoral support network.
This year we have carried a varied portfolio of activities, projects and services that responded to a huge latent demand among local women. Amongst them we will outline below some of the key areas.
Working closely with Tower Hamlets College we provided ESOL and IT classes on a weekly basis. It was attended by 45 women working 2 hours a week. We also trained 25 women with ESOL –e11 and 31 into Basic English course. A tripartite arrangement including Wapping Women’s Centre involved a course of basic ICT with English. All the beneciaries were given the opportunity to progress to more structured courses in further education colleges and accredited training providers.
For 38 weeks of the year, every Tuesday, we successfully ran sewing and design classes that proved extremely popular. A total of 450 women benetted from these courses and they went away to produce outts for women and children and also made some home furnishings. We intend to continue this and are exploring co-operative ways of encouraging some participants to venture into creative entrepreneurship. However to a majority of participants this has created a focus for making friends relaxing while learning new skills.
A central aim of our Centre is to create the appropriate conditions which empower women to become physically active and try different pursuits that enable them to lead healthier lives. Within this sphere of our work we have managed to provide sessions on Yoga, Swimming, Gardening, Health work- shops etc; Over 500 women have enthusiastically participated in our health programmes.
Weekly Yoga sessions have seen an average of 20 women attending on a regu- lar basis, Our one hour swimming sessions, on Mondays and Thursdays, in St. George’s Pool proved very popular. On a monthly basis we organized work- shops on different aspects of health. Health professionals such as midwifes, health advisers, psychological counselors etc; led these sessions on raising awareness on health. The cumulative effect of our interventions is to break barriers about talking about health matters and encouraging individuals to be more pro-active in their physical well being.
Recently we have begun a new health initiative that involves 25 women attending on a weekly basis to check their blood pressure and weight as a monitor on heart and other conditions.
Funding from Working Neighbourhood Fund (WNF) and support from London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It directly dealt with women who were designated as NEET’s (not in employment, education or training). Around 200 individuals were able to access our services around training and employment related activities. We set up various courses and activities geared towards clients being made job ready. This involved BTEC E3 Awards in work skills, voluntary work, work experience, job search, part and full time employment and differ- ent referral networks. Throughout the time the project was operational (18 months) women aged 16-50 years where helped to take the vital step towards the marked in jobs. This was a qualitatively different orientation in the type of services we offer and therefore has also established vital and necessary links between BYM and external providers of further training, job search and other related specialist services and private sector employers. In future we intend to further develop this aspect of our work in collaboration with other providers as part of the Work Programme.
The Girls youth work within BYM has oered a platform where 20-25 girls have participated in a wide variety of projects. This included accreditated qualications in Beauty& Make up, First Aid, Journalism and Health & Safety. There were also projects around Arts & Craft, drama, internet access, games and issue based workshops. Combining education and leisure such sessions have been well attended with an average participation of 35 people. During the year a week trip to Egypt was organized where we visited the pyramids of Gaza, Memphis and participated in a Desert safari. We learned about the history of Egypt and had a hugely enjoyable time.
A critical hinge of the present Big Society strategy is to ensure greater take up of volunteering in delivering services that might disappear due to the cuts on public expenditure being imposed. The volunteering project that we have initiated has brought within the Centre’s ambit women from dierent backgrounds, ages and professions to become involved with our work as well as participate in helping other organizations to ll in some of the gaps. To date 250 contacts have been made and we have been able to assist them to volunteer, receive training /personal development and build their skills and condence to become active citizens. It has not only given young people an opportunity to work with other people but in some cases have led to part/ full time employment.
ENVIRONMENTAL & OTHER ISSUES
During the past year we developed a hugely successful gardening project where a group of 10 women were given a patch of land in Stepping Stone Farm to plant fruits and vegetables. This was very much appreciated by those who did not have any gardens. All the participants became environmentally conscious, concretely realized the value of freshly grown produce and generally had a fun time.
We also provided a weekly advice session, attended on average by 8-10 women, to cover issues related to welfare benets, housing, family, relationship breakdown and domestic violence. Over the year 3000 local women benefitted from our services.