In This Section

Angela Moorehouse
Antoinette
Brenda Goring Moore
Chris Carr
Colin Flower
Elaine Arnold
Faye Barnes
Jade Almeida
Kathleen Hayes
Khalid Abouargub
Louisa John-Baptiste
Maria
Nahida Chowdhury
Nana Amma
Natalia Rahman
Nelly Pineda
Peter Lush
Rafia Begum
Ralph Dyer
Rosemary Maxwell
Sean Murray
Tessa Forbes
Yasar Omar

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Angela Moorehouse Read more

Since she began her first course at Training Link around two years ago, Angela Moorehouse has made a staggering development in both her personal life and professional skills...

Since she began her first course at Training Link around two years ago, Angela Moorehouse has made a staggering development in both her personal life and professional skills. Having completed a various courses at Training Link, she has been able to build a range of IT skills, from Word Processing and e-mail to Touch Typing and Business Administration, while collecting a number of awards for her performance along the way. Angela is currently working towards completing a course in PowerPoint and Digital Photography – and hopes soon to undertake the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence).

Originally from Ireland, Angela initially came to London to find work. Before becoming involved with Training Link she worked as a Community Support Officer for the Police, but unfortunately, developed epilepsy which necessitated giving up the job. “I was on a lot of medication, and I wasn’t working – it made me feel incredibly isolated and shattered my self-confidence”

She heard about Training Link through various channels; from someone she met, at the Camden Libraries which she visits, and also an advert in the Camden New Journal. When Angela came along to the Open Day, however, she was not expecting the friendly atmosphere and warm welcome she received. “I’ve been to a few other places, and tried out courses, but I never felt that immediate connection and warmth that I sensed here at Training Link.”

Obviously having immensely enjoyed and benefited from her first course at Training Link – Word Processing – Angela’s immediate step following the completion of her course was to sign up for a few more, which has led to her accumulating a great number of skills under her IT repertoire.

“I had a phobia of computers – I’m a computer-phobe, if you will – but now I’ve even bought myself a laptop because I’ve become so much more comfortable with it. Familiarising myself with these skills that have become a part of everyday life has had such a great impact on my own life, especially my confidence.”

Indeed, Angela’s personal growth is impressive. Having been given an award for the learner who had made the most progress in IT at Training Link, she is now reassured of her own capabilities; giving her the strength to tackle challenges she might have never considered before, for instance securing the ECDL.

Angela’s extensive participation in courses provided by Training Link stems primarily from her love of the people and atmosphere at the organisation: “The staff are fantastic. I’ve never felt it before, and it’s great because you don’t feel that they’re only reachable at regulated classes – everyone is a simple phone call away.”

Support and direction from the director, Peter Lush, has kept Angela coming back to Training Link, to further her knowledge, while encouragement from Tracey, her IT teacher, has helped her build the confidence to keep learning. “Tracy is absolutely fantastic! She makes you feel that there is not a single question that is too daft, or stupid. I can now enter avenues that I couldn’t have thought of entering before, I feel I can grasp things easily, and it has given me the motivation to strive to do better.”

The attitudes of fellow learners, too, inspires Angela, who appreciates deeply the overall attitude of friendliness and willingness to learn, as well as the diversity amongst them: “I like the vibes here – I feel more part of a family than a class. It’s fascinating; I hear about different parts of the world on the news, the food, culture, or clothes, but it opens up a whole new kind of understanding when I can actually hear people talk about their families, real stories about people’s lives, or taste the food they bring in.”

It is this aspect of her involvement at Training Link that Angela is most grateful for. Her greatest personal achievement is her growth as an individual, being able to rebuild her self-confidence.

“I know that even if I fail at something, I can come back here and receive the support I need, and build up the resilience to go out there and try again. My most rewarding experience at Training Link is definitely completing my first course here – because this is what gave me the initial boost of confidence to keep coming back.”

Antoinette Read more

Antoinette immediately cut out Training Link’s advert in the Camden New Journal when she saw it three years ago, and she hasn’t looked back since...

Antoinette immediately cut out Training Link’s advert in the Camden New Journal when she saw it three years ago, and she hasn’t looked back since. Being able to access these services, which weren’t available in her own borough of Brent, has been really beneficial: “There were things I had put out of my life, thinking they weren’t for me, and that I should be focussing on my chosen career. But I decided I wanted to learn more because I wanted to be a better person and because I thought I might need these skills in the future”.

Antoinette has done lots of support work in her career: “looking after the elderly, people with disabilities, and also getting involved with nursing”. At a certain point she “just thought I’m tired of this” and moved on to become a teaching assistant for four years. This was a job she “absolutely loved” in which she could get to know a group of young people very well. “Sometimes it was hard to break down barriers and become friends, but ultimately it was very rewarding and I enjoyed it a lot,” she recalls. As work ran out, Antoinette came to take courses at Training Link in order “to do something different”.

Since then she has been enrolled on the Business Administration, Web Design and Computer Literacy courses among others. She is currently taking the Digital Photography course and feels that the teaching environment at Training Link is very beneficial to her learning. When there are courses in her local area they are often taught entirely online which is not what she wants. “It’s really important that you are happy where you are learning, I need to be able to ask questions to real life teachers” she says. She also thinks that other courses can seem “scary and intimidating”. This was certainly the case with Web Design courses – while she had seen several in Brent, she only started when one became available here, “here I was able to progress in my work, I did very well in the class – to be honest I was surprised at myself”. Indeed Antoinette suggests her progress in the Web Design course as one of her proudest achievements during her time here.

Even when she isn’t enrolled on courses, Antoinette also volunteers in the Training Link office, helping with database work and filing. She took up this role because she “still wants to be around and in touch with the people here”. Nelly, the IT coordinator, “has always been like a friend” to Antoinette, “we work together, I respect her and she respects me”. Similarly Antoinette feels that Peter, the director, is someone who she can “really talk to about any issues” she might be having. He has experience that can help her out and is “genuinely friendly and concerned about people’s wellbeing”.

The new skills and confidence that Antoinette has gained here, as well as personal ties, are what “keep her coming back”. She adds jokingly, “I can’t leave this place”. She would like to find more employment, ideally as a Teaching Assistant, but in the meantime the positive experiences she’s had here, and also while volunteering in a book shop means she has “seen things she didn’t know she had in her”.

Brenda Goring Moore Read more

As Chair of Training Link, Brenda sees herself as “responsible for keeping the ethos alive and keeping the organisation moving forward”...

As Chair of Training Link, Brenda sees herself as “responsible for keeping the ethos alive and keeping the organisation moving forward”. Having been involved with the organisation since 1990, Brenda not only has a rich story to tell about Training Link’s past, but insight to give us into its future. From their origins in a movement to empower women, Training Link has undergone significant changes but Brenda believes it has still maintained its core values: “the overarching ethos to redress disadvantage is still there”.

Brenda originally took a course at Training Link in the 1980s when she was thinking of a change of direction in her career. She became increasingly involved with the organisation, volunteering and then sitting on the Management Committee. Being at Training Link she encountered women from around the world, and “could tell what else was going on in the world from who came in the door.” At this time, Training Link helped many women who were on their own and needed not only a way of earning a living for themselves and their families, but also a way by which to stabilise their often emotionally turbulent lives. Training Link was therefore a respite for women who had been exposed to violence, “personally, socially, and nationally”. The organisation also helped women get into “atypical types of work” because “gender-based work didn’t pay so well”. This meant providing women with ways into computing, building, dispatch riding and taxi-driving, “something we still get the odd enquiry about now”.

Brenda sees Training Link as exceptional for its time in providing a safe space in which marginalised women could pursue personal and professional goals. While training courses were also offered elsewhere, Training Link was “more involved with understanding different learning styles and the blocks which stop people learning”. When attending a conference back in the 1990s, Brenda encountered a former learner from Training Link, who in spite of a disrupted background, had been headhunted and gone on to work for the United Nations. Such examples demonstrated the strengths of the organisation: “it was an exciting new way of working; we had very few resources but people who wanted to make a difference and were visibly doing so.” Removing these blocks also meant recognising and being sensitive towards cultural differences. Empowering an individual also meant “giving them tools to help in their communities”.

For Brenda, Training Link’s continuing success as an organisation can be attributed to their emphasis on being “community responsive”, adapting to the challenges people face as political and social circumstances change. An important instance of this for Brenda is the decision to allow men to access Training Link’s services as it became clear that men also had need of such support. While this transformation of Training Link’s demography “had its stresses”, and issues of female empowerment hadn’t been entirely resolved, Brenda saw them as a “far cry” from what the organisation had dealt with previously. So if Training Link had been envisaged as “a place of safety” for women, it evolved into “a place where we can negotiate with others in a space of respect and equality.”

Being community responsive meant reaching out to a broader scope of the disadvantaged who live in “the midst of one of the most economically vibrant places in London.” It also means ensuring that Training Link stays up to date with a continually changing community, “you have to be aware of the local political make up and what’s happening around you,” she says. Training Link’s ongoing work to ensure that the Somers Town community has some kind of voice in the imposing local development projects is an important recent example of this.

What is it about Training Link that has meant Brenda stayed for so long? Brenda has used her passion for education in a number of ways over the years, and currently serves as a governor for a Further Education college, as well as supporting a group that encourages young Caribbean people to study science and technology. But Training Link is special to Brenda because of “its origins” which have meant it has “always been very caring at its core.” This is something Brenda hasn’t necessarily encountered at other organisations she’s worked with. She stresses that when walking through this community, “you come inside Training Link, and it’s different.” In offering support in one-to-one or small group settings, Training Link has developed a way by which to “quietly give confidence”, something that the “louder” institutions of colleges and universities cannot necessarily offer.

Moving forward, Brenda sees more formal partnerships with other organisations as a way by which Training Link could continue to grow in the future. Duplication of services in the local area is “useless,” and “collaboration is always better than competition where possible.” Linking with other charities across London is not only about collaborating, but about spreading news of Training Link’s successes, “we have a good story to tell”.

That this charity “quietly gives confidence” relates to the fact that for Brenda, Training Link’s ethos has always implied more than the specific skills learnt in training courses. This is still present today in the emphasis on greater community and intergenerational cohesion. “One of the nicest things” for Brenda was when they decided to take computers into the pub across the road in order to reach out to the wider community. Brenda spoke to grandparents who, thanks to this initiative, were “now able to have a conversation with their grandchildren.” The opportunity to Skype their extended family fostered a greater intergenerational cohesion, something which, as Chair of an organisation “for local people”, Brenda was thrilled about.

Chris Carr Read more

It’s not very often that a former electrician is found teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), but Training Link’s only ESOL Tutor, Chris Carr, gave up his last job as an electrician to work towards helping people improve their English...

It’s not very often that a former electrician is found teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), but Training Link’s only ESOL Tutor, Chris Carr, gave up his last job as an electrician to work towards helping people improve their English and hence their quality of life in London. It is this aim of helping people, making a change – no matter how small – that spurred Chris’ mid-career transformation.

“I had no teaching experience – and I never would have known back then I would be involved in a role such as this. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, but it came to a point when I realised I wanted to do something a bit different.”

Chris came to Training Link as a volunteer in 2007, shortly after completing his CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), with the hope of gaining some teaching experience. Teaching two or three classes a week as a volunteer for his first two years at Training Link, Chris enjoyed the experience of playing an important role in someone’s life; of furthering their prospects by providing the support necessary, to make living in England as a non-native speaker as easy as possible.

“I hope in some small way my job is helping people,” he says “And it certainly does more so than other work I have taken up. I like helping people and seeing their progression.” Chris has previously volunteered as a teacher at the Refugee Council, a charity that supports refugees and asylum seekers, helping to rebuild their lives. He also recalls a volunteering position with a primary school where he would read with the schoolchildren. Currently, along with his position at Training Link, Chris teaches part-time at Camden Adult Community Learning (Camden ACL).

Two years after initially becoming involved with Training Link, Chris took up a paid position on the staff as an ESOL tutor, which comprises a compound role as teacher, marker, examiner; running courses, providing support and feedback, as well as marking examinations. However, Chris’ part at Training Link extends past the obligatory tasks.

“I’m thinking about it all the time – I never really switch off. Previous jobs I’ve had were more about doing the work, going home and forgetting all about it. It’s different here; I want to do right by the people I work with.”

The open and welcoming atmosphere at Training Link, among the staff, volunteers, and learners, therefore, has a deep impact on the way Chris tackles his job and views his life: “I try to be as open as possible and give good feedback. The great thing about Training Link is that the education is free, and the people involved here are actually interested in the learners themselves. Quite often, learners come in with problems outside of what happens in the class, and we try as far as possible to help them.”

The unique aspect of Training Link’s approach and impact is the support given to learners and volunteers beyond the sphere of the classroom. Learners with domestic and childcare problems, for instance, find that the Training Link tutors are as flexible and accommodating as possible.

“When the learners come to me with personal problems, I try to be sympathetic. I often write letters of recommendation, or sign off on their progress.”

Chris’ Training Link story is therefore inspiring – he continues to make a great impact on the lives of his learners, through his committed work and his own personal growth. “I like the openness of the place and I like interacting with people. I’m pleased to have found something to do with my life that’s satisfying.”

Colin Flower Read more

Adult Literacy volunteer Colin Flower has been involved with Training Link for the past three years, and last year joined the Management Committee...

Adult Literacy volunteer Colin Flower has been involved with Training Link for the past three years, and last year joined the Management Committee after a discussion with Peter Lush. Colin is retired from his professional job, and now spends two days a week at Training Link, and the other three days a week at a charity shop in Camden Town, where he is works at the counter, pricing and managing donations.

Colin came to Training Link in 2011 when an advertisement in the Camden New Journal for an Adult Literacy Volunteer jumped out at him, while reading the paper. Although he has not had much experience with teaching, barring a brief stint teaching French in Sydney, Colin has a history working within the voluntary sector.

Having previously run a charity in Cornwall, called ‘OHM’, Colin is well equipped with the skills and experience to make an effective and involved management committee member at Training Link. ‘OHM’ helped give legal and other advice. Colin assisted with raising finances to support these endeavours by promoting concerts.

As an Adult Literacy volunteer, and management committee member at Training Link, Colin’s role is multi-faceted. On the management committee, Colin’s main roles involve attending meetings every so often, listening to reports, approving budgets, and discussing any new ideas that might be raised. With his learners, he provides support and assistance to improve their reading and writing skills.

“I currently have three learners – one of them is a Bangladeshi man, who is practically learning a new language. The other two are Irish travellers who are quite comfortable speaking, but have poor reading and writing.”

Colin works with these learners on an individual basis, deciding how to tackle each of their literacy needs as he sees fit: “There’s no set way of doing it; it’s a question of familiarity. The more they see a word, the more it will become familiar. I use the books and resources we have here to keep them going.”

Colin is commended by the other staff at Training Link for his delicacy, and sensitivity, contributing to his ability to work well with some of the most vulnerable learners. He outlines that “My greatest challenge is trying to get my learners to concentrate, and focus. The way I deal with that is just to persevere with them, and hopefully it sticks.”

During his time at Training Link, Colin has not only been able to expand his circle of friends, as he feels he has done, but also been able to reach a personal goal of having helped others.

“I want to contribute something to the community. I have the sense that I have helped someone achieve something they might not have been able to otherwise do.”

Elaine Arnold Read more

Doctor Elaine Arnold’s inspiring and impressive background and experiences bring a fascinating, and very meaningful, element to Training Link’s Board of Trustees. Elaine’s history with education and social welfare goes back to her early days in the Caribbean...

Doctor Elaine Arnold’s inspiring and impressive background and experiences bring a fascinating, and very meaningful, element to Training Link’s Board of Trustees. Elaine’s history with education and social welfare goes back to her early days in the Caribbean, where she was trained as a teacher, after which she came to England to study social work. She did her PhD at UCL in the field of psychiatry, specifically to do with the attachment theory, and later lectured on social work at Sussex University.

“I have always had an interest in education. I knew from the very start I wanted to teach,” she says.

Elaine came to Training Link in the early 1990s, after she met former director Louisa John-Baptiste at a conference. Hearing about Louisa’s work at what was then known as Women’s Training Link; Elaine became interested in the organisation. Elaine’s role as a trustee currently involves attending meetings, reviewing policies, discussing steps with the director, and considering the past work. She also looks at finances, sources funding, suggests people interested in volunteering, and often makes suggestions for areas for expansion.

“My part at Training Link is primarily to support and further the work of the organisation. At first, I was involved in training – I taught some learners about the attachment theory, and my personal areas of expertise. Now I’m on the Board, I carry out the activities any trustee of an organisation would. I’ve been around a long time, so my experience with voluntary organisations is useful, for facilitating a range of activities and endeavours. I’m always available for support and advice.”

In 1999, with Training Link’s support, Elaine founded the Separation and Reunion Forum, which is an organisation which aims to create awareness for the trauma and pain associated with broken attachments, separation and loss. Founded by a group of Afro-Caribbean women who experienced, through the immigration process, feelings of loss or separation, SRF currently organises programs, seminars and talks to various institutions or colleges, including bi-monthly seminars and an annual conference.

“Our ethos and work at SRF has a strong impact at Training Link. My aim at SRF is to train those people who are working in the institutions that have the expertise to help the victims. Many of Training Link’s clients are people from abroad with different statuses – migrants or refugees. Therefore, this question of loss of country is crucial. It’s important that individuals in teaching positions recognise that sometimes people like this, who might be in difficult positions because of troubled or disrupted early life, may not progress educationally as quickly. It’s very likely they might still be mourning the loss of their country – instructors have to be quite sensitive.”

Training Link’s impact in the community is therefore deeply recognised and celebrated by Elaine. She has researched and therefore strongly understands the grave reality of the difficulties for foreign nationals, of integrating within life in the UK. Her experience and involvement with training highlights a key aim of the organisation; empowering those who are in difficult positions to take control of their lives, and reach their individual potential.

She believes that “Training Link does good work; fulfilling a need in the community, for vulnerable people, who might not be able to access mainstream organisations. It builds up their confidence to go out and be a part of the community at large, if they so wish. For small organisations, the future is always uncertain. Because our director here is so creative, in looking for instance, at what new courses may be offered, and is competent at making applications when necessary to the appropriate bodies, we hope Training Link can continue to fill the need of the people who come here.”

Faye Barnes Read more

Faye has been involved with Training Link for the past three years, starting originally as a way by which to “keep up and build on the skills I had developed before I had my daughter”...

Faye has been involved with Training Link for the past three years, starting originally as a way by which to “keep up and build on the skills I had developed before I had my daughter”.

She is no stranger to administration, computing and business, having worked for two and a half years for London Strategic Housing. This company deals with housing needs in the public sector and Faye was doing lots frontline support dealing with customers and contractors on the phone and face-to-face. It was a busy environment that had a large turnaround of customers. Faye describes herself as “good at organising, at dealing with people, and at problem solving” so she ultimately liked the office environment at her work. She started the Business Administration course at Training Link when she was out of work after she had had her daughter. She “sort of knew the basics already, but the course was a helpful refresher”. The course was also helpful for gaining a more theoretical basis for business: “I learnt about different side of business, about how to sell yourself, how to set up your own business”.

She initially found out about the Business Administration course when a leaflet dropped through her letter box. She went on to do an Office 2007 course afterwards, before doing First Aid and Customer Service courses online. Several factors meant that Training Link was convenient for Faye, “it’s local and free which is something which makes a big difference – elsewhere you’ll often have to pay for courses and even if this is a concessionary price it can put a lot of pressure on succeeding.” The timings at other training providers can also be problematic, “I’ve been attracted by courses at other places, but the hours aren’t family friendly at all and I’m restricted in when I can attend.” At Training Link “the timings work a lot better so I can study and look after my daughter”.

Faye was recently asked to join the Management Committee, and her position as a learner means she has unique insight to bring to her role. Describing her role on the committee, she said “We talk about the different courses and how well each of them is doing; we look at the budget as well as discussing potential new courses and talking about the future of Training Link.” Faye has found her participation on this committee really insightful into “the other side of how the organisation works” and enjoys “being able to have your say and having your opinion actually taken into account”. On top of this an added bonus of having the opportunity “to go to conferences and hear from different speakers from all kinds of organisations”.

Because Faye hadn’t been in training for some time, she says she was lacking confidence when she first came to Training Link: “You start to think, ‘Can I finish the course, can I really do it?’, but if you persevere you realise you’ve done a lot of work and you have a lot to be proud of.” This ties in to her hopes for Training Link in the future, “because the staff are so friendly and supportive, and the centre is so conveniently placed, I’d really like to see it expand in the future, it would be great if they had the resources to do more.”

Jade Almeida Read more

Training Link’s volunteer IT Learning Assistant, Jade Almeida’s sunny disposition is a delight, to learners and staff alike, when she comes in each Tuesday to assist with the IT open sessions...

Training Link’s volunteer IT Learning Assistant, Jade Almeida’s sunny disposition is a delight, to learners and staff alike, when she comes in each Tuesday to assist with the IT open sessions. Jade is a full-time student at Brunel University, working towards a degree in Psychology. Having just completed her second year, Jade decided three months ago to give up her paying part-time job at H&M to volunteer at Training Link once a week.

“I’ve always wanted to volunteer but I hadn’t had the chance all this time, being so busy with my job and university. I’m so glad I’ve been able to do it, because I wanted to do something productive in my spare time, and something that I can enjoy.”

When looking for volunteering opportunities, Jade learned about Training Link online, on www.do-it.org, realising immediately that this would be a great fit because of the interpersonal aspects of the role, and requirement for IT skills.

“I did IT at ‘A’ Level, so I thought it best to stick with what I’m comfortable with. I assist learners when they come in to use the computers for various tasks.”

From helping to set up the absolute beginners, by familiarising them with typing and mouse navigation, to supporting the others who come in for personal entertainment – to check emails, or go on Youtube – Jade is around just to lend a helping hand when necessary.

The favourite part of her work at Training Link is essentially interacting with people. She feels strongly about the appreciation she receives from the learners she helps, but additionally she enjoys the welcoming working environment among the staff: “People are so grateful, it’s fantastic. I feel so valued, so appreciated. I get ‘you’re a star’, and ‘you’re amazing’ for the little things I help with, and I just feel so much warmth and gratitude.”

Beyond the learners she works with, Jade has formed strong attachments to IT Coordinator Nelly Pineda, and Office Manager Maria Trimikliniotis, among other members of the Training Link team.

“The people who work here made me feel so comfortable and welcome from the minute I started. Everyone is really lovely. Nelly – she’s always looking out for me, even making sure that I take some fruit home every time she sees me! They genuinely appreciate me as well; it’s just constant appreciation, being here.”

Although she doesn’t have previous experience in the voluntary sector, Jade’s diverse personal interests and positive outlook on life make her invaluable at Training Link. Her friendly attitude, unending patience, and constant enthusiasm make her extremely approachable to learners. Jade has even built confidence in her own abilities as a teacher. When one learner came in struggling with a GCSE assignment, Jade stepped out of her comfort zone in IT and provided experience and knowledge she, as a student at university, and having been through school not so long ago, could offer.

“She had just failed an exam, and came in with some practice questions for a re-take. She didn’t know where to start, how to go about it. I went through it with her, showed her how to read, understand, and address the question effectively the way I would have done. She really appreciated my help, even buying me chocolates as a thank you.”

Through her time at Training Link, Jade has been able to develop her interpersonal skills, which she feels she will definitely put to use in the future, in her possible career in counselling. But most significantly, she shares the same gratitude she receives from the people she works with, for having found something worthwhile to do with her free time.

“I like to be productive – I’m always doing something, whether it’s cycling, reading, or cooking. I’m definitely a people person, and I know I want to help people, especially those in need. This job is more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done; I go home with a smile on my face, not feeling stressed out or depressed.”

Kathleen Hayes Read more

Until three years ago, when she took redundancy, Kathleen worked for an Irish bank. She is now a contractor – working as a business analyst – for a number of banks. Four years ago she decided that she had enough time on her hands to do voluntary work...

Until three years ago, when she took redundancy, Kathleen worked for an Irish bank. She is now a contractor – working as a business analyst – for a number of banks. Four years ago she decided that she had enough time on her hands to do voluntary work, something she had never been involved in before. She is currently the treasurer and a member of the management committee for Training Link.

Having raised two daughters, the issue of education has always been close to Kathleen’s heart. She particularly wanted to get involved in a literacy project because she had helped her daughters to learn to read and write and she thought it would be interesting to teach an adult. Having done a Google search on charities within an easy commute, she came across Training Link, which she had never heard of before.

The first learner that Kathleen helped could read and write, but needed to improve their spoken English. Following that, she helped a literacy learner for three years. Initially, the lady couldn’t read or write at all, but Kathleen helped her to slowly build up her skills: reading out single words or signs on the street at first, then moving onto full sentences and finally, simple books. It is clear that Kathleen has really enjoyed volunteering and as she said “it’s wonderful to see the learner learn and blossom”.

Two years ago, Peter had a discussion with her about the management committee. Around a year ago, Kathleen became the group’s treasurer. Her role involves ensuring that the budget balances, overseeing the accounts and checking that the charity does not exceed the agreed budget. The management committee meets five times a year, for example to discuss different funding strategies or decide on what courses to provide or discontinue. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have enough time to volunteer with learners anymore, but she is hoping to be able to do that again in the future.

Through her volunteering, she gained a great appreciation of the challenges faced by English learners, for example pronunciation (a lot of words are spelled differently to the way they sound) or the use of apostrophes in dialogues.

Kathleen “gets fantastic satisfaction from it”. She added “You get more out of it than you put in”. ” Things at work can sometimes be quite tough” and she feels that volunteering is “an antidote to work”. In addition, she meets a great variety of people on the management committee: a lot of them have experience in local authority or other charities, which is very different to her background. She also says that Training Link is very well run and well organized. She concluded “it is a very worthy cause that has proved itself over the years, although it now faces major challenges over its future funding.”

Khalid Abouargub Read more

Khalid joined Training Link as a volunteer in March 2014. He just finished his first year of IT degree with the Open University and that’s what he helps the learners with...

Khalid joined Training Link as a volunteer in March 2014. He just finished his first year of IT degree with the Open University and that’s what he helps the learners with. He was born in the UK and lived here until he was aged eight, then he moved abroad (he is half-Libyan) only to come back to London in 2011.

Living in the area with his mum, he was looking online for volunteering opportunities and that’s how he came into contact with Training Link. When he started volunteering here, he was helping out with the IT drop-in session twice a week. Currently, he is helping out with the website-building course, using WordPress. His main tasks involve assisting learners when they get lost or stuck, have trouble or don’t understand what they are doing. Khalid feels that even though what he is helping out with beginners’ courses, he is learning a lot of patience and perseverance.

In the past, he also volunteered at a gym where he was working with kids and young people. Khalid helped them to build good exercising habits and taught them about benefits of physical activity.

He really enjoys volunteering at Training Link and feels it does give him good professional experience. In the future he is hoping to have a career in IT, perhaps in software development. In addition, he enjoys getting to know the learners as “each of them has a different story”. He is hoping to build more lasting relationships with them, as a lot of people come for a month or a few weeks, then disappear for a while, only to return a couple of weeks later.

Khalid also says that the charity has a very friendly atmosphere and everyone here is very welcoming. “It is easy to fit in here”, he said. He says that a lot of people who volunteer here are students as they have more time, but also are extremely dedicated yet fun.

When talking about his time here, he said he feels like he is doing something useful. In particular, he mentioned one of the learners, who joined Training Link at the same time as him. Initially, the learner couldn’t use a computer at all but he made such great progress – apart from working on his skills at Training Link, he also practices a lot in the library – that he is now teaching Khalid how to touch type!

In his spare time, he enjoys martial arts which he has been practicing since he was nine. He was initially doing judo, but then moved onto a mixture of mai tai, ju-jitsu and American wrestling. Khalid finds it very interesting as “you do a mixture of things and it doesn’t get boring”.

Louisa John-Baptiste Read more

Louisa moved to the UK from St. Lucia at the age of 15. Even though she could read and write, she wasn’t educated and as she said, “it took a while before she caught up”...

Louisa moved to the UK from St. Lucia at the age of 15. Even though she could read and write, she wasn’t educated and as she said, “it took a while before she caught up”. She eventually was introduced to a community project and joined a women’s group. Following that, she started going to workshops and doing evening classes. At the same time, she was raising two children, so she was doing a lot of odd jobs: decorating, cleaning (after people moved out from their houses), delivering drugs from the pharmacy, and working in factories.

She then got involved in a community project, the Camden Bus, organised by the Women’s Unit in Camden. In the project she was the manager and the bus driver. The aim of the project was to connect with people who were difficult to reach out and therefore running it on a bus was a perfect idea. It was based on an estate in Eversholt Street and was very successful. Unfortunately, in time the funding was cut, even though there was a core group of women starting attending the sessions regularly. Louisa, with the help of a couple of others and the scarce resources they had, kept the project going. This is how Women’s Training Link was born.

Initially the charity was based in Holborn, in central London, in a building with other women’s organizations. Despite its central location, the project wasn’t exactly reaching out to their main target audience and eventually moved to Phoenix Road in Somers Town, where it is currently based.

Because men wanted to do some of the courses that Women’s Training Link was running, the charity eventually rebranded to Training Link. Louisa admits that the changeover “wasn’t that difficult” and transformation was “really quite simple but sometimes you had to be a bit on the tough side”.

What she really enjoyed about her job was flexibility and autonomy. Louisa really appreciated her team of trustees and management committee that trusted her and didn’t micromanage, but would help in case of any issues. She says “It felt very much like a family set up”. Because her management committee was extremely understanding and supportive, she managed to go back to university and complete a few qualifications. She also completed a 2-year course in training and management, during which she learnt how to manage volunteers and staff, and was able to put her knowledge into practice.

Louisa says that “you learn a lot by running a small organisation”, both in terms of formal learning and experience. She completed a number of courses herself, mainly because she felt that “you need to know how to help students when they come asking for help”. She also admits that at times it was very difficult, for example when she was preparing for checks run by European Social Fund. “It is also very rewarding to start with nothing and in five years’ time have 100 people who have come through the door”, she said.

The main challenge about her job was finding the funding. She also admitted that it was hard being different – from one side, they would be running courses that would allow people to become taxi drivers, from the other side – Training Link would offer computer, counselling and self-development courses, which, as she said, “was difficult to sell to the European Social Fund”. The funding would only be 55% of the total cost of the project, so “you would have to be quite creative in showing you could get the rest”, for example by putting a price on the time of volunteers or premises.

She is pleasantly surprised that the charity is still running and she feels that Training Link surviving for such a long time is a huge achievement. “It wasn’t without struggle”, she said. Louisa admits that she was very unconventional herself in the 1980s, for example because of her long, messy dreadlocks – sometimes “it would look weird in a meeting”.

As mentioned before, Louisa has two children. Her daughter runs her own dance studio and her son is a musician. She also looks after her three-year-old granddaughter living in Enfield, for example by taking her to and from school, which takes up most of her spare time. She used to volunteer for Training Link, but unfortunately no longer has the time nowadays. She admits that she sometimes “struggles with her tablet or Dropbox and doesn’t have the time to learn about them”.

Even though she isn’t very involved with Training Link now, she really hopes that it will be able to keep going. As she said, “it provides a good service to people who need it most, a step before they get the confidence to enter the authority’s education”. The charity is in a good position to help them, and English and computers are the most important skills that they are providing.

Louisa left Training Link as an employee in 2007 when she retired, although she soon returned as a volunteer and then trustee. She now lives in Islington. As she said, she “definitely transformed herself and is very grateful for the opportunity to work there”.

Maria Read more

MariaMaria’s background is in arts and humanities. She has worked in both the creative industries and education. She saw the ‘ad’ for her role, in the Camden New Journal in 2011, when she was job-hunting...

mariaMaria’s background is in arts and humanities. She has worked in both the creative industries and education. She saw the ‘ad’ for her role, in the Camden New Journal in 2011, when she was job-hunting. Having completed her project management course in PRINCE2, and with computer skills up-to-date, and an interest in social issues, she felt that this job was a perfect fit for her. Her role is ‘Big Lottery Funded’ and reflects that “she had indeed had a win on the Lottery!” Previous to this role, she had founded and ran an art gallery in Tower Hamlets for seven years with limited public funding and volunteer help.

Her job involves project co-ordination of short Training Link courses designed to improve local people’s employability skills. She says: “The highlight of her job has been co-ordinating the one-to-one literacy project”, where her role has been to match the learners and volunteers. “The process can be intuitive but it works”.

For instance, Maria will pair up a learner for whom English might be a second language with a volunteer who is training to teach ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). Maria also works with native speakers who may have missed out on school, and now wish to improve their literacy. In this scenario, Maria, will match the learner with a volunteer possibly who wants to teach in the life-long learning sector, or one who possibly helped family members read and write, and can impart this knowledge to other adults.

Maria is proud of helping build social cohesion as the learners and volunteers often come from completely different walks of life. She emphasises that the literacy project is based on a relationship from which both the learner and the volunteer become empowered through the learning process. To experience “change happen” and witness successful, flourishing working relationships where volunteers and learners each benefit from something the other has to offer, is a great privilege.

Another part of Maria’s role is to keep volunteers and learners motivated and involved in the learning/tutoring process so that they return to Training Link and continue. Training Link has increased its presence since 2011 in that it attends more local Volunteering and Employability Fairs and is an active member of the Camden Adult Learning Partnership.

She was always interested in education – it stems from the fact that her parents are not English so she was always explaining things to her mother or acting as a translator. Her previous work in the gallery was also very educative to the local community as its ethos was to be socially engaged and accessible. Maria has always been committed to her own self-development and education; she completed ‘Preparing to Teach in the Life-Long Learning Sector’ (PTLLS) course before starting work at Training Link.

Maria also appreciates the challenges and shortage of resources that working for a charity presents, and looks for workable solutions. She keeps a booking diary system for the back room at Training Link for the project, or volunteers and learners may, on occasion, meet at the local community cafe or library. This often engenders a creative hub of activity among various groups of learners and volunteers where further information and good practice can be exchanged.

For this role, she uses an objective framework for making a diagnostic initial assessment for learners but also emphasises that qualitative progress is very important. This is captured from case-studies and personal experience of participants. For example, she mentions a learner who had never read a book before engaging with Training Link and has just started reading his second ‘Quick Read’ book. Another learner, so committed to her learning returned (even though she’d completed the three month minimum with the previous volunteer) with a request to continue with a new volunteer tutor.

When not at Training Link, Maria maintains her interest in the arts (dependant on her budget) and will travel far and wide with this in mind. A memorable trip was to Derry (UK City of Culture 2013) to see the then Turner Prize.

Nahida Chowdhury Read more

In the three years since she first became involved with Training Link, Nahida has made impressive progress. As result of her time with Training Link, and with other local services, she has improved her English, found paid employment - and won several awards along the way...

In the three years since she first became involved with Training Link, Nahida has made impressive progress. As result of her time with Training Link, and with other local services, she has improved her English, found paid employment - and won several awards along the way. After winning the Adolfo Gaspar Award for Improvement in IT skills in 2013, and a further prize for her biography of a Bangladeshi author at the Working Men’s College, Nahida now works as a Trainee Community Organiser based at the Somers Town Community Centre.

The start of these inspiring achievements, Nahida says, was Training Link as the “first step” in her progress over recent years. Nahida got married in Bangladesh and came to London with her husband six years ago to live in Somers Town. Initially, she started the English for Speakers of Other Languages course (ESOL) at Level 2. Taking courses in English here offered an opportunity to build on her language skills in a native context, as well as to get to know Somers Town and its residents a little better: “it was a good way to find out more about the local area” she says. She has since taken advantage of the range of courses on offer here, completing the Level 2 Business Administration course, a Customer Care course, Literacy Level 1, Introduction to Computers and First Aid.

Nahida has also volunteered her time doing administrative and office work at Training Link, which offered further opportunities to develop skills. She was then taken on as a Volunteer Community Organiser by the Somers Town Community Centre, where she says “I gained more customer care and communication skills”.

Her volunteer work ultimately led her to exciting new prospects with the Community Centre. She applied for, and was invited for an interview, for a Trainee Community Organiser, a paid position. This involved attending an Assessment Centre in Leeds: “This was the first time I had left my local area since coming from Bangladesh, it was quite scary for me and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go.” With encouragement from her colleagues at the Community Centre, as well as advice and training from Training Link’s director, Peter Lush, Nahida made the journey, and ultimately came away successful from a pool of around 40 applicants.

Her work as a Trainee Community Organiser involves talking to local residents about their vision for Somers Town’s future, and motivating them to become actively involved in their community. “I have talked to around 200 local residents about making the changes they want in their community themselves,” she says. This has culminated in some exciting projects: “I identified that dog-fouling was an issue for lots of residents and so invited residents, councillors, the area monitoring officer, and Safer Neighbourhoods police to a meeting.” Here, plenty of ideas were discussed, and community leaders thought about ways to act on this problem. There will be an art project in a local primary school to teach children about the dangers of dog-fouling, and there will also be a stall at a community festival in the summer.

Contributing to these great achievements in the community is a big step on from what Nahida initially wanted to get out of her courses at Training Link. Her initial goal in coming to Training Link was not to find a job, “I just wanted to improve my English, but with the confidence I gained through these courses and the encouragement that Training Link gave me, I began to expand my horizons”.

Nana Amma Read more

Nana, who has been involved with Training Link ever since 2002, says that she feels “at ease and at home” whenever she’s here and “enjoys everything she learns while volunteering”...

Nana, who has been involved with Training Link ever since 2002, says that she feels “at ease and at home” whenever she’s here and “enjoys everything she learns while volunteering”. While over the past 12 years she has been involved in Training Link on and off, and in different capacities, Nana has “always wanted to stay in touch and to help where she can because Training Link has helped her so much.”

Nana initially came to Training Link when she was on a three month placement from another nearby centre. Louisa, the former director of Training Link, then took her on as an office volunteer in order that she could gain more work experience. Through the next couple of years Nana was in temporary accommodation and moved around London to different training centres, but after completing a three month retail course, which also included a placement, she started work with Sainsbury’s as a Customer Service Assistant. She really enjoyed this job and stayed there for 4 years before coming back to Training Link when she lost this job. She started a new administration course at Training Link in 2012 in order to update “my computer skills as they had got out of date.” Nana is currently spending three days a week at the London College of Beauty Therapy on a Manicuring and Pedicuring course – a course she “really loves”.

Around differing work and training commitments, Nana feels it is still important to commit time to Training Link, “instead of staying home, I prefer to learn something new and give something back.” She currently volunteers here two days a week providing administrative support. Beyond the business, IT and administrative skills she has learnt here, she believes that her confidence has increased when applying for jobs, because she knows that often she has a broader range of skills than other candidates, “the fact that when I apply for a retail job I also have IT skills I think is a big bonus.” She is “very proud” of all her qualifications so far. She has also received support when attending interviews which can be a nerve-racking experience, “before when I went to an interview I used to be so scared, my palms would be sweating because I wanted the job so much, but Peter has been great in offering interview techniques. Now I feel I can stay calm, and can cope”.

If she gets the opportunity, Nana hopes that the confidence and experience that she has gained will help her to start her own beauty salon business, “because I know about customer care, about IT, and about beauty techniques, I could be more self-sufficient and less reliant on other people.” This would be particularly important for Nana who feels that her age puts her at a disadvantage in the current job market. If she could get the support she needs to get going, her own business would be something to be “especially proud of”.

Nana continually stresses how grateful she is to Training Link who have always been very helpful and supportive, “the staff treat everybody equally, and give you all the support that you need.” This friendly, non-discriminatory ethos she believes is something which “comes from the head of the organisation.” She “can’t say anything bad about the charity, it’s like coming home, not like going to a centre”. This is a sentiment she believes is shared by many learners and volunteers at Training Link, “they are all very, very grateful for the support”.

Natalia Rahman Read more

Natalia Rahman works at Training Link once a week doing office administration, which she previously did as a volunteer. However, her role and involvement with Training Link, as well as the impact it has had on her life, greatly exceeds just her administrative role...

Natalia Rahman works at Training Link once a week doing office administration, which she previously did as a volunteer. However, her role and involvement with Training Link, as well as the impact it has had on her life, greatly exceeds just her administrative role.

"It's a very rewarding job and I am lucky to benefit from developing both professional and personal skills and experiences," she says.

Natalia first became involved with Training Link about four years ago when she met Peter Lush at an employment fair in a library, while looking for some professional work experience. Having just completed her business administration and communications course at Westminster College in Victoria, Natalia came to Training Link to assist with office administration tasks including inputting data, filing, taking and making calls as well as responding to emails and working on projects: “I have been able to gain more than technical skills during my time here at Training Link. Along with developing my inter-personal skills, it has given me self-confidence and the ability to see myself in a better position in life - one that I would never have seen myself in before.”

Natalia has always loved to volunteer, and engage in activities that are involved with helping people. She has spent time working with an organisation that supports vulnerable mothers from Eastern Europe, volunteering once a week there for a year, while she was also volunteering twice a week at Training Link. She has also spent a year volunteering with a nursery while her children were at school. At Training Link, her dedication and commitment, which comes from her love of her role, has been appreciated and commended by her colleagues, having led to her receiving a certificate for Voluntary Service in 2011.

“The best part about these experiences is the people that surround you. At Training Link, both volunteers and learners are kind, caring and compassionate people; working alongside them makes me feel useful and worthwhile."

In fact, it's the diversity of people involved with Training Link – the warmth, friendliness and positive attitudes – that makes Natalia's dedicated role at Training Link so enjoyable. Originally from Belarus, and her husband being from Afghanistan, Natalia appreciates and values diversity. Importantly, she feels that an organisation as culturally diverse as Training Link is the kind of place anyone is welcome and can be comfortable, as well as find opportunities to grow as a person.

“It is a home to me – I feel so free. There is diversity here in all spheres of life, from culture and religion, to food and atmosphere."

Her history at Training Link also includes a short stint as a learner, when she took a Touch Typing course. Although it was challenging, she felt, as with other aspects of involvement with Training Link, the experience allowed her to not only develop her technical skills, but also interpersonal skills and self-confidence. According to Natalia, the most enjoyable part of the course was probably the interaction with the staff that supported her. It was here that Natalia truly came to know Nelly Pineda, IT coordinator at Training Link, who has had a great impact on Natalia's life: "Nelly is an inspiration to me. She has dedicated her whole life to Training Link, and is so passionate about her job. She's incredibly resilient and has a great attitude – she's always laughing. When she was teaching me, she kept pushing and encouraging me and this gave me so much confidence in my own abilities.”

Training Link is an important part of Natalia's life now – and when she isn't working here she spends time with her family and on herself: “I don't want to forget all I've learned, and while I'm here I'm continuing to build experiences within the sphere of business administration, as well as meet people and make contacts that might be useful for finding interesting work opportunities.”

Nelly Pineda Read more

Nelly PinedaNelly’s time with Training Link goes further back than the other members of staff; she worked for its previous incarnation, Women’s Training Link, earlier on in her career...

Nelly PinedaNelly’s time with Training Link goes further back than the other members of staff; she worked for its previous incarnation, Women’s Training Link, earlier on in her career. She enjoyed this job because they “used to rotate the jobs and learned a lot”. Now back at Training Link in “half-retirement” after working for several different colleges, Nelly has been the IT Coordinator since 2007, teaching the Introduction to Computers course, the ECDL course(European Computer Driving Licence) and part of the Business Administration course.

Nelly moved to England from Latin America in the 1970s, and originally studied Food Technology at Kingston Polytechnic. She learnt some IT in this course which she ultimately decided to focus on because, “if I decided to move back to Latin America it would be easier to find a job”. Nelly hadn’t initially considered teaching, but her interest was sparked in 1988 by an inspirational teacher who made all the difference to her personal progress. She was in a class where she was a decade older than everyone else, she had until this point felt frustrated, particularly as a non-native English speaker, when the teachers didn’t give her the support she needed. This particular teacher was “the first person to say ‘don’t worry!’” and to explain things in a way to which Nelly responded well. She was always there to respond to questions when needed and Nelly “completely blossomed in IT because of her”.

The positive influence that an inspiring teacher can have is something that Nelly tries to emulate in her own work as IT Co-ordinator here at Training Link, “I thought, ‘I want to be like her’”. She thinks that the main quality required in her job is patience because “if you don’t have patience you upset the atmosphere of the class” and the students are less ready to learn. Being willing to take things slowly is pivotal to her work here, in order to not “unnecessarily burden” the learners who can otherwise make good progress. She thinks patience is particularly important given the fact that many people’s first language at Training Link is not English and so they may find it difficult “to express the ways in which they are struggling”.

Nelly has had a number of successes during her time at Training Link and has seen many former learners go on to find employment. One, Christina, was given the edge in her job search thanks to skills learnt in a class with Nelly, and is now a teacher, “being able to create Powerpoint presentations gave her job application a big boost”. Nelly has also seen several more vulnerable people who, as a result of being enrolled in IT classes and the structure and regularity that this learning introduces into their lives, are making real progress. One of them is now enrolled on a local Ipad course, alongside Nelly herself!

A challenge of teaching IT for Nelly is the wide range of ability in any given class: “it all comes down to practice, and those who practice at home or work advance a lot quicker”. But she understands beginners and goes beyond the minimum required, encouraging progress in her students by sending links that they can practise opening and sending on. What Nelly likes most about this job is “the freedom of working without a syllabus” and being able to respond directly to what people want to get out of a class. For Nelly this makes for a teaching experience quite distinct from “teaching the curriculum to grumpy teenagers” at college.

Peter Lush Read more

Peter LushFollowing his degree in Social Science (majoring in Economics), Peter completed a year of postgraduate study, obtaining a diploma in Industrial Relations & Trade Union Studies. His first job was with the Department of Health & Social Security (now the Benefits Agency) where he worked for almost five years. His employer supported him in completing an MA in Industrial and Social History which triggered his interest in South Africa...

Peter LushFollowing his degree in Social Science (majoring in Economics), Peter completed a year of postgraduate study, obtaining a diploma in Industrial Relations & Trade Union Studies. His first job was with the Department of Health & Social Security (now the Benefits Agency) where he worked for almost five years. His employer supported him in completing an MA in Industrial and Social History which triggered his interest in South Africa, which he studied on the course. His entire working career has been in the ‘not-for-profit sector, including housing associations and co-operatives and the trade union movement, where he did a lot of training. Before becoming the director of Training Link in 2007, he was a trade union official for Unison working in the housing association sector.

Having been raised in Cricklewood, about 500 yards from the border of Camden; going to school in Hampstead and his mum working in Swiss Cottage, he felt that joining Training Link was “a bit like coming home”. His first job was working for Camden Council as a student on placement in 1975 to 1976. He also knows Somers Town well, as when he was in the civil service union, SCPS, he often attended meetings in Cock Tavern in the 1980s, just opposite Training Link’s current building. However, he had not heard of Training Link until he saw the job being advertised in The Guardian.

Peter has always been “interested in education in the broad sense”. Despite his wide experience in training people, he says “If I did a lot of classroom teaching at Training Link, I wouldn’t be able to do my job well.” He feels that “in order to support teachers, some teaching experience is useful, but not essential.” His job as a director mainly entails a lot of standard voluntary sector management functions such as fundraising, managing staff and servicing the committee – in short, keeping the place going.

What he finds extremely rewarding about his job is “seeing people develop,” both learners and teachers. Peter remembers learners who came here with very little self-confidence and then start to build it up and develop. The learners achieve qualifications and complete courses, some of which they would have never thought possible beforehand. He says that one of the most satisfying moments during his time at Training Link was obtaining the grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which ensured the charity’s survival for five years.

Peter says that the Adult Literacy Programme is “one of our best programmes, especially in this area where a lot of people speak English well (whether it is their first or second language) but cannot read or write as well, which holds them back.” Initially, that project was run just for a year, as a pilot, but was so successful that it has been funded ever since. He particularly mentions a success story of Tsega, who completed ESOL Entry 3, and was mentored by a volunteer who at the time was the Deputy Director of the Office for Civil Society, who lived in Camden and had applied to Training Link to be a volunteer. Tsega wanted to do a Level 1 Health & Social Care course, and needed to improve her English to be able to write the reports required for the course. Tsega is now a paid foster parent for Camden, which is what she always wanted to do.

Peter says there are various challenges in running Training Link. First, the charity sector is a very tough environment at the moment, due to a lot of competition for funding, especially in education and training. This is partly because of local authority cuts in voluntary sector funding, and a lot of funding being aimed at particular groups of people such as ex-offenders or people with mental health problems. These groups need specialist skills, which Training Link does not have. While there are some learners at Training Link who fall within these categories, the organisation does not focus on one group of people, beyond its general remit of people looking to develop their skills. There are also challenges associated with the Work Programme, which for learners who are claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance often have to do training prescribed by the Job Centres, which is not always of great value to them.

Peter says that being director of Training Link is the longest he’s ever been in one job and there are a number of changes that occurred during that period. The charity now runs fewer long courses because nowadays these are more difficult for people to commit to. There is also greater awareness of Training Link in the area thanks to publicity and leafleting. He says “We get a broader mix people coming, including some learners who need more support.” Some learners are people with a history of addiction, although they are often very bright and enthusiastic learners, keen to improve their lives.

What he also really enjoys about Training Link is its small size, which means that it is more personal in the services it provides. He feels that here people can be offered more support and that it is important that “people can have a chat with the director, which they wouldn’t be able to do in a bigger organisation.” He also says that “because of our size, it is much easier for us to adapt to the changing environment”. For example, the charity was able to respond to feedback very quickly and some of the courses have been introduced or expanded due to popular demand, and some have been discontinued.

Peter mentioned a learner referred by Single Homeless People (SHP) project, who had had many problems and been homeless. Following his work with SHP, and his courses with Training Link, he played in the football Homeless World Cup in Mexico, representing England as one of eight players and managed to find a stable job.

He enjoys working at Training Link, and has found it to be a very productive job. He feels that in the future, Training Link may need to further develop its role to survive.

Rafia Begum Read more

Rafia Begum is one of Training Link’s most remarkable and dedicated learners. She first became involved with the organisation about three years ago, when she took Training Link’s Introduction to Computers course...

Rafia Begum is one of Training Link’s most remarkable and dedicated learners. She first became involved with the organisation about three years ago, when she took Training Link’s Introduction to Computers course. Since then, she has taken a number of courses including Level 2 Business Administration and Word Processing. She says: “Before this I wasn’t able to come here because I was so busy, but I’m so happy I finally did.”

Rafia lives just behind Training Link. She had been aware of the organisation and its aims and activities for a long time. Unfortunately, child care constraints meant that she was only really able to start on Training Link’s courses recently. Impressively, however, she has completed a large number of courses in her time here, and received the Adolfo Gaspar award for the learner who has made the most progress over a year. This is a significant achievement for Rafia, who says she was completely unfamiliar with computers before the course: “When I first came, I didn’t know how to turn the computer on. Nowadays, computers are everything and I didn’t want to be the one left behind – lost without email and these things which have become part of everyday life.”

This learning has allowed Rafia to also build her own self-confidence, as well as enjoy herself by meeting new people and developing new interests: “It’s a chance to socialise too; I’ve made friends here. I’ve built up my confidence and I now know if I get a job I will be comfortable working with technology. One thing I’ve learned that I find really found useful is online shopping – it’s so convenient!”

Rafia has done a few courses at the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Charity, in Community Interpretation, which she is now qualified to work in, and Child Care Level 2. In the past, she has also worked as a sales assistant in a shop, and in a school. She hopes that continuing to exercise her mind and keep learning will keep her productive: “If I don’t do anything, I’m just sitting at home and I don’t like that. In September, I will register on new courses at Training Link, and I have been asked to volunteer at Training Link as an IT Learning Assistant, which I am keen to do.”

Having built strong relationships with the staff at Training Link, Rafia feels the people she has met have made an impact on her life: “Peter is always giving me helpful information and encouraging me. Nelly taught me how to hold a mouse. This was the first step to my learning how to use the computer.”

Rafia, although currently a former learner, still plays a large role in Training Link’s present. She represents the growth and progress of the learners, by demonstrating how one can develop from being a complete beginner to confident enough to volunteer. Her background and strength as an individual also highlight the diversity and closeness of the community of which Training Link is a part.

Ralph Dyer Read more

Ralph has been volunteering at Training Link since January 2013. He completed his undergraduate degree in languages (Spanish and Russian) at Sheffield University. Following that...

Ralph has been volunteering at Training Link since January 2013. He completed his undergraduate degree in languages (Spanish and Russian) at Sheffield University. Following that, he did MA in Linguistics at University College London (UCL), which is near Training Link.

While at UCL, he decided that he would like to do some volunteering. He wanted to get involved in something related to his studies and interests, and used the university’s Volunteering Services Unit to help him find a suitable opportunity. This is how he came across Training Link.

Ralph decided to get involved in the Adult Literacy project. When he started, he was matched with one learner, whom he was working with until last summer, during which he took a break to write his dissertation. He returned to his voluntary work at Training Link last September and he was paired about with a Somali social worker. Given that English is her second language, she often struggles with report writing, which she has to do at work. To improve her writing skills, she writes mock reports, which Ralph then checks for her. He can see that she made great progress, she is now starting to identify her mistakes herself and her grammar improved greatly. He also says that the diverse backgrounds that they both come from are not an obstacle to working together – they both have a common goal.

He feels that volunteering puts his knowledge of language to good use and is a “good experience all round.” It is also gives him something regular to do, “which is useful when you don’t have a job” and finds it very fulfilling to use things he has been studying to do something. In addition, he finds that it is important to help people. He says that “the staff at Training Link are really helpful and everyone is very friendly”.

In his spare time, he really enjoys reading and drawing. He also played music in the past but says “it is easier to keep up if there is a music group to play with.” Right now, he does not have a long-term plan for his life; he is just looking for any sort of employment. He is considering going into teaching, as this is certainly something he could do.

Rosemary Maxwell Read more

Rosemary Maxwell was a volunteer and member of the Management Committee at Training Link until September 2014. She has a background in community development, as well as employment and training...

Rosemary Maxwell was a volunteer and member of the Management Committee at Training Link until September 2014. She has a background in community development, as well as employment and training. Her breadth of experience, from working in a local authority, with housing associations, to volunteering and teaching, and currently working a charity, has equipped her with the knowledge and skills to effectively advise Training Link through her role on the committee.

She says that “The role of the Management Committee is to support and steer the director, in terms of the expectations of the charity. Each of us has a different area of expertise, and we support each other to make good decisions. My knowledge and understanding of employment, training, and community had a good influence on Training Link, especially for instance when it comes to developing new initiatives.”

Initially trained as a painter and decorator, Rosemary has a strong interest in housing related activities, working with housing associations, and becoming involved right from the contractor stage up to landscaping, and hiring housing representatives. She began as a community developer, making consultations for stock transfers, working with local businesses with the aim of ‘regeneration’. Then she moved onto local labour schemes – which she helped run in various boroughs – and found herself involved in training and employment: “The underlying theme of moving people into training and employment runs through my work. It is about enabling people; making them aware of what sort of training opportunities exist for them.”

Rosemary came into contact with Training Link a few years ago through her job as a Project Officer, for Camden Working – a borough wide employment project that worked with community and voluntary organisations – at Camden Council. Until October 2014, she managed an employment and advice team at the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre, which focuses on helping women develop skills and ideas to help approach the job market: “Most of the things I do are involved with helping and supporting people; to improve their opportunities, equip them with the knowledge to understand the breadth of choices available, allowing them to finally make more informed decisions.”

Impressively, along with a background in training and employment, Rosemary also has an interest in, and experience of education. She volunteered briefly at Training Link, on the Level 2 Business Administration course, when gaining experience for her teaching certificate, and has taught at a school in South London. She has volunteered in the past, too, including supporting a community group in her local borough with reading and writing skills for adults, as well as driving a minibus for a Day Centre, taking elderly people to community centres, for bingo nights, or on day trips.

Rosemary believes strongly in the crucial impact that knowledge and awareness has on people’s lives, underscored by her experience and interest in training, raising awareness, and education: “I like what Training Link does. It’s a small community organisation and this means it is able to target groups of people missed by large organisations. There is an emphasis on raising awareness of other services available. Communities are diverse, and have different needs. Training Link has a strong presence in the area, and has been able to fill the gaps that have been identified in this small community in Somers Town.”

The aims and goals of Training Link linked with her desire to support people by increasing their awareness of opportunities available, which she continues to explore in all avenues of her life, ranging from her past to her current activities: “It was nice to be a part of an organisation that helps people to realise their potential.”

Sean Murray Read more

Having worked in a department store for 16 years, Sean then owned a pub for eight years. He was then employed by a gambling company in the fraud department, but was made redundant last year...

Having worked in a department store for 16 years, Sean then owned a pub for eight years. He was then employed by a gambling company in the fraud department, but was made redundant last year. Since then, he has been working part-time for a similar firm. He has also been volunteering for Training Link for the past 15 months.

Sean originally wanted to be a speech therapist and started to work towards the relevant qualification. Unfortunately, due to money constraints – he couldn’t afford to take time off work to study for four years and didn’t manage to obtain a foundation grant – he was forced to drop out. He started a PTLLS course in Bromley. He then looked for relevant volunteering opportunities online within easy travelling distance of Crystal Palace, where he lives, he contacted several charities, including Training Link, which responded very promptly). The first couple of learners did not materialize, but he eventually started working with a Mauritian lady in her 50s. He spends two hours a week with her, helping her with her English and says that part of their time together is revision from previous lessons, to help her consolidate the learning.

Apart from volunteering at Training Link, he also helps in Bromley in an old people’s home. As he says what he most enjoys about his time here is “Watching the improvement of the student”. He has noticed that his learner has become much more self-confident and outgoing. He also finds his voluntary work challenging at times, because his learner doesn’t watch English television and doesn’t really speak English much except for the time she spends at Training Link. He admits “it needs a lot of patience”. As Training Link works with people from different backgrounds, Sean also points out cultural differences – for example his learner always expects him to be in charge and isn’t very proactive, which he tries to encourage. Beside the enjoyment that his voluntary work at Training Link brings him, he also feels he is gaining valuable professional experience that can help him in his future career.

In the future, he would like to work with someone who has just finished school as he feels that would give him a different experience. He is also hoping to be able to help someone who lacks basic numeracy skills, such as calculating their bills and daily expenditure. In addition, Sean believes it would be interesting to work with someone who doesn’t speak a word of English. He thinks that these other experiences would help him to “see how good I am at teaching other skills”. He mentions that to volunteer at Training Link “You don’t need any specific training – you just turn up and see what skills you have and how they could be used to help others”.

Sean knows the area very well because he was brought up in North London. He also really enjoyed the Christmas social, during which he had a chance to try different foods of the world that everybody brought along.

Tessa Forbes Read more

Tessa likes to be proactive as a volunteer with the Adult Literacy project at Training Link. She does plenty of preparation and plans sessions for her learner beforehand so they can get the most out of the lesson time and progress in their learning...

Tessa likes to be proactive as a volunteer with the Adult Literacy project at Training Link. She does plenty of preparation and plans sessions for her learner beforehand so they can get the most out of the lesson time and progress in their learning. Her proactive approach to volunteering is perhaps unsurprising considering that she is also studying for a CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) qualification which is all about “developing teaching skills”.

Her training in teaching has been an asset to Training Link, because she has also supported other volunteers who maybe initially lacked confidence to get going with a learner. The important thing for her is “connecting with the learner” by finding out what the learner enjoys studying.

This has been important for Tessa’s own successes with her learner who in the long term would like to be a carer for the elderly: “As soon as I focussed the whole lesson around health, she really perked up and got involved, and that was gratifying”. This essentially comes back to how human relations work, “of course everyone is going to be reticent to start with, the fact that we’re now more confident together as a pair means we get more done”. Tessa is thinking about creating a couple of guidance sheets to further support volunteers when they are first embarking on teaching with a learner.

Teaching is relatively new for Tessa, who had previously worked as a librarian at the British Film Institute and currently is at the Royal College of Nursing. As her career advanced, she realised that “management roles were beckoning, but I really did not want to be a manager”. There was a teaching aspect of her job with the Royal College of Nursing and “going in this new direction seemed to be the sensible thing to do, particularly as it is easier to get more flexible hours”. She admits that it’s taken a while to get used to this new teaching persona: “I was an eternal student and so changing to being the teacher felt quite hard and artificial to begin with.” Now, she really loves teaching: “You do feel like you’re empowering other people, changing people’s lives. I’m not sure I’d have got into it otherwise.”

Tessa values Training Link for their “professionalism, the fact that they are relaxed and receptive to people, and not too hierarchical.” In spite of the continuing constraints of funding, “the atmosphere and ethos is impressive – the centre gives respect to people, treating them as individuals instead of focussing too narrowly on technical proficiency.” But she is also full of constructive ideas for how Training Link could develop in the future. For instance, she believes that what might help learners like her own, a woman from Bangladesh, would involve building on the links Training Link already has with Asian women’s charities and the local voluntary sector. Her own learner has made progress in the past six months, going from ESOL Entry Level 1 to Entry Level 2. But more partnerships would be a fairly simple way to encourage Learners to practice English beyond the one or two hours of concentrated learning in the classroom each week.

In the future, Tessa isn’t completely sure what kind of teaching she would like to be involved with, but if possible she would like to do at least some work with a small and friendly organisation thanks to a positive experience with Training Link.

Yasar Omar Read more

Beyond a big improvement in terms of computer skills, the social world opened up by his involvement with Training Link has been very important to Yasar: “I needed to come to this place, I’m glad that somebody noticed what was happening and supported me.”...

Beyond a big improvement in terms of computer skills, the social world opened up by his involvement with Training Link has been very important to Yasar: “I needed to come to this place, I’m glad that somebody noticed what was happening and supported me.” Yasar has been coming to courses since January. He started with the Introduction to Computers course after an appointment with the Job Centre in which it became clear that he needed to work on his computer literacy in order to potentially gain employment. He is now enrolled in the Digital Photography class.

Considering how Yasar had barely touched a computer before he came to Training Link, his computer skills have improved greatly in a short amount of time. He describes how he was aware of computers, but had never used them, and “didn’t think that computers were going to take over.” He was given a computer as a present four years ago, but after attempting once to use an Encyclopaedia CD he hadn’t turned it back on since. After starting courses at Training Link, he has made a number of achievements, for example in his key aim of learning how to send and receive emails. Where a “website” was formerly just a word vaguely related to computers, he now would be able to find the one he was looking for and so conduct online research. This will be helpful for him if he wants to look for work in the future, and jobs at London Zoo are currently top of his research list.

Several different factors contribute to why Yasare enjoys these classes. On the one hand, there is no pressure to gain certain results like there was at school. This means that it is a “different and better environment” in which to start education again. This is all the more important to Yasar as someone who has experienced “lots of stress in the past 15 years” brought on by serious illness which coupled with a being naturally shy means he finds it hard to integrate in social situations.

He also thinks that the staff have been very good at identifying how to help him, and have the necessary experience to “be able to see where you are with things.” Beyond teaching, the staff have given additional support, for example suggesting he try out a local yoga class to help with back pain. Yoga, for Yasar, is “painful but good” and something he’s very pleased to have started. What differs between his experience with Training Link and his other volunteering activities at a charity shop is that he feels more supported here. This means it is a more positive experience for him.

“The most important thing of all” about his courses at Training Link for Yasar has been meeting other people and getting back into a diverse community. Being part of a community in which many people have done different things and have different points of view is important, something Yasar admits he may not have realised when he was younger. His proudest achievement as a result of coming to Training Link is that he is “a lot better at being able to talk to other people”, showing how the benefits from the courses can far surpass technical skills learnt along the way.

Training Link, 54-56 Phoenix Road, London NW1 1ES (Registered office) Limited company No.: 3142188 Charity registration number: 1051662