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Success Stories

Wendy Zadigue

Wendy Zadigue

“We need to talk to each other to find out what is really going on – to get rid of the stereotype that a young person in a hood equals gang member - that a certain race equals gang members - that certain areas equal gangs.

I first got involved with Community Links when I was 12 as a service user but then got involved in volunteering when I was 13 and I’ve been involved ever since. I never ever thought of dropping down as a volunteer, even doing my level 2 in youth practise whilst studying for my GCSEs, that's how passionate I was about being a youth worker. What I liked about my job is making the young people happy, knowing that I was the reason that they have a smile on their face, it's the little things like that, that counts – I am now 20 and a teaching assistant at a local primary school, which I love. I currently work at Rokeby & PSG Hub and have supported Street Life since it started.

It’s about doing something that makes a difference. A lot of my friends didn't understand during school, why I would do something where I don’t get paid. But I tell them it’s about much more – I’ve learnt so much and am now really confident about who I am and to speak up for what I believe in – I’ve learnt to be myself. And I’ve seen the same happen with other young people I’ve met and supported through Community Links. These opportunities really matter and I’ve seen how cuts in youth services have left young people with no support or help to make the best choices in life.

It is tough growing up and I’ve seen how violence can impact people and families. A turning point for me was at a party when I was 15 and a friend nearly got stabbed when things got out of hand. What worked was talking – understanding what was going on. Talking about the problem calmed things down, talking made everyone realise what was going on and that they had choices. You can’t give up on people or label them. We all have potential and can make choices.

I see how someone can get dragged in to gangs and crime by older brothers or sisters and I decided this isn’t for me– I didn’t want this to be my life, especially when I have younger brothers, I don't want them to think that it's acceptable/normal to join a gang . I’m full of ideas and want to have the chance to bring them to life.

One of the things I’m doing is making cakes with a message – we all love food and I wanted to get people to eat something delicious and to think at the same time. I'm sure you remember something you ate that tasted amazing, where and when you ate it .. well that Is what I am trying to do with food - so you will remember the message from what you ate. Cakes can’t be more different than gangs!

  • Wendy was Deputy Young Mayor of Newham in 2011-12 standing on a platform to increase youth services including sports for girls and more inclusive youth services across the borough. Her cake making project is supported through Vinspired as well as Community Links

Stefan Taylor

Stefan Taylor

Hi my name is Stefan Taylor.

I have had a roller-coaster of an experience trying to be employed in such a jobless world; I have a keen interest in the financial services and have always wanted to work in a bank. I went for countless interviews and ploughed through stacks of application forms to get myself a job after college. All the apprenticeships I went for, either told me I’m too qualified for them or someone else was more confident than I was.

I then got involved in Future Links, a ten-week employability skills course that really helped me gain the interview skills that I needed. I also gained confidence to effectively network with professionals, selling myself and standing out from the crowd, pushing through the competition to get into the career of my choice. This is such a competitive time and city, with so many rules to this competition that very few can pass with flying colours. Right now, it is all about that breakthrough -  being preepared and ready, and in the right place at the right time. Future Links gave me the confidence and skills to seize the opportunity when the right time came. I am now an Intern at the Bank of New York Mellon, an asset servicing company. Because I learned to stand out from the crowd in a positive way I was proactive and self-motivated, optimistic and just myself, that is what an employer likes, when you can be yourself and be comfortable with who you are and willing to work hard using the skills and qualities that you have. If anyone is not in education, employment or training I strongly advise to join the Future Links course and keep an eye out for that open window, looking for the silver lining.

Sheeleekquia

Sheeleekquia

Sheeleekquia, 16, from Plaistow, is delighted with the GCSE results she achieved in the summer, she was awarded five GCSE passes.

With the help of Community Links’ staff at Education Links, 16 students gained 47 grades across 5 subjects, a 7% improvement on last year’s results. They have a special reason to be proud of themselves, because all these students have been excluded from mainstream school, and many weren’t expected to get any qualifications at all.

Education Links, takes students who have been excluded from mainstream school, offering tailored intensive support. Many of the students are coping with difficult situations at home or outside school, and benefit from strong relationships with school staff, some of whom were excluded from school themselves and can act as strong positive role models. The school registered with OFSTED last year and was rated ‘GOOD’ in its first inspection this summer.

School Principal Sandy Davies said “We’re so proud of all the students, they’ve worked incredibly hard this year, often in difficult circumstances, and fully deserve their results. Qualifications are so important for young people looking to go on and succeed - all their hard work has paid off. We and the students themselves have worked to make sure they are all going on to positive activities – either college, a job or a training programme. We wish them the very best for the future, and congratulate them again on all their efforts.”

"Sheeleekquia's determination to succeed against the odds will be an inspiration to future students", says Sandy. "Her smile says it all."

Zakira Begum

Zakira Begum

Zakira began volunteering with our employment support project while she was studying business management, but after finishing her course she struggled to get a job. She decided to join our Make the Link project, improved her CV and interview technique and gained lots of valuable experience. In fact, she so impressed everyone there, she ended up getting a job in the department, and now works as an administrator and receptionist, supporting other people find work. Of her new colleagues, Zakira says, “everyone has helped me in a different way, they are wonderful!”, while centre manager Zoe is equally glowing in return: “It has been an absolute delight to watch her go from strength to strength and I feel privileged to have her as an integral part of my staff team.”

Beverley Owusu

Beverley Owusu

Beverly Owusu came to Employment Links after being unemployed for five years, and joined the Getting to Work project.

Community Links staff supported her with training and writing CVs and cover letters, arranged for an enhanced CRB check and found her funding to pay for clothes to attend interviews. After a successful work placement at Newham PCT Beverly found just the kind of permanent job she was looking for, as a carer in Newham. She’s hoping to carry on working and also study Adult Nursing at South Bank University to develop her skills.

She is delighted: “The programme is very good and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to find some new skills and a job.” And so is project officer John Carruthers: “I'm so proud of Beverley, she's come so far to achieve her goals and I am pleased I have been able to help her along the way!”

Femi Oguntomi

Femi Oguntomi

I came on Community Links’ Community Development course because of a recommendation from a friend. My placement was with Leyton Orient community sports programme and suddenly I realised I can actually use football – my passion since I was young - for helping young people. I was a qualified accountant and studying for a higher course, so the course was useful as a tool to bridge the gap. After it, I had the blueprint for my vision. A few friends came together and set up Discoveryinitiative.com to mentor kids and help them discover what they’re good at. Setting up a new organisation is challenging but I’m working with good people and one of the things we learnt on the course was the power of teamwork. I am the coordinator for sports activities at the weekends and I still work part time as well.

Manjit Kaur

Manjit Kaur

Community Links nominated me for a Jack Petchey Award because of all my volunteering – I help out with Education at the Squash Club and New Canteen and Forest Gate Youth Inclusion as well. But I have even set up my own little projects within these schemes, with a small group of girls and we have been writing and taking photographs. At Community Links, Candy worked with me one to one, helped me with my CV and gave me opportunities. I am now doing an ‘Introduction to Youth Work’ course and next year plan to do a degree. I wouldn’t be where I am without Candy.

Jason Forde

Jason Forde

It was hard to avoid trouble around on the streets. But I felt it was in me to do better. One day, two people from Community Links asked who wanted to make music. I joined in at the Youth House and got a certificate and stayed involved with their activities. I wanted to work – but my CV was blank! Then the youth house offered me volunteering. I became a Young Leader, took diplomas in youth work then became a deputy at the youth house. When temporary cover of running the Asta Centre came up they said ‘Go for it Jason’. I got it and now it’s permanent. I am so grateful to Community Links for giving me the chance when I was young. I’ve got loads of ideas for Asta to reach kids like I was. Already I feel like we are making a difference to young people’s lives.

Terry Hawkins

Terry Hawkins

I had a nice upbringing but since leaving school I’ve had a colourful background, you know what I mean? It would be good to work with troubled young people as I have had similar experiences as them. I am doing a sports leadership course through our S-Team programme in a couple of weeks and I want to set up a football team and teach others, especially troubled youths. After all, everyone deserves a second chance.