Across the diocese there are many projects which support people who have lost their earnings by providing food and other essential items. But as Sr Silvana Dallanegra said at our recent event “The Why” on the theme of Work and Catholic Social Teaching “affirming our dignity – in ourselves and in others – is about much more than what we earn. Our work should be something which enables us to flourish – humanly, creatively, and ethically.” Meaningful employment is important for human fulfilment.
Eleven individuals, who were either unemployed, or lacked meaningful, reliable or properly paid work, joined the online programme, together with five volunteer coaches from three parishes.
Over a period of six weeks, the participants were given practical tips and confidence boosting skills. The course covered topics from CV writing and communication skills, to how to learn from failure, as well as a session dedicated to interview practice.
During the course, participants were supported by the volunteers, who had been trained up by Resurgo’s expert employment coaches. These five volunteers were able to provide one-to-one support to the participants. But the participants also supported each other, many recognising the value of knowing that others are going through the same difficulties. By the end the group were describing each other as being like a family.
Petra (not her real name) has already begun getting more interviews since doing the Re-Work course. She has experience as a TOEFL teacher and an office worker, but at the age of 57 and with a chronic illness, she is now looking for stable employment with some flexibility and not too much stress. Reflecting on the course, she said:
“When I heard it was a six week course, I was nervous, I didn’t know if I could make it to the end. But each week I have been more and more convinced it is the right thing. I am totally amazed by all the support I received, especially from Sarah who spent hours on the phone with me. She lifted me up and pushed me on. It was great to be with a group of people going through the same thing and learning from each other.”
At the start of the pandemic Resurgo worked to redesign an employability course they had been using, in person, with young people for many years. They turned it into Re-Work, an online course which can be delivered by churches. Three parishes, in Hounslow, Kingsland, and Kilburn signed up with Caritas to take part. They promoted the course through outreach programmes such as foodbanks.
Out of the eleven who began, nine people finished the course and celebrated together at the final session where participants were joined by their friends and family to share how the course had helped them, and hear positive feedback from the coaches. All nine people were extremely positive and spoke about their improved confidence, understanding and skills.
Grace (not her real name) told us that before she joined Re-Work she was at the lowest point of her life. Despite having previous experience as a product manager for an e-commerce company, she had been applying for jobs non-stop for two years, but rarely got an interview. She told us that Re-Work:
“…has been a wonderful journey. I started with self-doubt and lacked confidence, but I am very proud that I committed to being an active participant for six weeks. I am excited to find out that I still have the ability to learn, grow and contribute.”
Another course “graduate” Rakesh said:
“The support was awesome. I have improved my interview techniques with the STARR technique and examples. It is different here than in India and now I understand that better. I never expected to get free help in London!”
The Re-Work programme is just one way in which Caritas Westminster’s Road to Resilience Programme is supporting the work of volunteers in parishes as they help people to flourish.