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Empowering People

1 February 2021

After a local community centre shut, Mohammed Islam at Community Needs recognised a drop in local Luton residents participating in community skills-building activities. Understanding the detrimental effects of loneliness, Mohammed wanted to stop members of the community living in isolation because of language barriers.

To empower individuals, Mohammed started the Community Needs project to offer free opportunities for people to build their skills and gain qualifications.

The project, predominately aimed at black and minority ethnic women, offers participants a mixture of basic skills development classes, including health and wellbeing classes, literacy and numeracy classes and food safety courses.

“We’re trying to address a few things. Number one, social integration and number two, supporting participants with their first-ever qualification. As a result, empowering them to take on further training or get closer to the jobs market.” Mohammed said.

Despite the uncertain environment over the past six months, the project has continued to support participants.

“During the first lockdown we tried online learning, however not all of our learners could access it. After being asked regularly if we were going to re-open, we carried out a COVID risk assessment and started to implement the measures needed to operate safely.”

By adapting their operations, the project was able to successfully support different learners, tailoring the programme delivery to their needs.
From simple fractions and English in context to writing a CV, to completing job application forms, the project has supported learners to build confidence, develop understanding and connect with other members of their local community.

As a result of the programme to date, participants have gone onto further education, secured employment or started volunteering to gain further work experience.

The Community Needs project is funded through SEMLEP’s Community Grants programme. The initiative offers VCSE organisations between £10,000 to £20,000 to deliver projects that support people to move closer to work and training.

Mohammed found out about the programme through his VCSE network.

“Going through the application process was challenging, but the SEMLEP team were very supportive. I definitely found the application processes easier than other applications for similar funding amount.”

“The day we found out we were awarded the grant, we rang all of our prospective learners. They were ecstatic that they could join a free programme to develop their skills.”

Do you have any advice for someone thinking of applying for a grant?

“My advice to anyone else who applies is to try and be as descriptive as possible about the project. I think that is a downfall for a lot of project applications. We know what we want to deliver, and we know how to deliver it, but we didn’t know how to word it. That’s what we needed support with”.

“Be flexible with delivery. This year, we’ve been able to extend our project delivery time because of the pandemic, but be prepared to adapt.”

If you are interested in applying for funding, you can find out more at www.semlep.com/community-grants/

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