I run a social enterprise, Bread and Roses. We work with women from refugee backgrounds and run training programmes centred around floristry, English language training and signposting.
We help women from refugee backgrounds rebuild their lives in the UK.
We've run programmes for 5 years, and obviously, COVID-19 impacted us. We initially cancelled our training programmes, but by last summer we were able to deliver a small programme. We worked with three women to make sure we were COVID-secure. It was wonderful and so inspiring, given everything else that was going on.
Every Friday, we were able to create a space for women waiting for the outcome of their immigration status decision during this time of uncertainty. They were receiving very little financial support and unable to work with few social connections.
They turned up every Friday and made amazing bouquets and were so thrilled to be there. They were curious, and we saw them flourish over the two months. That was a real perspective setter for us.
Every week we cover a different area of support. We explain what people's rights are, what support is available depending on their needs and then we refer them, making sure they get the support they need.
When one of the women first came to our programme, she was timid within herself and lacked confidence when we talked about some of the signposting support. In one of these sessions, she said that she was overwhelmed by the information, it was just too much.
Then in a recent Alumni session via Zoom, she was telling us how she had kept all the information sheets we gave her and had dug them out. From them, she had identified opportunities to enrol in a college course and access food vouchers that she was entitled to.
As a result, she’d received food vouchers and when she was enrolling at the local college, she'd met another lady who was also from the same origin country as her, they became friends. She has been convincing this lady, who is also very timid, to get out and enrol in a Bread and Roses programme to build her confidence.
We were the first organisation she’d interacted with since she'd been in the UK, she hadn't left the place she was staying in for a year before that. To see that transition, despite everything; to see these women blossom has been a good compass for me in trying to navigate these times. Seeing the seeds of light and hope that you can still find even now, that’s inspiring.