Heena Patel joined the GRoW Programme during the first lockdown to look at new opportunities after being unemployed since 2016. She has been an active and engaged participant of the programme, regularly attending our coffee mornings and is about to start a new post as a volunteer.
Heena said “Previously I worked for HSBC for 22 years and was made redundant in November 2016, I haven’t worked since then as I was looking after my parents. I found out about GRoW on International Women’s Day at an event in Hayes where they were exhibiting. It was busy and we didn’t have much time to chat but it seemed interesting so I took a registration form and figured there was no harm in filling it in. Shortly after the UK went into Lockdown and Saeema from the GRoW Team contacted me tell me all about the ways GRoW were adapting their programme so they were still able to support women during this time.
At first I was a little sceptical as you often hear the phrase that ‘nothing comes for free’. I was expecting to find there was some ‘hook’ and that I would be asked to part with money at some point. Any worries or fears I had were soon dispelled though when I realised that GRoW was for real. Saeema never put any pressure on me to join, she gave me the opportunity to ask questions and invited me to attend the first session of the GRoW Lockdown Programme to see whether it was something I might find of interest.
I found the session really informative and joined up for the whole programme. When I told my friends that I was going to do the GRoW Programme they asked me why I felt I needed to do it as I had worked for 22 years and it might be too basic for me. Having been in work for such a length of time though actually meant that I had not applied for a job, written a CV or had an interview in 22 years! It was really useful for me to do the CV Workshop and refresh.
I recently attended the GRoW Your Own Business Programme hosted by Mercedes Grant. Having worked for one employer for so long I have never really considered running my own business but Mercedes gave me a lot of food for thought and it got me thinking. Since then a few opportunities have come my way that involves working from home on a self employed basis and because of the advice Mercedes gave me it has helped me understand what I need to know and the questions I need to ask. Whether you have plans to run your own business or not I really think people should do the GYOB programme because you never know what you might want to do in the future and it opens up your mind to new ideas and possibilities.
What I really like about the GRoW approach is that every GRoW participant is treated the same and given the same opportunities whether or not they have worked before and whether or not English is their first language. Though it wasn’t the usual format of face-to-face group sessions, running the GRoW Programme online was actually beneficial in some ways because it can actually be quite nerve wracking turning up to a group on your own where you don’t know other people. Being able to participate online can be an advantage, especially if you are shy. When Saeema first told me about the GRoW Coffee Morning I was worried about being a newcomer and not knowing anyone but I found it wasn’t like that at all. There is never any pressure to speak or put your camera on so in a way it is an ideal time to get involved because you can move at your own pace and become more comfortable over time.
I attend the GRoW Coffee Mornings regularly and have found them really interesting, especially when there are guest speakers. I have learned a lot and applied for a Volunteering Job at H4All which was an opportunity that was advertised in the GRoW Jobs Bulletin and discussed at the Coffee Morning; I am just in the process of completing my training for this. I have followed up on a lot of opportunities as a result of hearing people speak at the coffee mornings including the Workplace Safespace Domestic Abuse programme which Belina GRoW are involved in running. I have signed up for the training and would be interested in getting more involved in this project. Even though I am looking for paid work I am also interested in doing voluntary work too as it is good to boost my CV.