Sajada’s Passion for Lifelong Learning

Mother of four Sajada came to GRoW in the Autumn of 2023 after connecting with GRoW Adviser Saeema at a junior school in Hillingdon. With a passion for learning and development, Sajada has engaged fully with the GRoW Programme and is now studying for a Level 2 Teaching Assistant course.

Sajada said “I met Saeema when dropping my youngest son off at his school one morning and she was so positive and encouraging about the GRoW Programme that  I was intrigued to find out more. I am a person who has always been interested in gaining knowledge and furthering my education. I have always believed it is important to keep growing, keep studying, even if you are a busy mum, of course it is difficult to find the time but it is possible always to do something. Back in 2018 I did Employability and ESOL courses at Uxbridge College and more recently at Hillingdon Adult Centre I did my Level 2 Functional Skills Maths and English. I have also done a Safeguarding course and a Level 1 Teaching Assistant Course. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and lockdown I was not able to complete it because I was unable to carry out the mandatory voluntary work placement.

When I met Saeema I was pleased to be offered the opportunity through GRoW to enrol on the next level in my journey to becoming a Teaching Assistant.  I am doing the course online and am really enjoying it. Studying the Level 1 first gave me some really important tools about how to study which has made it easier for me this time around. I have moved house recently which has presented a few challenges for me so being able to do the study fully online is a great help and my tutor is really understanding and supportive.

I moved to the UK from Afghanistan in 2007 where I had been a medical student. I faced the challenge of adapting to a new language and culture and although I knew English, the transition to spoken English was difficult. I married here and had four children and have embraced the opportunity to learn and improve my language skills. It’s especially important as I want to be a Teaching Assistant and good communication is so crucial. Being able to speak the language well and communicate and learn from other teachers and students is a personal goal for me.

Something I feel very passionate about is the importance for mothers to prioritise education, not just for their children but for themselves too. Mothers are educators within their homes and so by constantly learning and gaining more knowledge mothers can better support their children and contribute positively to society. I think it is really important to give back to society and so I fully encourage other mothers to seize opportunities for personal and educational growth.

I have a dream to reach academic achievement, to be wearing the square hat and gown and be standing before my peers, confidently speaking English so I can inspire others too.

Saeema has been a real guiding force behind me, encouraging me all the way to keep motivated and learning. I have attended sessions with GRoW in-person as well as online and they have helped move forward with my dreams and take the opportunities seriously. I am now looking forward to completing my Teaching Assistant course and taking it to the next step of finding work.”

Cristine GRoW’s in Confidence

Cristine came to a GRoW Bootcamp at Minet Junior School in Hillingdon in October 2023. A mother to two young children she was interested in finding out how to start the journey back to work after a 5 year break and is now enrolled on a Teaching Assistant Course and Functional Skills, preparing for her future career.

Cristine said “I first got involved with GRoW at a Coffee Morning Bootcamp at my daughter’s school. I met Saeema, one of the GRoW Advisers, and she was so helpful, explaining different opportunities that were available to me.  I learned about ways I could develop both personally and professionally though training courses and the online sessions GRoW offer as well as the live in-person sessions at their HQ at the Winning Box in Hayes.

The GRoW Bootcamp was a great experience. I have two children, a daughter in Year Four and a son in Year 1 and I didn’t feel that I had very many skills to offer an employer. Through the Bootcamp however, I learned that I have many skills and abilities and that all of the different things you do every day as a mum counts as transferrable skills that can be used in the workplace. This was a real confidence boost for me.

I moved to the UK from India 5 years ago and although I used to work as an Office Assistant previously, I have not worked since coming here and having my family.  I did a Finance diploma in my home country but have not done any training in the UK. I did think about enrolling at college a while ago but I didn’t have the confidence to do it at the time. Joining GRoW has really helped me take that step forward and it is due to the support of the team, especially Saeema who has helped me a lot. She helped me see a way forward that would work for me and it has motivated me to strive towards a goal of becoming a Teaching Assistant which is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I have now enrolled on the Functional Skills and also the Level 2 Teaching Assistant qualifications, and plan to do the Level 3 as well. I’m really excited to start and finally feel that I am on a journey towards reaching my goal.

Before joining GRoW I had looked at doing some courses but it never quite worked for me, whether it was just my confidence stopping me I’m not sure but I now feel very happy to be doing these courses through GRoW.

Sometimes when you are a just being a mum you can think you can’t do anything else beyond that but Saeema gave me the energy to go forward and that’s now what I am doing. I don’t know where my journey will go exactly but I’m taking the first steps and I have a goal in mind and that makes me happy.

Zamurd Pursues Her Dream Job

Zamurd came to the GRoW Programme in the Summer of 2022 looking for help to pursue her dream of becoming a Teaching Assistant. Having completed some courses already, with GRoW’s help she is now volunteering in a school and has enrolled on a Level 2 Teaching Assistant Course.

Zamurd said “I did a Childcare course at Harlington Adult Learning Centre in Hillingdon, last September, finishing in January this year and I knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue.  I learned about GRoW through my child’s school and decided to go on the programme to see how they could help me and they have been a guiding force in realising my goal.

They recommended I do a Food Hygiene course and a Safeguarding course and also spoke to me about the idea of exploring volunteering opportunities.  This was really important for me as it has enabled me to build experience and knowledge on the job and has made me realise even more that working with children is something I really enjoy.

To secure the volunteering position I approached my child’s school, Grange Park Infants School in Hillingdon, and I met with their Principal and I was so happy when they offered me a placement.  I am now working there as a volunteer and am thoroughly enjoying it.

Being part of GRoW has been really insightful to find out what I need to do be work-ready. Since coming to the UK 15 years ago I have not worked and so I was aware I needed to gain some experience and that this would be really important for my CV.  GRoW recommended I do a Food Hygiene Course and a Safeguarding course as both would be relevant and important to be able to work in a school setting.  They also taught me interview skills which will be so useful when I start applying for jobs.

I have four children, my eldest is 15 and my youngest is 5, and so now is a really good time for me to start thinking about going back to work. Volunteering at the school has been so important to my journey as it has helped me build my confidence.  The school staff have known me for a long time, since my older child was a pupil there, but they only knew me in capacity of a parent. Now they know me in the capacity of a worker and it’s amazing to see how they trust me and value me as a contributor.  It’s a real boost for my confidence and my CV.

Being part of GRoW has been an amazing experience for me and now I am really looking forward to starting the Level 2 Teaching Assistant course to take the next step towards reaching my goal. “

Sumithra Seeks a Schools Job  

Sumithra’s journey towards returning to work started with a simple wish to do something different with her day. As a mum to 7-year-old and 20-month-old daughters, she was looking for a change from her regular routine and through the GRoW Programme found inspiration for a new career.

Sumithra said “I found out about the GRoW Programme in a leaflet at Sheringham School in Newham and thought it would not only be a break from my normal day but also a good opportunity to explore ideas around returning to work. As a mother to two young children, the GRoW Session’s focus on working in schools aligned perfectly with my family’s needs as I really need a job that allows me to work the hours that fit around my children. I had prior work experience in retail but had taken a career break when I had my youngest child, planning to go back to work when she begins nursery next year. The timing of the Programme was therefore perfect for me as it has motivated me to start the journey towards work now rather than waiting until she starts.

The GRoW Programme offered comprehensive training, covering CV building, interview skills, and for those people who are interested in self-employment, business planning. As well as providing really useful practical tools it did wonders for my confidence and motivation.

As part of the activities, we had to stand up and speak, which being quite a shy and reserved person was quite scary at first!  Liz and Michelle who ran the sessions were great at alleviating my fears though, explaining that there are no wrong or right answers which made it so much easier. It was such a confidence booster to participate fully in this way and it helped to get the whole group working together. This was a key part of what the programme offered – the chance to be part of a supportive community with like-minded people – and it was instrumental in helping me feel motivated to work towards my goal.

I have now completed the 5 sessions at Sheringham Children’s Centre and am looking forward to starting the Multiply Programme next Tuesday and developing more skills.  These training courses and the school-specific training such as Safeguarding that GRoW have introduced me to will be invaluable for my CV when I start applying for jobs.

The GRoW Programme has been such a refreshing experience for me to do something with my mind and really think about myself and my future and I am looking forward now to the next steps on my journey to work.”

Anitha GRoWs her Career Aspirations

Anitha came to the GRoW Programme in the summer of 2023, looking for support in her journey back to work after an 8 year break. In GRoW she has gained new confidence and motivation and is now looking for a future career as a Teaching Assistant.

Anitha said “I joined GRoW in June 2023 and took part in the Preparing to Work in Schools programme which I found really interesting.  I used to lack confidence, especially in speaking English, but I decided to improve by taking online English lessons which I have been doing for over a month now and finding really good.

Before coming to the UK from India 4 years ago I worked as a teacher in a school so restarting my career as a Teaching Assistant would be a good opportunity for me. I have two young children aged 6 and 2 so term-time working is also better for me and my family.

Being part of the GRoW programme has been a great experience for me. I got lots of support from the team members – Sheeja and Saeema who helped me attend a Learning Assessment at a Community Centre in Hillingdon,  Sheeja and Sonia helped me create a strong CV and conducted a mock interview with me giving me more confidence and GRoW Director Liz supported me a lot, recognising me with two GRoW digital badges, one for contributing to the GRoW #SuccessfulSummer campaign and the other for being a GRoW App Ambassador. The GRoW app has become my go-to resource for job information, interview tips, and CV help, I especially like the Jobs Bulletin and Star Jobs but there’s so much advice on the app and so much to learn. I have been really active on the app, posting information for other GRoW members to read and I even won the summer photo competition for a craft I created (see above). It was a big boost to my confidence and I really enjoyed taking part.

Now, my goal is to keep improving my English and enrol in a teaching assistant course at the Thirteen Learning Centre and to apply for more teaching assistant jobs.

GRoW has given me the confidence and support I need to pursue my dreams and proves that with determination and support, anyone can overcome challenges and achieve their goals. I’m really excited for what the future holds for me.

Samreen Achieves Her Dream Job

Samreen, has been the longest participant on the GRoW Programme, joining us in 2018 when she was thinking about going back to work. Samreen, who used to work in the retail sector has now found work as a Teaching Assistant after a 12 year break to raise her children.

Samreen said “I am so happy to now be working again and doing a job that I have wanted to do for many years now.  I am so thankful to the GRoW Team for all of their help in motivating me and helping me believe that I would finally get there.  This is exactly what I have been aiming for and I can’t quite believe I’ve done it!

I used to work in retail but I have always wanted to work in education. When I was young I did a BTEC in software development and I used to teach students at Uxbridge College before my son was born and I gave up work. I have two children but not much family support around me so working in.a school with term-time hours is perfect for me and my family. Once I started thinking about going back to work I started to do some training courses and I was doing a Level 2 Teaching Assistant course when I enrolled onto the GRoW Programme.  Through GRoW I continued to upskill, doing courses such as the ‘Preparing to work in Schools’, the Job Search Workshop and CV and Interview Skills Workshops with Sonia.  I also did a First Aid course with GRoW, the Level 2 IEP Sector Induction for employability professionals and a course that focused on children’s mental health and behavioural issues. These courses were fantastic and really helped to boost my CV as well as giving me so many insights into how to get the sort of job I wanted.  I also worked as a volunteer for a year at my daughter’s school in Hillingdon which was a great experience and helped me see in practice what a Teaching Assistant job actually entailed.

Starting the process of going back to work after 12 years was hard at first as so much has changed since I last worked, for example job applications used to be on paper whereas now everything is online – there is a lot to learn! Being part of GRoW has made an enormous amount of difference to my confidence.  The team members have helped me to believe in myself and to also be resilient when I have gone for interviews but not got the job. It was hard sometimes applying for jobs and putting in a lot of effort to then not hear anything or be told I didn’t get the job. Before getting this job I must have applied for more than 100 jobs and trying so hard and seeing other people around me get jobs but not me was disheartening. I am thankful though for the support of the GRoW Team Members, as each of them played a special role in keeping me motivated and spurring me on.

The GRoW app was my favourite part of GRoW. Whoever made it and keeps it updated does an amazing job as it is so busy all of the time, with so much useful content.  Having everything in one place on the app meant I always knew what was going on. I would get a schedule of the week’s events on a Monday, a jobs bulletin every Thursday with jobs for me to apply to and updates and advice in between. I used to organise my week around it, attending the different events and applying for jobs, it’s a fantastic resource.

I can’t put into words how overjoyed I felt when I was offered the Teaching Assistant job, I was literally in tears. I had two interviews for it and after the second one they called me straight away to give me the good news. The school has a number of young people with social emotional and mental health needs and the first interview was conducted by the students and the second interview by the management. It was a really different way of holding an interview and I so glad the kids liked me and thought I would be right for the job! I started in June and it is a full time position, 32 hours a week. I support all of the children in the class and provide one-to-one support for the children with additional needs. I am loving every minute of the job, it is so fulfilling.

I am really grateful to GRoW for their support over the years and for never giving up, they put so much effort into everyone to help them achieve their goals.”

GRoW Newham Graduate Shameela to Participate in GRoW Work Placement Programme

GRoW are delighted to announce that Shameela, a recent graduate of the GRoW Newham Programme held at Altmore Children’s Centre, will be participating in a work placement with GRoW during July and August. As part of the placement, she will be completing a food and hygiene course and focusing on hospitality.

Shameela, who has two children and has previously been a stay-at-home mum, was inspired by the GRoW programme to pursue her interests in working with children and with the support of the work placement, she hopes to gain valuable work experience and boost her CV.

Shameela said; “Being part of the GRoW Programme at Altmore Children’s Centre has been a fantastic experience for me. I haven’t worked before and for the past 19 years, I’ve been a stay-at-home mum. Now my two children are older I was feeling I was wasting my time with the every routine of housework and I needed something for myself and the chance to get out and meet people and also contribute to the household finances. When my sister introduced me to the GRoW Programme, explaining that it is designed to help mums get back to work, I thought I would give it a try.  I attended every session and found it so interesting and impactful and it made me really think about the type of work I would like to do.

I like being around children and I have lots of experience of working with children as I have also looked after my sister’s, as well as my own. My aim is to work in a school, assisting the teachers or working in the kitchen. I really enjoy cooking and it is something I am good at. GRoW have enrolled me on to a Food and Hygiene course, which I am halfway through and really enjoying.

My aim is to start a job that offers me a few hours each day, maybe as a Midday Supervisor, and then progress into different roles that allow me to extend the hours I work. Sheeja at GRoW helped to produce a CV with me which is great but as I have not had a job before I need to do more so that I can add more skills and experience to it. The Food & Hygiene course is a great start and I am also enrolled on the new Customer Services training course with Audrey Bodman which GRoW are providing. Audrey is a great trainer and I learned so much from the first session about good customer service and how to treat customers well. She explains everything so well and I’m really looking forward to the next session.

I was so pleased when GRoW offered me the chance of a work placement. As part of the placement I will be organising a picnic event on August 10th near Newham College. It will be great experience for me and an opportunity to add some more skills and experience to my CV. “

Valentina Becomes a GRoW App Ambassador

Valentina came to GRoW in February 2023 looking for support to get back to work after a 2.5-year career break to have her son. Valentina has found a community of friends and like-minded people on the GRoW Programme and has become a GRoW App Ambassador in recognition of her engagement and interaction with the App from day one.

Valentina said; “I have 15 years experience in the Hospitality Industry but was made redundant from my last job in September 2020 following a downturn due to the pandemic. It coincided with me finding that I was expecting my first child and I’ve been a stay-at-home mum now for 2.5 years. At the beginning of this year my son qualified for the 15 hours a week childcare allowance which gave me some space and time to think about myself and plans for returning to work.  Being a mum the main barrier I have with finding a job in the hospitality sector is that the hours are not really suitable for mums.  The start times can be as early as 7am and shift work often finishes as late as 11pm – hours that do not work around young children unfortunately.  What concerned me most about returning to work was trying to find a job with flexible hours and having a work gap in my CV.  This was addressed early on the GRoW Programme when we did an activity around transferrable skills which helped me realise that the skills I’d gained since becoming a mum are skills that are valued in the workplace and can actually boost my CV!

Being part of the GRoW Community has been brilliant. I have received amazing support from Sonia who helped me create a great CV and gave me interview tips. Since working with Sonia I have now had 3 telephone interviews and 1 face to face interview. Each time I felt confident and prepared and if it wasn’t for the fact that the hours being offered didn’t suit me then I am confident I would have been offered the jobs as I’ve had great feedback from the interviewers.

GRoW gives you so much more than employment support, the weekly coffee mornings, in particular, are a great way to meet other mums and share our struggles and triumphs. I feel understood and supported in this community of women who are going through similar challenges and the friendships I’ve made have become valuable to me. I always look forward to meeting up with other GRoW members in person, which we occasionally do, but the GRoW App is a great tool to build and strengthen those relationships too – it is the glue that holds everything together, keeping you motivated and engaged any time of the day.

I have been very active with the App, so much so that I have been given the title of GRoW App Ambassador! I often participate in the App’s posts, regularly replying and commenting and occasionally create my own. Whenever I come across information that I think might benefit other members of the GRoW Community, like local activities and workshops, I like to share it. It is a really inclusive space where you feel encouraged and supported and it gives you the opportunity to connect with others who share similar experiences.

I use the App in the daytime, giving it a quick look if I am busy and posting a few responses to things but in the afternoons and evenings when my son is sleeping I have more time to read the articles and resources that are on there.  It’s a great way to learn new things.

Though I am still looking for a part-time job in Hospitality, I am also looking at other jobs that will fit around my son, such as schools jobs.  The important thing for me at the moment is to keep busy and to keep learning. GRoW enrolled me on an Administration Level 2 course which I am currently doing and I am really enjoying it. It helps me to feel as though I am progressing, even if I am not yet working, and it is a qualification that will look good on my CV. Being a mum even spending a short amount of time developing myself and achieving something for myself feels like a big win so I’m really grateful for the opportunity.

Uzma finds a School Job

After recolating to London from India in 2022 Uzma enrolled in GRoW’s ‘Preparing to Work in Schools’ programme and has now found a part-time job with an agency Zen Educate working with primary school children with a focus on additional needs. She is also exploring voluntary opportunities to boost her learning and skills.

Uzma said; “I feel blessed to have been part of the GRoW programme in London since September this year. When the GRoW Team visited my daughter’s school to introduce parents to their programme I was immediately interested in what they had to offer.  Having only been in the UK for 6 months I was finding it a bit of a struggle at times and wanted to feel I was moving forward.  I needed opportunities to meet other people and feel I was getting somewhere. What I found at GRoW was a unique opportunity to connect with other like-minded people and a welcome community of women who were ready and willing to support each other and strive to do well.

Even though I have worked as a Primary School Teacher, Social Worker and School Administrator in the Middle East and India and have a Bachelor and Masters Degree my qualifications are unfortunately not recognised in the UK so when I joined the Preparing to Work in Schools programme I was feeling a bit down and worried about my future prospects. Kaneez really helped me through it and advised me to start slowly, take small steps and build up, which I thought was good advice.  Sonia was also fantastic and I am so grateful for her help in boosting my confidence and spurring me on, as too did Mercedes who had many words of valuable advice for me to learn from.  Sonia suggested I do some voluntary work to boost my skills and CV and so I applied to Learn Hillingdon and I have an interview for a voluntary position in April which I am looking forward to.

The Preparing to Work in Schools programme was really valuable and after completing it I applied to a local education charity and they have offered me a part-time position working with primary school-aged children in and around the borough of Hillingdon. This is a great start for me as I can only work part-time at the moment as I also have a 3 year-old son who is not yet in school full time.  Combining work with the charity and hopefully the voluntary position too will build my reputation and skills here in the UK and I can then work towards a higher position within the teaching profession in the future.

I am so grateful to GRoW for the opportunities they have given me. For someone who is quite new to this country being part of the programme has been so beneficial, even the weekly coffee mornings which I often attend in person, are really valuable. They are so joyful and give you the chance to meet people from so many different backgrounds and the speakers from local groups and organisations that join the sessions are always so informative – it’s a great opportunity for networking and I love how I became part of the team. I am now looking forward to my new job and to the future.”

Robini Achieves Dream Job as School Teaching Assistant

Robini had not worked for 6 years after leaving her job as a client relationship manager in India when she was expecting her first child. After moving to the UK she became a mum to two young children and came to GRoW looking for help on her journey back to work. Robini has now been offered a job as a Teaching Assistant and is looking forward to starting a new career working with children with special educational needs.

Robini said; “I first heard about GRoW through a friend who explained that they had a special programme that helps mums get back to work. At the time my youngest son was only two years old and I was a very busy mum trying to juggle everything. It was difficult to find the time to really focus on getting a job but I knew I needed to start thinking about it.  I got in touch with Kaneez at GRoW and she invited me to a Coffee Morning which was a great introduction.

What I really liked about GRoW was that it never felt like they were pressurising me.  I was invited to events and if I was able to go then I would. If I wasn’t able to join one day then I could join another day.  It felt really relaxed and as it fitted in with my life it was easy to engage with.

I already knew that I wanted to work in a school and had undertaken a range of training courses including: working with Syrian refugees; Early Years Foundation for Childhood; Safeguarding 2; Safeguarding 3 and a Level 3 ESOL.  I had also been volunteering at a local church helping to teach children at Sunday School.  I had the courses and the volunteering behind me but no relevant work experience and had no idea what I needed to do next to reach my goal.

It was during one of the GRoW Coffee Mornings that things really clicked for me.  They had invited a guest speaker from a local school along to talk about how they began their teaching career. The speaker explained that they had no previous experience when they started working in their profession but had managed to work their way up from a School Meals Supervisor position.  It was so insightful and encouraging to see that it was possible and it gave me the motivation I needed to get started.

I went on to Sonia’s CV and Interview Workshop and with Tosin’s (my Adviser) help I started applying for jobs, she was very supportive. Sonia also gave me a huge amount of help and even worked with me once on a Sunday to do a mock interview, explaining how to present myself and giving me points to practice. I really can’t overstate the difference it made as when I was offered the opportunity to attend an interview I put all of the training I’d learned into practice and I cracked it first time!

Even though GRoW gave me new tools to put into practice the biggest thing they did for me was give me belief in myself. They are fantastic at guiding women as they understand what support we need. They never pressurise, they give you space to work things out for yourself and guide you on your chosen path.  I feel very proud now to have been offered the job as a Teaching Assistant and I can’t wait to start my new career.”