CHANGE YOUR STORY
At the heart of our campaign are our learning ambassadors – take a look below at their inspirational stories.
They have all taken the first step to turn their lives around to build a better future for themselves, their family and their community. Adult learning has been key to each of their success stories and for many a lifeline. Become inspired by clicking on any of the images below to read or watch their story. This is what adult learning can do for you, you can change your story too.
Just two years ago, Chloe Young from Mold, was too afraid to leave her own home due to severe anxiety and depression and an eating…Read Chloe's Story
Just two years ago, Chloe Young from Mold, was too afraid to leave her own home due to severe anxiety and depression and an eating disorder she’d battled since she was 17. When she ended up in hospital after she attempted to take her own life, she thought there was no way out.
She said: “My life was a rollercoaster. At my lowest I would struggle to get out of bed to take my daughter to school. I had no confidence – there was nothing left of me to give. I didn’t see the use in talking about my mental health as I felt there was nothing that would take away my experiences.”
Chloe was referred to WeMindTheGap programme, a scheme which provides life coaching, work experience and access to employment, and it was life changing. She started the WeMindTheGap training programme, spending the next six weeks on work placements, and now she has plans to attend university to study to become a nurse. She said
When Chloe graduated, she was asked to share her experiences with other inspirational women on her course, charity sponsors, placement managers friends and family.
“I was shaking, stuttering as I read my speech to a room full of 200 people. I was so emotional I burst into tears – I couldn’t believe I had the confidence to do it. I knew I would show the people who doubted me, and I have.”
Her fourth placement was for the social services as a support worker for the elderly led to permanent work. “I absolutely love it and its been the making of me. My daughter has about 20 honorary grandmas and grandpas, they love hearing about her. It made me realise that I want to take care of people, my boss says I have potential to be a senior manager, but I want to go to university and study nursing. I went to see my nan last week and she said how healthy I’m looking. I’m eating better, I socialise, I have a job I love, a car and I’m waiting for a date to take my driving test.”
Catrin’s life changed forever in 2013 when she suffered third degree burns to 96% of her body in a coach crash in France, she was…Read Catrin's Story
Catrin’s life changed forever in 2013 when she suffered third degree burns to 96% of her body in a coach crash in France, she was 19.
There wasn’t much hope of her surviving and she went into a coma for three months. She says, “I battled on, but I doubted whether I had a future. When I woke up from the coma, I’d had numerous surgeries and couldn’t move”.
Catrin was left with physical and mental scars, her central vision has disappeared, her left fingertips were amputated, and she struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks of being alight. She says, “Everyone’s lives were continuing while mine was on pause. It makes you question your worth, my self-confidence was shattered”.
Having spent the next four years in physical therapy learning how to walk, speak and eat again, Catrin said “I began to see that my physical disabilities and mental health issues were less of a barrier and more of a driving force to prove that anything could be achieved if you set your mind to it.”
Although the world felt like a scary place, Catrin pushed through these challenges and took her first step when she started working as a peer supporter with charities such as The Katie Piper Foundation and Changing Faces, giving motivational talks about surviving life-changing experiences. She says, “What I really wanted was to study again and work my way towards a meaningful career where I could make a difference.”
Catrin was inspired by the role of the Physiotherapist in her own recovery, and in 2017 she embarked on a journey to becoming a physio. She says, “Going back to education was terrifying. I had completed 15 years of education in the fortunate position of having no additional needs, now I had multiple.”
To pursue a degree in Physiotherapy, Catrin needed to gain a Level 3 science-based qualification. She enrolled on Agored Cymru’s Access to Higher Education course to study Biosciences at Coleg Cambria. She says, “After building the courage to show up, every day got easier. I was still intelligent, capable and adjustments made everything achievable.”
Excelling in her course, Catrin has received offers from University and will take up a place in September 2018. Jackie Grieves of Coleg Cambria says, “Everyone here has been dazzled and inspired by Catrin’s positive attitude and determination to achieve her goals.
Seven years later, after mental health issues and family health scares, he’s just achieved a first-class Honours degree in BSc Aircraft Maintenance with a promising…Read Kierran's Story
Seven years later, after mental health issues and family health scares, he’s just achieved a first-class Honours degree in BSc Aircraft Maintenance with a promising future in aeronautical engineering.
Without the support and purpose Kierran received while serving in the Army, his mental health suffered, and he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. After years jumping from job to job, he had no direction. The 28-year-old said: “The Army was all I’d ever known. A lot of my family members were in the Army and I’d always pictured myself working my way up. It’s a way of life and like a family so to have that suddenly taken away from you really messes with your head. Life afterwards was bleak, I had lots of jobs in pubs which I couldn’t hold down which led me to drinking too much and I just spiralled.”
Kierran found hope when he met his partner, Samantha, she provided the support he needed, “I had always associated learning with the tough time I had in school after my father died,” said Kierran, who was just 12 at the time.
Kierran jumpstarted his learning journey and after completing his Level 3 in A Licence modules he went on to study a degree in aircraft maintenance.
Whilst on the course, he was diagnosed with dyslexia which hadn’t been picked up at school.
“I had always felt like it was an upward struggle at school but after understanding why I struggled and making small changes like printing work out on yellow paper allowed me to keep up with the class.”
Kierran has since spoken at careers fairs, taken on the role as team leader on group projects and secured the first ever internship at aircraft maintenance and training company, Caerdav – famously run by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.
“Bruce was talking at a conference and I just asked him outright for some work experience – if you had told me that five years ago, I would have laughed!
He said: “There is support out there and I would encourage people to share their problems and also their goals as people will help you find a way through.”
Joseff Oscar Gnagbo
Joseff Gnagbo was brought up on the Ivory Coast but due to unrest was forced to seek asylum in Wales. Then in just over a…Read Joseff's Story
Joseff Oscar Gnagbo
Joseff Gnagbo was brought up on the Ivory Coast but due to unrest was forced to seek asylum in Wales. Then in just over a year, dedicated to immersing himself in the culture he became fluent in the language and is now teaching other asylum seekers basic Welsh.
He said: “My homeland was under siege, it was scary. There was a lot of fighting, so I was forced to flee to safety. I didn’t know anything about Cardiff let alone Wales, all I had heard was that it’s very green, less crowded and the people are really nice.
“I’ve lived all over the world and promised myself I would always learn the native language of the country I was in.
Joseff, who worked as a linguist in his West African home also speaks French, Swahili, Italian, Russian, German and Arabic. Attending the Oasis Centre in Cardiff the day after he arrived in Wales helped, he said, along with the ‘Say Something in Welsh’ app suggested by his tutor. He also followed courses with Learn Welsh Cardiff, run by Cardiff University on behalf of the National Centre for Learning Welsh.
Joseff now works as a carer, a translator and a teacher, and volunteers for Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the Welsh Language Society. He also gives half-hour Welsh language taster sessions at the Welsh Refugee Council – after learners have had an hour of English tuition.
He continued: “Some of my tutors were sceptical about adding Welsh to the English courses, they thought it may confuse people. But as so many signs are in Welsh and people speak the language, I think it’s important to know the basics, especially if you’re looking for work or have children attending bilingual schools.
“I want to continue developing my skills but also learn more Celtic languages like Gaelic and Cornish. I love walking through the centres where I volunteer and hearing asylum seekers and refugees saying diolch!”
Retiree Ralph Handscomb, from Merthyr Tydfil has helped people search for jobs during lockdown, he’s a learner and a volunteer working with Merthyr Tydfil County…Read Ralph's Story
Retiree Ralph Handscomb, from Merthyr Tydfil has helped people search for jobs during lockdown, he’s a learner and a volunteer working with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Adult Community Learning at The College in Merthyr and the town’s JobCentre Plus.
Ralph said: “I have always been fascinated by computers. But with my seven O Level passes from the 70s, there were limited options in the industry, so my interest really began to grow when we got our first huge desktop PC at home in 1996. I took evening classes and was surprised how different it was to my school experience. People actually wanted to be there, and it just showed you can continue learning, in your own time and around your family commitments all while being treated as an adult.”
Ralph passed his first computer qualifications – CLAIT Level I and IBT Level II – in 1996 with and then went on to secure his European Computer Driving Licence in 2008.
He said: “I always brought my digital skills into every job I had, even as a bus driver I helped everyone in the office digitise and overhauled the route systems. Staying as up to date as possible with my training courses meant when I joined the Welsh Assembly Government in 2000 as the “new” Windows 95 system was introduced, I had already had five years’ worth of experience.
“My night classes and qualifications resulted in three promotions within the civil service but after 18 years I retired. I spent some time in the garden, but my wife wanted me to do something to fill my time – and to get me out from underneath her feet.”
Ralph returned to “school” completing the Award in Education and Training (Level III), which now enables him to share his skills and experience through his voluntary work. He said:
“I will never stop learning or teaching, it keeps my brain active and makes me feel good. I regularly practice my new methods on my family, I take pride in seeing my learners pass, gain confidence and the doors opening up for them personally and professionally. Once the learning flame ignites and burns the learners will achieve, and that pride is immeasurable.”
Wrexham-born, Emma Williams had left home by the age of 14. Experiencing problems with her mental health and addiction, she found herself homeless in her…Read Emma's Story
Wrexham-born, Emma Williams had left home by the age of 14. Experiencing problems with her mental health and addiction, she found herself homeless in her teens. Emma gave birth to a daughter at 21 and, suffering with post-natal depression, her addiction got worse and she began her downward spiral. “Day and night, I didn’t know the difference,” she said. “I felt like I was destined for a life of hardship. Drugs and alcohol were a safety blanket.”
Eight years later, aged 29, she walked into a recovery centre in Colwyn Bay, called Touchstones 12. “There was a college next door to the facility. I started off small with a few employability courses to keep my mind busy. It was life-changing.”
While gaining help with her addiction, Emma applied for a job as a recovery support worker and spent the next two years as a case worker, helping others deal with their own problems with drugs. Being made redundant from the job she loved was a blow, but she used the opportunity to fuel her determination for learning and applied to university.
Returning to qualifications she had gained in her 20s and with the new courses she had completed, Emma was able to apply to start studying for an undergraduate degree in Forensic Science. The 39-year-old said: “Ten days later, I was sat in my first Quantum Chemistry lecture. I’ve suffered majorly with imposter syndrome, not many of the students look like me or have had similar backgrounds – but I am so determined.”
Over the next five years she completed her undergraduate degree in Forensic science, a PGCE, and is in the process of completing an MRes in Forensic Anthropology and Bioarchaeology with a focus on biological anthropology at Wrexham Glyndwr University. After qualifying as a teacher, she taught on the undergraduate Forensic Science degree and is now a science communicator for Techniquest in North Wales, working as a role model for females in STEM subjects. “Now I encourage girls to study science like me,” she said.
She said: “I was told I wouldn’t live past 30 if I continued to live my life like I did. Yet I know so many people who have been through worse. If I can inspire at least one person or show someone who is struggling, that you can change your life through education, then it’s all worth it.”
Admitting it hasn’t been easy, Emma, who discovered she had additional needs, encouraged other people to ask for help: “When you struggle to believe in yourself, the people around you make all the difference. The support I had not only from my loved ones but my tutors too, helped me find my passion and my voice. I want to prove to my daughter that she can do anything she puts her mind to – just like me.”
Learn new skills and start your next chapter
Working Wales is for anyone over the age of 16 across Wales to access expert advice and guidance to help you overcome obstacles that you may be facing to get you into work.
So whether you need help searching for jobs, writing a CV, preparing for an interview, finding work placement, learning new skills, understanding redundancy rights, childcare support, building self-confidence, or even where to turn next this is the right place to get the help you need.