'I think it is so important to build good relationships with our customers.'

Jan Daniels, a Work and Learning Officer at Evolve shares the story of her evolution.

During the past eight years, I have taught at various colleges and training providers as well as supporting people back into work when working as an Employment Adviser and Trainer for various Job Centre programmes. In 2013, I decided that I wanted to do something different. I had also gained previous experience of volunteering with homeless charities in London, so I applied for a role at Evolve. I joined Evolve in January 2014 as a Support Assistant at the Mental Health Step Down services but I wanted to use my skills as a trainer and adviser, so I went on to become a Work and Learning Officer in November last year. I really enjoy my work here at Evolve; no two days are the same. One of the aspects that I particularly appreciate here is the diversity. I enjoy meeting different people, travelling to various locations as I am quite an active person. I enjoy interacting with staff and customers alike.

My duties as a Work and Learning Officer are incredibly varied, so every day I’m travelling to a different service; we have lots of hostels for the homeless in South London: Croydon, Bromley, West London, Kensington and Chelsea and Stockwell. I organise a wide range of workshops at each service, which includes: art, cooking, employability, motivation and goal-setting. I create these activities based on customers’ feedback of their needs and interests. I cultivate a ‘have a go’ attitude and I’m always willing to give something new a try. Sometimes I’ve done things I’ve never done before!

We have just finished our first twelve week programme funded by Big Lottery: Reaching Communities. This was a series of workshops and activities for customers including classes such as ‘Stretch yourself’, which looks at mindfulness and gentle physical exercise. We have carried out a CV writing tutorials, employability sessions and a ‘goal setting and success’ course. This looks at what the customers want from life, building self-confidence, how to achieve their goals and overcome set backs. My favourite activities have been the art classes, which I really enjoyed as I’m quite a creative person myself. We have been looking at budgeting and moving on workshops: including searching for accommodation to help them to reach greater levels of independence.

The highlights of the programme so far have been bringing out the creative side in customers as they do like to showcase their talents during these workshops. I’m not teaching people to be creative, as they are anyway, but just helping to enhance their potential. Customers do make me laugh as well- they have a great sense of humour! I do my best to make my sessions with them very interactive and fun. I think it is so important to build good relationships with them, finding out what they want to get out of these workshops and to track their progression.

As part of Work and Learning, we have recently worked alongside another homelessness charity, Crisis, holding IT workshops at Alexandra House. Last week they held an award ceremony, celebrating the end of the twelve week course, I’ve seen some awesome PowerPoint presentations and products designed by customers. It has been encouraging to hear customers say things like: ‘It’s been so hard to leave my room but I’ve decided to come to this workshop.’ They often just like being around other people, because they’ve been feeling isolated. It’s a big achievement to see them overcome their trepidation and get involved.
At the moment, I am in the process of creating future workshops, based on ones I have organised in previous roles. We’re now looking at doing accredited courses, working with OCN and further collaboration with Crisis.

Summer is coming so we hope to get out in the gardens more. One area I want to concentrate on is Health and Wellbeing, especially customers involved with drug and alcohol misuse. I really want to encourage them to make positive steps to improve their health and state of wellbeing.
Also, the introduction of universal credit will obviously mean changes to the benefits system, so I am trying to work on an information session just to let customers be aware of the changes in order to reassure and empower those who are feeling anxious or frustrated. My goals for the course will be to give them the knowledge of what to do next, and to support them through the transition. It is going to be a busy term- but I can’t wait to get started!

If you would like to volunteer at some of Jan’s workshops, then please see our volunteering opportunities page. If you have been inspired by Jan’s story and are considering working for a homelessness charity in Croydon like Evolve, then please see our vacancies page. 
If you would like to donate towards programmes like Work and Learning to help change homeless people’s lives in London, please see our donations page.

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