A community interest company which supports and empowers the women of County Durham, is celebrating International Women’s Day in style this year.
Aspire Learning, Support & Wellbeing, based in Chester-le-Street, has secured £11,000 worth of funding from North East housing association Karbon Homes to kick start a 12 month project which will help transform the lives of many women in the region.
The Aspire 2 Change project will provide participants with a mix of structured learning and one-to-one personalised support, all delivered by specialist tutors and support workers with experience in working with women with a wide variety of complex issues.
Jan Vincent, Director at Aspire Learning, Support & Wellbeing, said: “Aspire provides the women of County Durham with a safe supportive space for women with a wide variety of complex issues to access learning opportunities, confidential support services, friendship groups and health and wellbeing initiatives.
“Our aim is to break down the barriers created by these issues, by helping to build their confidence, raise their aspirations, and nurture their talents and skills. This funding from Karbon Homes will allow us to reach many more local women, empowering them to make positive life choices and providing them with the tools to get to where they want to be.”
In partnership with Karbon Homes, in September 2017 Aspire ran a 12 month pilot of the programme. Its success identified the need for the continuation of the programme, which will not only benefit new learners but will offer further progression opportunities and support to existing learners.
Karen Soulsby, 49 from Chester-le-Street, was one of the women involved in the pilot programme.
She said: “I was signposted to Aspire at a time when my personal situation wasn’t the best. I was in a horrendously bad place, having just come out of a violent relationship, and I was feeling socially isolated.
“I remember feeling sick as I arrived at the centre for the first time because I was so nervous, but the team were so incredibly welcoming, I felt really at ease as soon as I walked through the door.
“Completing my first few courses with Aspire exposed me to an atmosphere of acceptance and support with absolutely no judgement. It gave me access to positive messages and role models and provided me with a means of meeting people and making new friends. It’s given me back my confidence and enthusiasm for life.”
Karen is now a volunteer for Aspire’s Supporting Sisters programme, acting as a buddy and mentor for new women who come through the centre.
“Being able to give back to the centre and help other women through their journey is really rewarding. If I can help even one person feel as empowered as I’ve been made to feel then I will be happy. It really has totally transformed my life for the better.”
Aspire has been supporting local women through education courses and wellbeing services at their Chester-le-Street base, and in community venues throughout the surrounding area, since 2012.
Paul Hadden, a Community Connector for Karbon, said: “Aspire 2 Change is such an exciting step for Aspire and will help so many women to feel supported and empowered so they can live the lives they want to live.
“The positive impact organisations like Aspire can have on communities is invaluable, and after the success of the pilot programme Karbon was keen to continue its support in order to help change the lives of even more women in the area.”