Tag Archives: retraining

Fancy doing some volunteering?

Voluntary work is a great way to learn new skills, make friends, and build your confidence, as well as adding to your CV and giving you a recent reference.  If you’re considering a career change, it can be a perfect way to try out a new role and show potential employers how dedicated you are to the new career.

There are lots of fantastic opportunities to get involved with volunteering.  The Do-it website is a great place to start.  If you’re already involved with a local organisation that you’d like to support, then you could ask them directly about volunteering opportunities.  Pre-schools, playgroups, schools, and Children’s Centres often need all kinds of volunteers, from receptionists, to gardeners, as well as roles that are more involved, such as playwork or breastfeeding peer support.  Most charitable organisations will be looking for people to help out with fundraising – from selling raffle tickets, to events organisation.

Here are some organisations that we have identified that offer voluntary positions that we think will be of interest to Mums in particular:

Home Start is a national charity, supporting families that are finding it difficult to cope.

Balloons is an Exeter based charity, supporting children who are dealing with bereavement

Real Nappy Advisors help new Mums get to grips with reusable nappies.  In many areas this involves providing a trial kit for a month and supporting the parents in using the nappies and deciding on the best options for them.  This goes well alongside a real nappy retail business, as the family is then offered a discount voucher if they buy from you (refunded to you by the local council).  Read blog posts from local nappy brand, Eccobots, and retailer, The Natural Nursery.

Breastfeeding Peer Supporters help new Mums deal with the many issues they can face with breastfeeding.  They can volunteer within Children’s Centre groups, and in hospital maternity wards in some areas.  Training is usually undertaken through the local Children’s Centre, and locally has been done through Healthy Babies UK.

Have you done any voluntary work?  What sort of voluntary work would you consider doing?

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Filed under charity, childcare, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, work-life balance

Creative Writing

Since starting this blog last year, I’ve discovered that I love to write.  I still have a lot to learn, but blogging on a regular basis is giving me lots of practice and I can feel my writing developing all the time.  I have been thinking about taking a creative writing course, but have been a little reluctant because I don’t really have any ideas to write about.  So when this course popped up on my Facebook news feed the other day, I couldn’t believe my luck.  It’s a one off “life writing” course about putting your memories onto paper.  Two of my favourite books are The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson and Boy by Roald Dahl, both are autobiographies about their childhoods, and they tell such lovely stories in them, I’d love to be able do the same about my own childhood memories.

This course is run by one of my favourite authors, Sophie Duffy.  Sophie has written two great books – The Generation Game and This Holey Life, both of which I have read over and over.  Sophie is one of three authors who have set up Creative Writing Matters, an Exeter based group running courses and workshops on all aspects of writing, including supporting people who are entering competitions, and providing a mentoring service.  Sophie has previously written a guest post for the OPSW blog about becoming a writer, which you can read here.

If you love to read, you should also check out The Reading Room, who run day courses at a beautiful country house on Dartmoor.

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Filed under creative, retraining, writing

An Inspirational Story…

Today we have a really inspirational story from a lovely lady called Emma Jones, who unexpectedly became pregnant whilst travelling.  Emma is now trying out a few different business ideas to create a flexible business that will give her the ideal work-life balance:

I had quit my job as a teacher and gone travelling to South America to change my life. Seeing as I returned ten months later having found the love of my life, and with the shock news for everyone back home that I was pregnant with our baby (not to mention the shock it had been for us), I would say that my goal had been achieved!

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Our little accident in Argentina, Eva, is now 15 months old and is the greatest delight of our lives. However, it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys. We had returned without anywhere to live (and as Ciarán is Irish, we hadn’t yet even decided which country we would live in), and without any income between us. My savings had been completely depleted – mostly I think on too much alcohol in Peru – but thankfully Ciarán had some in a separate account. We were also extremely lucky to have very supportive and generous parents, including mine who remortgaged their house in order to provide us with a monthly income. I had gone from having a good income and being completely self-reliant, to suddenly being dependent on family once more. It was this, I believe, that was the main spark for my antenatal depression, which stayed with me to varying degrees until Eva was born.

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I had never had an exact plan for my return to the UK, but that was just as I wanted it. After years of feeling tied down and stressed (not just from teaching in a challenging inner-city London school, but also as I had been a local councillor in a highly deprived area at the same time – I had averaged 80-90 hour weeks, including evenings and weekends), I needed the feeling of coming home and still being free. I had assumed that I would work in any old job and didn’t care where I slept, and/or that I might go abroad again to work, then at some point I would do a Masters and start my new career path from there. But the baby meant that a real plan was needed, and we only had about seven months in which to get reasonably settled. Abortion crossed our minds several times, but our unborn was the product of the happiest time of our lives, so we knew that we wanted her.

Once the terrible morning sickness had finally vanished (the same morning sickness that had started when we were in 40°C heat in India, and which I had initially assumed to be a strange case of Delhi Belly), and on days when the antenatal depression wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed, I started applying for a few jobs. But I was quickly starting to show, and when I went to an interview and saw the interviewer glance down at my tummy with a knowing smile, I knew that this was a pretty fruitless exercise. So I threw myself into my writing. I had done some freelance travel writing while I had been away, and had also spent a month working as a guidebook writer in Uruguay. I continued to do this throughout my pregnancy, mostly education and travel writing, but by the time Eva was born I could still count the number of paid commissions I had received on my fingers.

Meanwhile, Ciarán’s jobhunt had not fared much better. After a couple of months of his applying to a variety of jobs that we knew he didn’t really want anyway, we made what many people called a very brave decision: he would study for his Masters in Meteorology then aim to get a job from this. To us, it seemed the obvious thing to do – we knew we had to start thinking longterm, and there was no point in both of us giving up our post-travel dreams.

Fast forward to the present day, and after spending a year living in Reading where Ciarán successfully completed his Masters, we are now in Exeter where he has been working at the Met Office for the past six months, but this is not going the way he wanted. I look regularly at jobs, but nothing I could do other than teaching would make any money after having to pay for childcare. And the very thought of teaching again literally gives me the shakes, so I fear a return of depression if I tried it. I still have a place held at University College, London, to study my MSc in Neuroscience, Language and Communication, but it is unclear when – if ever – I will be able to follow this dream.

Instead, I am following another interest. Having taken up running while a teacher and councillor, which I found was the best stress reducer, and having continued to run during my travels and throughout my pregnancy (including a slow one miler on my due date!), I am studying by distance learning for a diploma in personal training. I hope to use this to work flexibly around Eva. I am giving myself experience of leading group exercise sessions by having started Mummy Active, a buggy fitness class on the Exeter Quayside. Currently, I am asking for donations to the charity for which I am running this year’s Brighton Marathon, but once I am a qualified instructor and can be insured, I aim to expand this as a small business. I also have a number of other similar ideas up my sleeve, which I will reveal at a later date.

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Unfortunately, my other business venture, parent and baby Spanish classes, has not taken off in the way that I wanted, despite good feedback from those who have attended. Hola Bebé will therefore have to end before I lose any further money, sadly.

Ciarán, Eva and I are not yet self-reliant, and as well as being eternally grateful to our parents, we are very thankful for Child Tax Credits. We don’t know where we will be living in a few months’ time, and our careers are very much up in the air. But we are together, and we are happy. And Eva has been worth every moment of worry, every tear, every fear and everything we have given up. One day, we will return to South America as a family, and hopefully stay there for a good length of time. Unlike in our 20s, when our work was the focus of our lives, it is now merely the method by which we can aim to give our family the life we really want.

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Filed under children, creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, self employment, work-life balance

Return to Learn

My very own (Flexi)Mum went to university when I was 8 and trained as a teacher.  At the time she was a Mealtime Assistant at my primary school – she is now the Assistant Headteacher of the same school (which incidently is the school I’m hoping my little man will be starting this September).

Some years ago, at the grand old age of 33, I decided it was time I got a proper job!  I had worked in pubs and shops and offices but felt unfulfilled; I could be heard to say that I didn’t want to have “Here Lies Unfulfilled Potential” written on my tombstone.  I was really the only person that could ensure that that didn’t happen.

I was the single Mum of two lovely children, both of whom were now at school.  This was my time!

I embarked on a Return to Learn course, which led onto an Access course and then a teaching degree at Exeter University – in total a five year project!  Five years in which I sometimes felt out of my depth, and wondered who I was kidding to think I was capable of a degree; however, it was also five years in which I felt enlivened, excited and energised – I realised I did have a brain and that I loved delving into literature and its hidden meanings, and I also learned that I could “feel the fear but do it anyway” to paraphrase a well known saying!

I am now in my 13th year of teaching – having gone from Mealtime Assistant to Assistant Head Teacher – and I can honestly say I never feel unfulfilled!

I believe that there are often unintended consequences of our actions – I think my children saw a good role model – and so did some of my friends – 3 of them have gone onto study at university – one to PHd level, after watching me and seeing anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

If you are remotely tempted to make a change, take a leap of faith, give it a go – what have you got to lose? …..Oh, and Good Luck!

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Filed under childcare, children, employment, Inspirational Women, lone parent, retraining, school

L.A Barbers

This time last year, Liza Kane teamed up with a friend, Amanda, and realised her dream to open her own barbershop in Dawlish, Devon.  One year on, L.A Barbers is still going strong and they are celebrating their first year in the shop.  Congratulations!

Liza was a young single mother who decided that she’d had enough of boring office jobs that she didn’t care about, so she took the plunge and retrained as a hairdresser.

I decided to get qualified in something I was passionate about, would fit around my daughter’s schooling, and would ultimately pay the bills!

She took an evening hairdressing class and started working as a mobile hairdresser in the local area.  This helped her to build up a strong client base, as well as providing her with experience and opportunities for market research.  She discovered that there was a shortage of specialist men’s and children’s hairdressers in the area, so went back to college to gain further qualifications in children’s hair cutting and barbering.  Once she had the necessary skills, she decided it was time to open her own premises.

In January 2012, I teamed up with Amanda, who also has young children, and we opened L.A Barbers in Dawlish, launching a traditional barbers with a modern twist. We are a team of female barbers specialising in male and kids cuts.  We take the drama out of first hair cuts and trims by using our racing car hair cutting chair, keeping the little ones happy!

Liza continues to work on a mobile basis as well as in the shop.

For more information, check out the L.A Barbers’ and Liza Kane Hairdressing pages on Facebook.

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Filed under childcare, children, hair and beauty, Inspirational Women, lone parent, retraining, school, self employment, work-life balance