July
09
2019
Author
Richard Wilson
360 Journey to Work

Barnabas Community Church in Shrewsbury has been actively involved in its community for several years. It runs a number of social action projects, including the Shrewsbury Foodbank and Barnabas Money Advice, and has good links with other community agencies. As the leaders of the different projects reflected on the underlying causes of the poverty they were seeing across their clients, they identified the need to help people access the world of work.

The solution was a new project called ‘360 Journey to Work’ which, the website explains, offers “support to those who want to gain employment whilst helping people gain in self-confidence and building their self-esteem.” I spoke to project leader Karen Williams to learn more.

 

Finding a job

Most of us will have probably found job hunting a fairly daunting process at some time in our lives: looking for the right job, completing an application form or preparing a CV and then, finally, dealing with the interview process. Each stage presents its own stresses and hurdles. But for some people even just thinking about getting into the world of work is much more challenging.

A high proportion of those cared for and trained at the 360 Journey to Work project, are middle-aged men. For those with problems of addiction, those who have been unemployed long-term, those challenged by new technology, or those for whom ordinary life skills don’t come easily, finding employment can often seem impossible. One older man who had lived at home with his mother all his adult life had just seen his mother moved into care. This was a difficult time emotionally but practically as well; left alone for the first time he had no idea how to pay the gas bill.

Caring for the whole person

As the ‘360’ epithet suggests, this is not a standard ‘one size fits all’ programme; rather it looks at each person and aims to unlock their own unique potential. So, while each journey to work course is run around a standard ten-week programme – currently able to help up to five clients at a time – it includes focussed, one-to-one mentoring and is very much a creative process, caring for each individual and their needs.

Breakfast Drop-In

Alongside this project runs a 360 Drop-In every Wednesday. This is often a first point of contact for people who may be directed to the specific training later. The Drop-In gives access to laptops, telephones and WiFi and here mentors can provide practical guidance and training on such matters as completing a CV or practising for an interview. It involves imaginative training too: one man combined his need to learn how to use a computer with his desire to trace his family tree – enjoying achieving two of his goals together. Other people may simply drop-in for emotional support or friendship in a safe place. But for whatever reason people come all these positive activities are aimed at improving self-confidence and self-esteem in a safe and welcoming environment.

PLUS … plus

Karen’s aim is to make the model of care reproducible, so, as well as 360 Drop-in, there is also currently, 360 Cookery, 360 Walk and 360 Back Garden. All these projects are ways of combatting loneliness, developing relational skills and teaching practical skills. ‘360 Back Garden’ also has a job focus, with the long-term aim being to produce top quality products and so lead on to teaching marketing skills and running a business on a local market stall.

Relationships

In all this work a high value is placed on relationships, and not simply those between clients and mentors. The team who care for others cope with many issues, and dealing with people in difficult circumstances of life can often mean staff being affected emotionally. It is important that the work should not be a burden and so every Journey to Work session ends with feedback to enable the mentors to be free of issues when they go home.

Relationships outside are also a priority and the 360 Journey to Work project has found favour and a good reputation with external agencies and potential employers; key for both initial referrals and future employment.

Success

Currently about 15 people access Journey to Work every year. If we measure success as transformed lives then here is one encouragement on which to end: a recovering heroin addict first accessed 360 Back Garden, he later joined 360 Journey to Work, then met with Jesus, got married and subsequently became a Team Leader with the Barnabas Community Project work!

 

More information about the Journey to Work project and the other related work can be found at: barnabascommunityprojects.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barnabascommunityprojects

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BCPShrewsbury

 

Karen will be speaking in one of the seminars at this year’s Churches that Change Communities conference. Book your ticket now and select the ‘Life skills’ seminar in the afternoon options. Or read this blog post for details of all the seminars and speakers.