2020 ESF case study: The Cedar Foundation - Inclusion Works

The Cedar Foundation’s Inclusion Works project supports adults with disabilities across Northern Ireland to build employability skills and experience to be work ready, then move into a paid job, college course or volunteering on leaving. Specialist physical disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and brain injury support is available and tailored to each individual and their needs.

The project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.

Here, a project participant shares how Inclusion Works has helped her to overcome many obstacles to achieve her goals.

Participant's story

The participant begins her story:

“I was unable to attend school during lower sixth and was forced to leave due to my health situation. At that stage I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me. I didn't know what to do or where to go from there. My confidence had taken a huge knock and I was anxious about my future.

“My Case Officer from Cedar’s Inclusion Works service worked with me to prepare a plan to allow me to continue my education (at college). As a wheelchair user, I struggled to take the bus each day in case of injury, so Cedar arranged for accessible taxis for me (to college and home again). I was less tired in classes after cutting down the travel, I was never late, and most importantly I was safer.

“Cedar is fantastic because you develop a rapport and maintain a strong connection to your Case Officer and you always have a port of call if you have any concerns or worries.”

Succeeding in spite of health challenges

During her time at college, the participant suffered numerous and varied health issues which affected her attendance.

She explains,

“Absences were a big concern for me and my biggest obstacle to overcome. My Case Officer helped to communicate on my behalf with the college to keep up to date with work I needed to do for the courses.”

The participant worked hard and achieved excellent A Level grades. As a result she was offered several university courses and ultimately was accepted into her first choice!

Future plans

The participant also describes her experience of the support she has received from Cedar and the impact this has had on her:

“On a deeper level, I am indebted to Cedar for helping me come out of my shell more. After high school, I was at an all-time low mentally. I felt unwanted, shy and just generally like a total outcast. I felt like everyone was staring and judging me. Thanks to Cedar, I slowly came back into my own, I was able to make phone calls again, go into shops alone, make friends and start living my life again.

“I now have a wonderful group of friends around me - I have become something of a social butterfly and love meeting new people now! My confidence is back and I no longer feel defined by my wheelchair, but rather, I feel empowered by it. I became accustomed to being 'the disabled girl' and I stopped just being ‘me’. Cedar helped me find myself again.

“I started (university) in September and couldn't be more excited about it!  All that hard work is paying off in the best way. My health is going to continue declining as time goes on but Cedar has given me the skills to focus on that without worrying about the fallout. Once I finish my undergraduate degree, I plan to get my PGCE and become a teacher!

“So thank you Cedar, for everything. For helping change my life for the better.”

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