2021 ESF case study - First Steps Women’s Centre

Women Towards Education and Employment is a project organised by First Steps Women's Centre, aimed at women aged 16 or over who are unemployed or economically inactive.

The project provides for women's professional and personal development through a variety of education and training courses to meet individual needs and is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund (ESF) 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.

Participant's story

Here, a participant tells us about her time on the project and how she benefitted from the support and guidance which was provided:

"I started attending the First Steps ESF Programme when I moved here from outside the area, as I wanted to do the computer courses on offer and also get to know people.

"I went on to complete a wide variety of courses with a view to returning to work as soon as my youngest child started school. However, after going through a very acrimonious divorce and then being diagnosed with a serious illness, returning to work seemed unlikely.""

She continues:

"The Centre was an absolute blessing during this time, allowing me to switch off from my problems and get involved in the yoga, gardening and craft groups, which were all very therapeutic. I can honestly say that it was central to my recovery, and helped me to rebuild my physical strength and my confidence. 

Volunteering and higher education

She then began volunteering with a local charity, and signed up to do a Masters in University. During this time, she was able to pop into the Centre to study or use the computers whilst waiting for her children to finish school for the day.  

She says:

"I now work  part-time for the charity, and have been able to access and complete further training, including “Mindfulness for Health and Well-being” and “Chi-Me”, which is a simplified version of t’ai chi, promoted by the Public Health Agency for both healthy individuals and those living with long term conditions or recovering from illness or surgery. 

"First Steps has been, and continues to be, an important part of my life.  The staff are supportive and generous to a fault, the environment has always been welcoming but is now very beautiful too, and the ladies I have met are now life-long friends.  

"Thank you to all of the wonderful staff. I’d have been lost without you."

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