CLASS is delighted to have been able to develop our staff team throughout 2023! We welcomed Kate Parsons, our new Operations Manager, in March, and Fathima Naseer the new Women of Wythenshawe Admin Assistant in July; while our brilliant intern Ieva Pojuner was promoted to Neighbourhood Networks Coordinator in September. We asked Fathima, who is also Treasurer at Dandelion Savers (header image), and Kate (below), to share a few words about themselves, and their experience of joining the CLASS team and working with Community Savers and WoW…
Getting a job with CLASS and Women of Wythenshawe has been very emotional for me!
I came to the UK from Sri Lanka in 2011 with my family, and for a long time I was just at home being a housewife and mum. I had never worked in my life and I was always at home, but during COVID I saw a message from The Dandelion Community saying they needed volunteers. I texted them and Rev. Kate Gray from Dandelion asked me to come in the same day. So that’s when I started volunteering for 3 years at Dandelion foodbank.
Over time, I was able to take on more responsibility with the Foodbank, and I started managing the food bank vouchers and paperwork. Kate asked me, ‘what kind of job would you like if you could have a job?’ I said ‘paperwork – that’s what I like doing’, and she said ‘that’s called admin work’, – so that’s when I knew what it was called!
Then at Dandelion in January, we started up a new group called Dandelion Savers and this was really helpful for me because I didn’t ever use money before, my husband managed all the finances and looked after everything very well.
Since I became Treasurer at Dandelion Savers it was so good for me because I learned how to use money, how to manage money, going to the post office and using an ATM – I had never used those things, or even at the shops, or going on the bus, I had never used money. I never travelled on my own!
So, I have learned so much, and then this year, I was so pleased to get a job as Admin Assistant supporting the Women of Wythenshawe network!
The first two months have been really interesting: I have learned many new things and I am learning more every day. I had a bit of anxiety about some things like making bookings and sending emails but then I do it and that gets easier because I am just doing it. And I am talking to people on the phone all the time. I am still worried about doing meeting minutes but the other staff at CLASS are helping me learn this new skill.
It’s unbelievable to me, I thought I was never going to work in my life I thought I would be a housewife for ever! But my children started asking me questions like “mum, why do you not go to college; why are you not working?” They see their friends’ mums working so they wonder. And now, I give them £10 from my salary as pocket money and it makes me so happy! And they are already good savers – they save £5 for savings, £5 for snacks!
After seven years of working at a mental health charity in an operations role I was looking for a
new challenge. A colleague recommended that I look at the role at CLASS and I read with
interest about the background of how the organisation had begun. The idea that these
groups are formed and driven from the ground up really appealed to me. Co-production is a
much talked of activity but few organisations achieve it. CLASS and Community Savers are doing an excellent job of working together to collaboratively create and strengthen groups and networks
that are representing community priorities and needs and with mutual respect are delivering
Since starting in my role as Operations Manager at the beginning of March 2023, I have met all the affiliated Community Savers groups and networks and have been impressed with their commitment to improving their communities and raising awareness of issues they have identified as important for their areas. Reflecting on my first six months in post, I have learned a lot from an amazing team of leaders who are addressing an impressive range of issues including housing, climate change, the cost of living and surviving on a low income. Their projects include the development of community hubs, green spaces, food banks and crisis funds. Women-led groups come together to share their knowledge and skills to make improvements that have an important impact in their local communities.
I have attended meetings where people have spoken passionately about wanting to help others and bring about the change that they want to see. After attending the annual retreat in July this year, I can really see the power that comes from bringing people together with similar aims to support and uplift each other. The network is stronger together and the support and skills offered are impressive. The wide range of activities is exciting and I am looking forward to the opportunity of supporting the leadership with their aims and objectives in the months ahead.