The Inspirational Learner Award is for people who have overcome significant barriers, and gone on a learning journey that’s taken them to exceptional or unexpected places. We wanted to find people whose stories could really inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
Runner-up - Tasleem Akhtar
Tasleem had a lot of barriers to overcome to get where she wanted to go - a language barrier, separation from her son back in Pakistan, and an unhappy marriage. But her thirst to learn was the thing that’s guided her through all of that.
Now settled in Newcastle, Tasleem has built a life for herself and her son from scratch, and with the help of Your Homes Newcastle and Newcastle City Library. She’s taken on numerous courses, and now volunteers at the Library herself to help empower others who don’t speak English as a first language.
Tasleem says that because of the help that she has received from everyone since she came to the UK, she feels as though she is able to give something back to her local area by supporting others to use a computer and access the internet.
Nashon has struggled with addiction and been in and out of prison. He was in rehab when he was put in touch with North Somerset Training, and he started to learn. And as he learned, he started to believe in himself.
Since then there’s been no stopping him, and Nashon’s future looks bright. He’s got qualifications under his belt, he’s on an apprenticeship course, he’s doing his 'Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning' course so he can tutor at the centre, and he’s even in the process of setting up his own business.
Winner - Olwyn Popplewell
Olwyn Popperwell was homeless, and by the time he got to Evolve Housing and Support, he was pretty desperate. He describes getting a room at the hostel a ‘turning point’, because from there he started to get the help and support to sort out the rest of his problems, and start rebuilding his life. And that’s where the digital bit came in.
Olwyn decided to spend some time in the IT suite, fixing up his CV. He knew a bit about computers, but not the things he needed to apply for jobs online, or the skills he needed to get through the interview or do the job itself. As he started to get more involved in hostel life, he started to give back, and help others around him. And as his self-belief grew, he started to look for work, too.
Now Olwyn is a customer rep at Evolve and a peer mentor in Evolve’s computer classes. He’s also working 16 hours a week, and he’s finally got his own place in a block of flats in New Addington. He’s keeping himself busy decorating, sorting his bills out, getting to know the neighbours and working.