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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Meet the Team - Shaun

This week's meet the team went to our new member of the ACH team, Shaun!

Hi I’m Shaun and I recently graduated from Bournemouth University after studying English at degree and masters level for 4 years. I’m originally from Bristol so it’s great to be home and working for a really positive and forward-thinking organisation.

Tell us about your job?

I work in the Communications and Marketing team. My role is fairly varied but my main responsibilities include helping to develop and expand the organisation’s social media, creating and sending out press releases and making important contact with relating organisations and local press in order to raise awareness.

What do you like about ACH and why?

I like working for ACH as no working day is the same and we’re not always stuck in the office - there are plenty of opportunities to attend events and meet an array of interesting people. However, when I do need to work in the office I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a diverse bunch of funny and intelligent people who are a great team to work with.

1.     If you could be the starring role in one film already made, which film would you choose and why?
It would have to be Ryan Gosling in Drive as he’s clearly the coolest guy going and he can drive like a pro – something I’m hoping to finally learn in the next few years.

2.      If you could choose your age forever, what age would you choose and why?
Age 5 as I could be carefree and not have to worry about any “adult” problems or responsibilities ...a simpler time!
In the hype of GBBO, what pudding would you bring to a dinner party?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
3.      What would you name the autobiography of your life?
A Series of Unexpected Events
4.      Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?
Sam Smith
5.      If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?
I’d like to go back to the 70s and see David Bowie perform live in his heyday as Ziggy Stardust – I’ve got a feeling Bowie won’t be performing live again but I’m happy to be proven wrong!

Thanks Shaun, this was great to read and hope you will fit in great with the ACH family!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

An ACH day out - bike maintenance, cycling, exploring and foraging!

An ACH day out -  bike maintenance, cycling, exploring and foraging!

As you may have spotted from our Twitter updates yesterday, we went on a tenant bike ride! We were even treated to a beautiful sunny day for the occasion.

The event was organised by our Bristol support team and through the wonders of Streetbank we even had a trained bike maintenance workshop provided by Jackie who works for Life Cycle UK.

The day consisted of cycling to Warmley along the Bristol to Bath cycle path and foraging in Warmley forest park. Although there was a huge mix of cycling abilities – Moomin being the oldest at 67 and not having cycled for 9 years, whilst others hadn’t cycled for a year or two and others cycled regularly, the group thoroughly enjoyed the ride! With the cycle ride being led by Jackie, we all felt safe and relaxed and able to enjoy the easy and scenic route.

The benefits of the ride were truly felt by all!
  • Getting to know places on their doorstep
  • Learning about the importance of bike maintenance
  • Enjoying the natural resources available such as blackberries and apples!
  • Getting fit with some gentle exercise and benefiting from the fresh air
  • Meeting  new people

... and the smiles still haven’t vanished!

But enough from us... let our tenants' words and photos do the talking!

Jutair said he barely left the house and felt he was very lazy. At the start he was complaining that his legs ached, but by the end of the cycle he was asking Naomi how he could get his own bike.

“I don’t want to go back. I’m so glad I came!” Jutair

“Can we do this every week?”

“When can we do the next one?”

“I had a really good time and met new people”

“I’ve only had the opportunity to cycle once since being in the UK” Hithum. He now wants to get a bike.

“Through talking to people I was reminded that we have a real mix of tenants: some who have been in the country for years, others for months. Using the term refugee sometimes puts everyone in the same group, whereas everyone has a different life story to tell.” Aletia our ACH communications intern.

Check out the video from the Bike Ride

 (Go-pro courtesy of the the magic of Streetbank!) 




Culturally Responsive Designed Programmes

Culturally Responsive Designed Programmes

Interview Etiquette in native language

#ThinkBig #Getintowork

ACH training manager, Suad Abdullahi, and training co-ordinator, Mohamoud Matan, hold an Interview Etiquette workshop at local Job Centre in Easton and Eagle House on a regular basis. 

This week, I joined them. Not only was I taken by the importance of such sessions I was inspired by the dreams and aspirations of the learners who were seeking jobs.

We asked each individual what their dream job is. Not a job for tomorrow, next week or next month, but a job that would make them happy. A job that they dream about. ‘Think big’, we told them.

Here were their responses:   

  • ·         Accountant
  • ·         Teacher
  • ·         Doctor
  • ·         Own a barbers
  • ·         Architect
  • ·         Own a business in retail
  • ·         Police officer
  • ·         IT engineer

All these dream jobs are perfectly attainable to these individuals. There was one person who had been an electrician in Somalia for 20 years, another who had been a barber in Eritrea for three years, and another who had cared for the elderly for 5 years. But because of certain barriers including language and employability skills, many only ever keep these jobs as dreams. 

We seek to make these dreams attainable by giving them the progression they need. Here is how we do it...

What makes this workshop different?

Our tenants and learners are part of the client base that organisations and providers, such as the Job Centre and DWP, often find hard to engage with because of cultural, language and social barriers.
We seek to change the way the mainstream interact with this demographic by providing services that provide a solution to this problem. Our services have been developed from firsthand experience and knowledge from our own staff, 87% of which are first or second generation refugees. Further to this, between our two offices in Bristol and Birmingham, there are over 15 languages spoken by our staff. Through their personal insight and knowledge our services become more informed and better run which allow us to be able to respond quicker to the needs of our learners. 

This first hand, lived experience trickles through all parts of our organisation. This trickle-down effect combined with high demand is what has produced the formation of our culturally responsive designed Interview Etiquette workshop. We aim to break down the barriers that clients face by delivering services that reflect their needs and enable them to progress.

This workshop is delivered bilingually, using English and community languages, such as Somali and Arabic, to really engage with the learners. The learners are referred to us by the jobcentre and the workshop happens onsite. In an average workshop there are about 20-25 people attending.

Journey to employment:

We explain to the learners that these are the essential steps to employment.


Language is the biggest barrier. Without it you are unable to communicate. It causes frustration and depression and isolation. It stops people integrating.”  Abdi 

Poor English causes barriers. We believe that learning English is essential to improve people’s ability to get into work and also their ability to have better outcomes and more life satisfaction.

“Not knowing the language and being from somewhere else often makes us isolated and just become a title, a ‘refugee’. They don’t know our background. We are put down. Lack of communication causes isolation and makes people become internally frustrated. It affects mental wellbeing. We cannot develop ourselves and have no direction. Learning English allows us to break this cycle. Knowing the language opens your eyes and opens doors to jobs, college, community, everywhere!“ Abdi 

Being able to communicate in English is essential not only for mental wellbeing but imperative in searching for a job and being able to sustain a job. Employers want people who can communicate for themselves in English.

IT Skills:

IT Skills are absolutely essential in the modern work climate. 90% of jobs are advertised online. There is a huge need to be IT literate, to have an email, to be able to job search and to be able to apply for jobs online. 

Read more about our IT courses here.

Employment Skills:

Suad and Mohamoud giving an example of an interview role play
Gaining employment skills such as interview skills and knowing about accustomed work ethic in the UK provides a firm base to not only find a job but keep a job longer as well as get a better job.

Volunteering is a key topic that is stressed within these workshops. Many learners are unaware of how important volunteering is. Many of our tenants and learners have a lot of experience and knowledge but this cannot be evidenced on a CV without prior work experience, especially in the UK. Volunteering allows people to gain confidence and experience and also demonstrates to prospective employers commitment and determination.

At ACH we have a pool of tenants and learners who have gained various qualifications through our ACH Himilo Training centre and are actively looking for work. We are keen to partner with more organisations who are interested in recruiting our tenants and learners, either on a volunteer basis or as a paid job. If you or your organisation is keen to find out more information about what we can offer please get in touch at

Our Himilo Training centre has been set up to cater for this journey into employment and to ensure these individuals move on with their lives. We provide accredited NOCN training qualifications of various levels in a range of subjects including English, Employability, IT, Health and Social Care, and Pre-Tenancy. This new Interview Etiquette workshop at the Job Centre is a natural progression into offering these opportunities to even more people. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My Week With Netplants

Netplants partners with trainees

If you were following Ashley Community House on Twitter and Facebook last week you would have spotted various posts about my trip to France with Netplants.

Netplants is a multi-partner project that will run over two years and will examine how disadvantaged adults from across the UK, France, Spain, Ireland and Romania can develop skills associated with plants, vegetables and fruits to improve their all round wellbeing.

Aiming to reconnect people with the environment at its source, Netplants will demonstrate how plants and vegetables can improve our lives in a variety of ways. The project will assess the current skill level of each population in relation to growing, cooking, foraging and decorating using vegetables and plants. Once determined, it will then offer workshops and guides to improve each of these disciplines.

Farhan with Stu from Superact
Throughout the project, each organisation will work with local experts to develop workshops and manuals that will encourage local people to develop new skills related to growing, cooking, foraging or natural arts.

By 2017, it is hoped the project will have enabled many people facing economic or social issues across Europe to be more proficient in valuable skills including cooking, growing and natural crafts – all of which will improve people’s lives in a variety of ways.

Ashley Community Housing was lucky enough to be approached by Superact (the Netplants UK partner) and invited an ACH learner to be involved in the project as a trainee. 

Me (Matilda) and Farhan on Cap Blanc Nez
We invited Farhan Ibrahim, who had previously completed Employability Skills course with ACH to participate in the project. Farhan is originally from Somaliland but moved away when he was very young. He is currently working as a health care assistant at St Michaels and the BRI Hospital in Bristol, he dreams of returning to his homeland and working on his family farm.

Commencing the exciting two year project were the host organisation Les AngesGardins in Calais, France. Les Anges Gardins is an organic farm which functions as a social enterprise. The organisation trains disadvantaged unemployed members of the community with farming and cooking skills. The produce that is harvested is sold and distributed in organic food boxes to customers. They have also branched out into using their produce in their newly built restaurant.
Garden box lasagne making
Throughout the week we participated in workshops revolving around gardening, foraging, cooking and arts and crafts. Learning ‘lasagne’ layering box gardening skills, foraging knowledge, cooking recipes and art decoration creativity. 
It was refreshing to have a hands-on learning experience that included a huge cultural exchange of ideas, languages and knowledge.  I am now really excited to use and share this new found knowledge to help the next phase of ACH’s gardening projects in the UK.
“It was great to part of the group experience, French culture, and to practice my French! I also learned so much, about work on a farm, organic foods, and healthy eating just by helping with the day to day jobs. They treated me like family. I felt included and I enjoyed myself. I’m so glad to have had this experience!” Farhan Ibrahim

Homemade 'bug hotel' 
If you are interested in finding out more about Netplants and its partners please follow the links below:
Project Partners
AFIDEL – Saint Gaudens, France (Lead Partner)
Superact – Bristol, UK
Bucovina Institute – Suceava, Romania
Kerry One World Centre – Kerry, Ireland

Fundacion el Tranvia – Zaragoza, Spain
Les Anges Gardins – Calais, France

Website: – Site under construction
Farhan collecting art materials
Foraging workshop
Arts and crafts & gardening workshops

Cooking workshops

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Thanks To Our ACH Volunteers!

At Ashley Community Housing (ACH) we firmly believe every staff member, every intern, every apprentice, and every volunteer matters. We would not be the organisation we are today without the hard work of each individual that works with us.

In April 2015 we announced our partnership with SEETEC on a multi million pound project. Read more about this partnership here.

Following on from this announcement we thought it would be a good idea to introduce you all to some of our SEETEC volunteers!

Derek came to us through SEETEC and is our gardening and maintenance volunteer. Derek is working alongside our gardening and maintenance team to make the houses of our tenants look homely and welcoming!

“I love the diversity of different cultures that I get to work with. I also love the different locations that I get to work in, I'm always all over Bristol which always make it interesting.”

We’d like to thank Derek very much for all his hard work and for always having a smile for us in the office in the mornings! We hope that Derek finds his placement with ACH valuable and the experience gained enables him to further his career!

We are also happy to introduce our newest SEETEC volunteer, Khadar, who has joined the Bristol office team as our new volunteer receptionist. His role helps us all in the office immensely and makes both our lives and our tenants lives a lot smoother! 

“Everyone here is so positive, the people here are very nice and I want to help out in every way I can. This is also very interesting to observe. The tenants always walk out of here with a smile on their face.”

Thank you very much Khadar, we are hoping that you are going to enjoy your time with ACH and it provides the experience you want to advance into office work.

Derek and Khadar are only two of our wonderful ACH volunteers at Bristol but between Birmingham and Bristol we have over 10 volunteers. The work that volunteers do for ACH is truly invaluable and we are so grateful for the hard work and commitment from these individuals!

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with ACH find out the opportunities that are available here. For further information please contact

Friday, 25 September 2015

Meet the Team - Housing Management, Akshah

This week's 'Meet the Team' task fell upon Akshah, a member of our management team in Bristol!

Give us a brief introduction to yourself...

Born and bred in Bristol. I studied Business and Education at UWE and graduated in 2009. 

Tell us about your job?

I work in the Housing Management department of our Bristol branch. I complete the initial forms when we house a service user. I work with the tenants to help deal with new benefit claims and to help deal with other benefit issues. I also help manage the waiting list. 

What do you like about ACH and why?

I enjoy the work atmosphere in the office and working with my colleagues. It is a very welcoming and friendly environment to work in. No day is the same!

What’s your favourite thing to do outside of work?

I enjoy socialising with friends and spending time with my family. Either going out to watch a film, have some food and catching up with old friends or just being at home with my family. 

If you woke up as an animal, what animal would you choose to be and why?

Think it would have to be a Panda. Very calm and relaxed, no worries!        

If you could choose your age forever, what age would you choose and why?

3 or 4 years old. Having fun at nursery. Making new friends. Not having to worry about anything!

In the hype of GBBO, what pudding would you bring to a dinner party?

Have a bit of a sweet tooth, hard to decide on just 1 pudding. Anything with chocolate!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to focus on family. 

Thank you for your time Akshah (the Panda).

Tune in next week to see who are we going to interview!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Thank You & Goodbye to Support Worker Haliima

We are sad to announce that support worker Haliima is leaving Ashley Community Housing today!

Needless to say we are very sorry to be losing her, but we wish her all the best as she moves to Copenhagen to embark on a new journey.

Haliima started out as a volunteer with Ashley Community Housing in Birmingham and progressed onto becoming a Support Worker. 

Always putting the tenants' needs first, with a genuine interest in their wellbeing, she was a great contribution to the team. 

Although we are sad to say goodbye, we are proud to see that she is going on to undertake a Master's Degree in Practical Psychology, demonstrating her passion for learning.

Thanks for all your hard work Haliima and we'll leave you with some kind words from a few of the team....

"She has done fantastic whilst here and has built an excellent rapport with staff and tenants.  We will miss her loads" - Zoita

"Haliima has made a real impact and facilitated great progress for the individuals across her case load. She has quickly become an asset to the ACH Birmingham Team and will be truly missed by our Tenants and Team Members. However, we are excited and pleased to see her taking up this exciting new opportunity (MA Practical Psychology, Copenhagen). We wish her all the best in her future studies and career." - Joe

"Good luck Haliima at Copenhagen Uni!! #Progress" - Suad

"I would like to thank for the all the earnest hard work that you have put in the organisation both during the time you volunteered for us and during your employed period. I can safely say we were all impressed with the professional attitude you brought here with you and the passion to develop and learn you displayed at work.  We are sad to see you leave us, we will miss your presence in our office.

On behalf of ACH I would like to congratulate you on securing a place on your choose course. We are excited to learn that you will be pursuing your Master’s degree in the field of Psychology. I know the valuable experience and the knowledge you gained whilst with us will benefit you in your studies and chosen career. We hope our ways cross again after you finish your education, please keep in touch, I am sure we would love to hear all the good work you will be doing. I wish you all the success in the future." - Osman

"Well done for getting into Copenhagen Uni, world class institution. all the best for the next chapter of your life." - Fuad

"Can I add my sincere thanks as well. Good luck with your Masters. Keep in touch." - Andy

"I wish you all the success in the future" - Abdirahman

"We’d just like to say all the best of luck and you will be very missed! Although we only managed to get up to Birmingham once, you made us feel so welcome! Good luck with your studies!" - Matilda and Aletia

"Have an amazing time in Copenhagen!" - Rachel 

Haliima and the Birmingham team going for a goodbye meal

All the best Haliima!