I am delighted to tell you a little about Enterprising Tesco Mum of the Year 2015 Kate Geeson
You can read about Kate here
Kate runs pioneering work experience that helps people with learning difficulties gain self-confidence, qualifications and jobs. These are the very things that help us move forward positively in life but also can be so difficult to achieve if you face personal difficulties plus have to confront some unhelpful prejudices out there. These are the times you need a champion to believe in you as the special person you are.
When Kate was working in the special educational needs department of a secondary school, she started thinking about other ways to make a difference. Now she is on a mission to make work placements a life-changing opportunity to shine for disadvantaged people who need the right support and encouragement.
“We’re here to help them and to give them work experience. To give them a reason to get up in the mornings,” says Kate, 60, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Kate runs Phoenix Milton, a charity-based social enterprise on the outskirts of Cambridge that makes and sells handmade paving and garden accessories. Phoenix provides work experience and employability qualifications for young people and adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues.
Tesco Mum of the Year Awards judges noted Kate’s determination to give everyone the opportunity to achieve their potential.
Kate, who is married to Philip, 61, and Mum to Michael, 33, and Shelly, 32, spent 10 years working as a learning support assistant in a secondary school. She was struck by the lack of quality work placement opportunities for people with learning difficulties. In 2006 she helped to launch Phoenix, which took over a small factory producing concrete slabs and adapted it to provide supported learning within a real business.
Kate and her team provide a range of learning opportunities – from carpentry to cooking – in a safe environment, supporting the trainees closely as they progress. Over the years the charity has raised £300,000 and helped around 600 people to gain trade and life skills. Kate is passionate about providing the right environment to allow people to blossom.
“We’ve got one really, really special lad who is in a permanent exclusion department in school,” says Kate. “He doesn’t get on at school but here he’s perfect. He’s in his second year now and the school can’t believe it’s the same lad.”
The youngest trainee is 15 and the oldest is in his late 30s. Kate has used her experience in education and good business sense to produce astonishing results. She says: “One lad has gone into supported living now and he can cook now as a result of being here. At one time all he would do was stare at the car park.”
Trainees are sent to Phoenix by local schools and organisations such as the Learning Disability Partnership. They work and train in all areas of the business, including the concrete factory, carpentry workshops, kitchen garden and canteen kitchen.
“We’re seen as unique because the trainees are guided through everything and given life skills they might not otherwise receive.”
Kate Geeson is kept very busy nurturing trainees, managing staff, planning new courses, drumming up much-needed volunteers to help out, fundraising and balancing the books.
“To me, I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary,” she says. “I just love caring for people and helping them reach their potential.”
I have said it before and I will say it again it is always the truly inspirational who seem to believe they are nothing special.
This is why the Tesco Mum of the Year Awards are fantastic as the recognise mums who really are quite extraordinary whilst being self-effacing at the same time.
2015 will be the 10th Mum of the Year Awards and Tesco has awarded over 80 ordinary mums who have done extraordinary things for others.