Both the London and Maastricht Fresh Start programmes ended the first year with a celebration for partners and for the successful participants. ‘Inspiring’ and ‘motivational’ were the main comments heard at these events.
The Fresh Start teams in all 3 countries have learned a lot from the experience and, of course, especially from the partners and participants. Each education programme has been tailored to the needs of the relevant community and context and has followed slightly different pathways. Our common destination, of course, has been to provide signposts and support for participants to map their own paths for their business ideas to flourish and develop successfully into future livelihoods.
Our partners and participants have had a strong voice in the development process. By the end of the first year, 21 participants had successfully completed the programme in London and 12 in Maastricht while 60 were signed up for the Limburg programme in 2018-2019. In London and Maastricht, participants came from a range of backgrounds, with varying qualifications and experience. Limburg is focusing on a group of highly educated refugees, mainly from Turkey. These highly skilled, experienced participants have helped to draw up a more flexible education pathway which will involve an impressive group of partners who will offer a suite of courses and networking possibilities. The participants are co-creators, the pioneers who will nurture the FRESH START approach. They will become the educational entrepreneurs continuing the programme
The experience of Fresh Start has already demonstrated that there is no ‘one size fits all’. However, the strength of our Fresh Start model has shown that flexible pathways can be developed to suit the needs of the locality and the target groups. This is key to success.
Despite their many challenges, including varied language skills, all the participants felt that they had made good progress with their understanding of the business context and were better prepared to take forward their business ideas. The end of year celebrations in London included several strong and inspiring pitches on a diverse range of business ideas. These included an Ethiopian vegan restaurant, a mobile engine control unit for cars, an online retail site for ‘Creative moms’, a Motivation and Careers consultancy, a Lebanese juice bar. In Maastricht, participants also shared some very exciting business plans, a Syrian restaurant and cultural centre, a web site with services aimed at the Arab speaking community.
Comments from participants in both Maastricht and London highlighted the support of the trainers and the range of approaches, the advice of the business adviser and the of mentorship offer. Comments included, ‘I found it very important and interesting’ .‘I feel that I have learned a lot and it has been an eye opener for me’.