The Margins Project Re-Launches Its Empowering Supported Employment Programme

The Margins Project Re-Launches Its Empowering Supported Employment Programme

23 May 2023

Our Supported Employment Programme provides those with experience of homelessness and other crisis with paid catering training and support to improve their chances of employability. Discover photos and quotes from those involved

Trainee chefs under Head Chef Iraj preparing ingredients in the stainless steel Margins kitchen at Union Chapel

Each year The Margins Project invites ten to fifteen individuals who have experience of homelessness and other critical living crisis or disadvantage to become trainees on a four-month-long Supported Employment Programme. During the programme, candidates are trained to work in the drop-in and in the Margins café, alongside Head Chef Iraj Valizadeh and volunteers, preparing meals for drop-in guests, performers and event visitors and at Union Chapel. As they cook the same food for the twice-weekly Margins Drop-In service, which sees around 70 guests each day, for performers and event visitors, the trainees gain invaluable experience in the hospitality sector while boosting their life skills, reducing isolation, and building confidence.

The Supported Employment Programme is a radical business model which Union Chapel hopes will inspire other organisations across the UK to adopt. The programme has impressive retention level; previous trainees have gone on to run a 5-star restaurant, become a partner in a bicycle repair company, and a head chef.

Trainee chefs under Head Chef Iraj preparing and plating up meals in the stainless steel Margins kitchen at Union Chapel

‘At Union Chapel, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances,’ says Union Chapel Project’s former-CEO Michael Chandler. ‘Through the Supported Employment Programme, we hope to empower people who have experienced homelessness, hard times and oppression to gain the skills and confidence they need to move onto more opportunities, and we hope to explore how we expand the programme to provide opportunities in other parts of Union Chapel’s work, from events to activities to operations.’

Amanuel Woldesus, Head of Margins says, ‘With rough sleeping rising by a fifth in London this year and the cost-of-living crisis putting more and more people at risk of homelessness and crisis, the need for innovative solutions like the Supported Employment Programme has never been greater. Union Chapel is located in the inner London Borough of Islington, an area with high rates of child poverty, homelessness, and unemployment, despite its wealthy image.’

Amanuel added, “The Supported Employment Programme is not only a testament to Union Chapel's commitment to making a positive impact in the community but also a beacon of hope for those who are looking for a way out of homelessness and into the workforce, as Jane, one of the trainees explains.”

“I had a horrid upbringing, but I have done a lot of things in my life. I have been a singer; I’ve have sold paintings in Italy where I lived there for a while. When I came back, I was attacked and was put in a women’s refuge, then I did volunteering for a couple of years After that, I worked part-time making beds, which I hated. The manager was horrible. I fell into depression and went for counselling. From there I met Beverly from St Giles. She took me to the Margins Homeless Project, where I met my boss Iraj and started working in the kitchen. The team at Margins have made me feel so welcome. I always look forward to going to work there. Before, I did not want to get out of bed, but because of them I have built up my confidence. This is a good project, and I will always be thankful."

Trainee chefs placing out the meals at a red-painted bar, ready for serving at a Union Chapel event

Learn more about the work of The Margins Project in our new film below

"Margins has given me loads of confidence. They’ve given me the opportunity to play with that confidence"- Carlton Peters, Supported Employment Trainee.

Margins Project service users say:

"I live alone so I find this place so beautiful, so comforting, and the people are full of compassion for us"

"The food’s so delicious and nice, so I start coming there every day ‘cause food’s so lovely!"

"I probably wouldn't be quite where I am now if I hadn't been assisted by Nick, from time to time, with his support work skills"

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