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Success Stories

This section provides the chance to read about real individuals and their unique journey in how the GEM Project has helped them to move closer towards employment.


Gloucester | GDA

Liz hadn’t worked for over five years and although she was actively looking for work, felt that due to being deaf she was unable to find employment.

“Before joining the GEM Project, I was very isolated. I was never given much support even though I was looking for work."  

The GEM Project was recommended to Liz through Gloucestershire Deaf Association, and working alongside Reg her Navigator Developer she was then able to secure a position at Coventry Building Society.

Liz was given the opportunity to complete a three month work experience trial at Coventry Building Society and has now been offered a part time paid position in their office. Although initially she had an interpreter support her during her work placement, since becoming employed by Coventry, these hours have reduced due to her confidence developing and the strong network of support from her team members.

“I would definitely recommend GEM to anyone; it’s been really encouraging with helping disabled people back into work. It’s given me my confidence back and helped me to rebuild my life again. The project is very supportive.”



Lisa has suffered with anxiety and depression all her life. With a background in Accountancy and Finance, but being out of work for 10 years, she knew she didn’t want to go back to work in that industry but was unsure where to turn.

“I always felt quite isolated; I knew that I wanted to get back into work but didn’t know how to get there. I turned to yoga around 5 years ago as a means of escape, but never thought I could pursue this as a career.”

Whilst working with the Family Support Service through CCP, Lisa met her Navigator Developer Sam and signed up to the project. Her GEM journey saw her embark on a new career as a self-employed yoga teacher. Lisa completed a Business Start Up course through Gloucestershire Enterprise Ltd which was funded by the GEM Project, as well as obtaining her DBS. She has also had the opportunity to complete a 200-hour adult course in yoga, with the intention to ultimately teach yoga to children and adults to help with any mental health issues they may be dealing with.

Sam, Lisa’s Navigator Developer comments “Lisa was initially extremely shy and anxious in our first meeting. But after some intensive support, I was able to empower her to attend some art groups and a confidence course. From that point on she has gone from strength to strength.

It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Lisa and support her with her yoga business. Seeing Lisa’s confidence grow and achieve so much in the past year really makes my job so rewarding.”

 “It’s been a year long journey, but I’ve now set up my own business ‘Yoganna be’. Sam has been amazing and so supportive throughout my time on GEM. I’d definitely recommend the GEM Project, it’s been transformational!”



Ibrahim was a tailor in Syria working at his family owned factory, with over 30 years' experience in this industry. After losing everything due to the situation in Syria, he came over to the UK on the Syrian Resettlement Programme. One of his daughters was also in urgent need of medical attention and so Ibrahim took the plunge and moved to the UK. 

He met his Navigator Developer Sarah through the support he was receiving through GARAS. She discovered that he used to be a tailor, so wanted to help him pursue a career in this field once again. 

Sarah said "I took a chance at contacting Emma Willis, a well-known tailor in Gloucester. Eve with little English his sewing is so great, I thought it was worth seeing if there was an opportunity for Ibrahim. He had to take a test and make two silk shirts which apparently is really hard to sew, but after the test on Thursday I received a call on Friday, offering Ibrahim a position to start the following Monday."

Ibrahim was employed by Emma Willis for a month, but due to the challenges Ibrahim was facing, including language barriers, family emergencies and understanding UK processes and procedures, it was considered best for Ibrahim to become self-employed. Emma Willis provided lots of support and flexibility to allow this to happen and Ibrahim is now operating his tailoring business from Stroud. 

Ibrahim is now a self-employed tailor, with his main contractor being Emma Willis, but it also enables him to take on other clients -Flax- London being another. 

"I've got big dreams to open up my own factory here in the UK to help other refugees in a similar situation to what I was in. I'm so thankful to everyone who has helped me and my family create a new life here including the support and help from Sarah and the GEM Project."  

If you want to know more about the work Ibrahim is doing, need some alterations or even fancy having something special made for that great occasion, please contact the GEM team and we will pass your details across. 


Gloucester | Artshape

Julie joined the GEM Project having heard about it through Artshape. Initially Julie trained as a Graphic Designer but has also worked as a chef, until a back injury as well as mental health issues changed things. Suffering with anxiety and depression, she got involved with Artshape where she has since spent countless hours on her beautiful artworks. 

Julie said "The GEM Project has really helped me to get information about how to advertise my work and get it out there. Donna, my Navigator Developer encouraged me to run a market stall in Stroud and had my designs printed onto pencil tins, cups, compact mirrors and bags. It helped my confidence in talking to people and was the first time I'd ever had my designs printed in that way". 

In January, Julie's art, along with others from Artshape, was put on show in an exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral, themed around Odyssey. GEM Navigator Developer Donna said: "Julie is a very accomplished artist and her work really does speak for itself. We are working on supporting Julie to exhibit her work and get maximum exposure, and moving towards setting up a professional website and self-employment. I'm excited for Julie's future and always look forward to seeing her new creations."

Ultimately, Julie dreams of becoming a freelance artist, commissioning work or illustrating books, but would also like to help others enjoy the therapeutic benefits of working with art materials. 






Cheltenham | CCP

Matt, a father of six (including twin boys) had previously worked as a labourer, but had been out of work for 10 years due to severe anxiety and depression.  He heard about the GEM Project after being referred by the Job Centre. 

“I hadn’t heard about the GEM Project before, but when I met my Navigator Developer Sam he really understood me, never pressured me into anything and empowered me to make my own decisions about moving forwards in my life.”

During his time on the project, Matt volunteered on the CCP allotments, where he got to meet other people which he found “scary”, but felt he “always went home with a smile”.  He also took part in an IT skills course, qualified for his Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card (both funded by the GEM Project),  and had the opportunity to develop his CV, which impressed his new employer.

GEM Navigator Developer Sam said: “my role is about getting to know participants, building trust with them, and working with them to set a plan – but based on their own decisions.  Working with Matt has been great and I’ve really seen his confidence grow.  I’m delighted he’s now found employment and I’m really proud of the steps he’s made, which I know haven’t been easy.”

Matt would one day like to return to construction but is keeping his options open, and is enjoying the support of his new employer – B&M – where he is working as a Warehouse Assistant.

Matt says “I would 100% recommend the GEM Project to anyone needing help with those next steps, it’s really helped me.  My wife says I’m like a different person, in a good way!”.


Gloucester | The Nelson Trust

Clare joined the GEM Project in early 2017 via The Nelson Trust, and she was keen to gain volunteering experience and build her skills to work towards become an outdoor fitness instructor.

A mother of two and recovering from alcoholism and mental health issues, Clare had just been able to have her children back and living with her, but things sadly fell apart when she relapsed and was admitted to Wotton Lawn in August that year.  When Clare was well enough to come out of Wotton Lawn, GEM Navigator Developer Michelle supported her on her journey. 

Michelle said:  “I managed to secure a flat for Clare in her own name, and worked with social services to maintain contact with her children, as she decided that she couldn’t cope with being a full-time Mum.”

Clare then took part in an anxiety awareness course - Mind, Monday and Me - funded by the GEM Project, and found mindfulness and meditation at the local Buddhist temple. She also started working with local charity Change, Grow, Live to support her with her recovery.

As a result, Clare became very calm and accepting of life in general and started a health and social care course with the Open University in January 2018. Though Clare decided she needed to put studying on hold, she took on a part-time job at Asda and is now working there full time.  She is aiming to complete her BA in Health and Social Care with the Open University in the future.

Clare said: “The GEM Project and my Navigator Developer gave me the help I needed to get back on track, helped me find what it was I wanted to do and set me on the right path to achieve my goals”.



Gloucester | GRCC

"I have a gift, it is a gift which many of us have, but it is how we decide to use it that really counts. My gift is Dyslexia!  Yes, Dyslexia to me is a gift...  However, it does come with it’s down-sides. I can’t spell to save my life, I can’t remember people’s names from one day to the next, the last book I read was ‘Paddington goes to London’ when I was 19 years of age.  Dyslexia does have its problems but the key is to learn how to cope. Then once you have mastered the art of coping you can begin to blossom the talents dyslexia might bring to you and use them to your advantage.

Dyslexia gives me creativity and I have used it to write a book – a children’s illustrated novel.  The idea began a decade before a novel had even been thought about. A bedtime story was needed one night, in a holiday cottage in Port Isaac, Cornwall – and with no books around there was only one thing to do: make one up.  The Knick-Knack Tree Adventures’ were born, and there was no turning back. The task seemed endless; in fact, it took almost 2 years to write and then I decided to illustrate it. Eventually the story was complete. The first Knick-Knack Tree Adventure had arrived: Trouble in Trickletown.

Now all I needed to do was to sell. This was were all my problems began!  The hard drive failed on my computer, I had an accident at work which took away all my confidence, I became house bound with depression. I never went out I kept the curtains drawn in my house and I never answered my phone. What made matters worse was the fact that I had no job and I just could not find any way forward with Universal Credits.

"Then I found the GEM Project and Julie, my Navigator Developer – she stuck by me and what a journey we had! Julie guided me through a minefield of problems and I cannot thank her and the GEM project enough. It took almost 3 months to sort out and several visits to the food bank (yes things were that bad) but now my life is back on track, I still have a long way to go but my story-book project – ‘Knick-Knack Tree Adventures’ is beginning to get recognised… so watch this space!"

The Kindle edition of Trouble is Trickletown is now available from Amazon.


Young Gloucestershire

Phoebe joined the GEM project with a catering qualification and plenty of volunteering experience, but was really struggling to find a job due to having High-Functioning Autism.

“I was really keen to find a job, but with needing some extra support in a role I found it hard to find an employer who was willing to give me a chance. I was getting lots of interviews but not being offered the job.”

Ione, her Navigator Developer supported Phoebe through interview practice and completing an employability qualification, and now Phoebe is working at Hubble Bubble in Gloucester as a waitress.

Manager of Hubble Bubble, Rae Hunt said: “By making a simple adjustment to our training process – including using clear checklists and straightforward wording with Phoebe – we have gained a very valuable member of the team. Phoebe is never late, she works consistently hard with exacting standards and is meticulous in her presentation.”

“We also gave Phoebe a work trial at the start and could instantly see she would be great for the job.  She performed really well in the interview but the work trial really showed us what she was capable of.”

Phoebe commented: “I’ve really enjoyed my whole experience on the GEM Project, the 1:1 support has been great and has helped to find me a job that I enjoy. I even get to prepare some of the food such as their Freak Shakes!”


Cheltenham | Specsavers

James has a learning disability, and six months ago he couldn’t read or write. Keen to work, he had delivered telephone directories in the past and volunteered for many organisations, but his dream was to find a paid job and to be part of a team.  “I handed out lots of CVs, and went for loads of interviews, but nobody wanted me” said James.

In October 2017 James met GEM Navigator Developer Joe through National Star College. “Joe was really helpful. He said I can always talk to him about any concerns, and call him if I want on other jobs in the future. He took me to interview practice, which really helped when I came into Specsavers.” James added.

Specsavers were delighted to create a role for James, who now works in the lab cleaning glasses, putting them in the right cases and getting them ready for collection. “James is such a valued member of the team” said Emily from Specsavers. “He’s reliable, thoughtful and puts a smile on everyone’s face. In the last few months he’s also started recognising letters and numbers more and has been learning to read though Read Easy.  We’re very proud of him.”

“The GEM project has really helped me" James commented. "I’m so happy to finally get a chance. It’s nice that someone can see beyond the disability, and that’s all people like us need”.


Gloucester | Artshape

Max has long had problems with social anxiety, depression and suffered poor mental health, and was more recently diagnosed with Asperger’s.  Because of this, Max had never been able to hold down a “proper job”.

Max was unable to leave the house for a several years due to mental health, but then began spending time at Artshape, and found out about the GEM Project.  “Max is a true artist” commented Donna, GEM Navigator Developer for Artshape.  “My goal was to help Max realise that”.  Around the same time, Max developed a real connection and love for Vultures, and quickly started to combine the two – painting, sketching, drawing.  It had long been Max’s dream to exhibit a collection, but in Max’s own words, Donna “made it seem possible”.

With the help of Donna, Max had the courage to approach the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) – where many hours had been spent creating works of art – and asked about exhibiting.  A short while later, Max’s dream of a solo exhibition was realised, with the Vulture collection filling a wall in the ICBP café.  Max is “chuffed” to have already sold two pieces – with the money raised from the sales contributing to conservation efforts to save endangered Vultures from disappearing (

Max said “I am now capable of making a contribution to society.  I’ve had to work to deadlines, organise my collection and I’ve also helped to run art workshops.  People now sit and have their coffee being watched by my Vultures.”

You find out more about Max’s work by visiting or @VultureArts on Facebook.