Tenant awarded £16,000 cleaning contract
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
Leobanda receives £16,000 contract
A London-based housing association has awarded a resident a £16,000 cleaning contract after she won first prize in its Start Your Own Business challenge.
Islington resident Leobanda Balcazar answered the challenge put down by her housing association Arhag - and landed the top prize. 10 other residents won start-up funding and/or further training.
The competition saw social housing residents from five different providers take part.
The £16,000 contract is to provide cleaning services for a year to Arhag’s refugee hostel and three blocks of flats in Newham
Ms Balcazar said that it was an opportunity to transform her life, to be her own boss and set up Maid Direct, using both the training she received as part of the challenge and the expertise she has built up delivering clinical cleaning services at UCL Hospital.
Arhag Vice Chair Robert Johnson said: “Arhag is not going to stop here. We are determined to enhance the prospects of our residents.”
Ms Balcazar, 54, of Moreland Street, Islington, arrived in London in 1996 from Columbia with her young son, with no English or prospects. She spent seven years as a volunteer for the Latin American Welfare Group as she built up her English and began to take on domestic cleaning work.
As her English improved, she moved into clinical cleaning, working with Interserve at UCL Hospital, and is now a supervisor in charge of the cleaning of three oncology wards. She is qualified in infection control, a trained trainer and holds Level 2 & 3 Teaching Assistant qualifications.
In Columbia she had worked successfully both as a journalist and to build up a medical clinic specialising in hyperbaric medicine and alternative therapies.
She said: “When I came to England, I could not continue work as a journalist, I did not have the language skills. I was used to being busy and I really struggled. Arhag has given me everything. In 2005, when I had nothing, they gave me a home of my own, and now they are giving me the confidence to build up my own business. I hope to be able to train and employ others, including Arhag residents. I am so full of ideas to build up the business.
“When I first started cleaning, I was shocked at how people treated cleaners, how they were not valued. I became determined to take pride in cleaning, and that is what I now try to inspire in the cleaners I supervise in the hospital.”