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Opinion: One of our tenants teaches Polish

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Opinion: One of our tenants teaches Polish

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

Opinion: One of our tenants teaches Polish Opinion: One of our tenants teaches Polish

Yorkshire Housing’s community investment manager, Gill Robinson explains how the tables have been turned.

An increasing number of housing organisations are working to help their tenants into self-employment.

Here at Yorkshire Housing we have developed a strong track record in supporting our tenants with their business ideas. Over the last 12 months we have helped over 100 tenants start or develop their businesses. Here’s an inspiring story from one of our tenants Maggie Wiercigroch from Enigma Language.

Originally from Opole near Krakow, Maggie moved to the UK nine years ago and learned to speak English. She worked part-time in the kitchen at Leeds University. As a qualified teacher (Master’s Degree in Education and Post Masters Diploma specialisation in Social Influence) she had a dream to work for herself.

In 2010 she worked as a volunteer translator and Polish language tutor for West Yorkshire Police. This enabled her to develop business ideas and practice teaching.   

Our neighbourhood team received a request to run a business from home and this alerted us to someone who may need some support. She was referred to Nikki Flett, one of our enterprise coaches, who helped her put a business plan together.

They quickly identified an opportunity to teach basic Polish at Yorkshire Housing.

Maggie has been putting Yorkshire Housing employees through their paces to learn the language basics. It will help frontline workers receive a warm customer welcome at a time when the Polish population is the fastest growing community group in the UK.

Over 10 weeks, Maggie has provided lessons in Bradford, Sheffield, York and Leeds. More than 30 employees in different roles have taken part. The hour-long sessions introduced basic greetings and questions to elicit information. She’s helped staff with pronunciation, practised basic conversations and how to extract information from their identification cards. She has given employees confidence to put Polish into practice. It has helped customer-facing staff engage and receive a warm Polish welcome.

Maggie said: “Places like Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Sheffield and York have seen a significant increase in the numbers of Polish immigrants. I enjoy working with Yorkshire Housing and feel I can help the organisation build stronger links with the Polish community. I have also translated fire notices to help keep our Polish residents safe in some of the sheltered schemes.”

Here’s a video of Maggie talking about her experience of teaching Polish to Yorkshire Housing employees.

One of the neighbourhood officers taking part in the classes said: “Even after just a few lessons I was able to say a few words of Polish to my customers. It makes them feel valued knowing that we want to learn their language in an effort to understand and help them.”

We are very proud to be delivering our business enterprise service to tenants as we recognise the huge amount of talent and entrepreneurial spirit that sits within our communities. Our intention is to help turn these ideas into viable businesses that will not only benefit individuals, but also the wider economy.

Maggie has made her dream a reality, who will be next?

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