Founder warns that sur­vival of key ser­vices de­pends on next few months ‘Life chang­ing’ char­ity in cri­sis

Hand-up that led to own busi­nesss

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - By Tim Collins & Hen­ri­etta Mont­gomerie

tcollins@thek­m­ A char­ity chief has warned that her or­gan­i­sa­tion is strug­gling to keep of­fer­ing some ser­vices, due to a lack of fund­ing.

Besty Aidinyantz is the founder of Join­ing Hands, based at the Com­mu­nity Craft Cen­tre and IT work­shop in Ash­ford’s lower High Street.

Since 2009, vol­un­teers have trained more than 400 peo­ple in prac­ti­cal skills rang­ing from fix­ing com­put­ers to cre­at­ing soft fur­nish­ings and fash­ion ac­ces­sories. Ar­ti­cles made or mended by the vol­un­teers are then sold in the cen­tre’s shop.

The char­ity es­ti­mates that 90% went of its ben­e­fi­cia­ries pro­ceed to paid em­ploy­ment, fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion or vol­un­tary work.

It has se­cured fund­ing in the long term, but Ms Aidinyantz says the com­ing months could make or break it.

“‘My suc­cess here is not mea­sured by how much money we have made,” she added. “It’s mea­sured by how many peo­ple we have helped.

“We are about em­pow­er­ing peo­ple, mo­ti­vat­ing and sup­port­ing them to be­come self-suf­fi­cient.

“I think our work is very im­por­tant, be­cause peo­ple come out of here and they come off ben­e­fits. They smile, they are happy, and hope­fully their life is changed for the bet­ter.

“Peo­ple can help us in a whole host of ways, whether by a cash do­na­tion, giv­ing us fab­rics and craft sup­plies, buy­ing our prod­ucts, or tak­ing part in our work­shops.

“I would just urge peo­ple to come into the shop and meet us.”

To find out more, visit www. join­ing­

Join­ing Hands is or­gan­is­ing Ash­ford fes­ti­val, the bor­ough’s first ever arts and tech­nol­ogy fes­ti­val, tak­ing place in Septem­ber.

A fundrais­ing evening was held last Fri­day, at­tended by the mayor and may­oress of Ash­ford coun­cil­lor David Smith and his wife, Chris­tine Kathaw­ick-Smith, at the Lon­don Beach Ho­tel in Ten­ter­den.

For a pro­file of the fes­ti­val, see the What’s On sec­tion of next week’s Ken­tish Ex­press. Keigh­ley Cook started go­ing to Join­ing Hands in March 2011 to at­tend a sewing work­shop as she wanted to learn a new skill to start her own busi­ness.

She started by at­tend­ing a weekly work­shop, and gained an NVQ in tex­tiles.

The course also helped im­prove her con­fi­dence in pub­lic speak­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with oth­ers.

By 2012, she was so pro­fi­cient that Betsy had em­ployed her to run a sewing work­shop.

Soon af­ter, Keigh­ley had the con­fi­dence to start her own busi­ness, mak­ing and sell­ing hand­made cush­ions.

She has fin­ished her level 2 NVQ in tex­tiles, and is work­ing for a fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion teach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Keigh­ley said: “In a mil­lion years I never imag­ined my­self as some­one who could sew, and now I’m self-em­ployed.

“I’m also part of a team mak­ing and sell­ing high-qual­ity clothes and ac­ces­sories on the high street and at com­pet­i­tive prices.

“I’m glad that I took the first steps, and my con­fi­dence has kept on grow­ing ever since.”

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM2668853

Betsy Aidinyantz and Ash­ford may­oress and mayor Chris­tine Kathaw­ick-Smith and David Smith

Pic­ture: Betsy Aidinyantz FM2667582

Keigh­ley Cook

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