When a group of learners finished their pre-employment skills course at The Centre in Bury St Edmunds, they pledged not to lose touch. So they set up a weekly chatter and natter coffee club in the centre's Fairtrade café Just Traid.
Two years later, the learners are still meeting each week - and they now welcome and mentor other learners on the LaunchPad course run at the venue in St John's Street by Realise Futures, an adult community learning provider in Suffolk.
LaunchPad is a pre-employment skills course designed to help people who are long-term unemployed, have long-term health conditions and/or disadvantages, to get ready for work or to possibly undertake further learning.
Learners are signposted to the confidence-building course by the Job Centre and Realise Futures has delivered the class to more than 200 learners in Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds.
As well as Thursday morning get-togethers, members of the group also have a once a year barbecue, a teddy bears' picnic and run other social events. The coffee club was the brainchild of former learner Donna Potts, from Bury St Edmunds. She said: "It's a great group of people. We all help one another and help new people attending the classes to feel at ease. If people are feeling low, we can support them. They realise they are not on their own; what they are feeling is what other people are feeling."
Realise Futures course tutor Viv Carter said some past learners are now in work or help at organisations as volunteers. They support and mentor other learners. "The club helps people to build up their confidence and people say they can meet friends, socialise and not feel alone with their problems."
The social enterprise has been providing community learning in Suffolk for more than 25 years and runs adult community learning courses from centres in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket, Newmarket and Lowestoft as well as other community locations.
It specialises in supporting people with disabilities and/or disadvantages, and it provides 100+ Ofsted graded Good courses across Suffolk covering maths and English, computers and technology, skills for work, health and wellbeing, and family learning.
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