“I would never have gained paid employment without the support” Natalie Greaves did not imagine that she would be working at local nursery 18 months ago, in fact she hadn’t even realised just how much she loved working with children before starting the SEMLEP 'Building Better Opportunities' project, funded through the European Social Fund and the National Lottery's Big Lottery Fund. She said: “I had always wanted to work with animals and I even have a dog grooming qualification but when the nursery offered me work experience I couldn’t say no." Karla Roberts, Manager and Early Years Teacher, Chirpy Chicks, Gretton was so inspired when she had read a story about Natalie in the newspaper and the work experience she had completed at Lydia’s Café at the beginning of the programme, that she offered her a placement. Natalie went on to impress the team so much they made her a part-time member of staff. Natalie said: “I even shocked myself with how much I enjoy working with children. My working mentor came with me on my placements until I felt confident enough to do it on my own and just having someone with me when I first started made me feel happier. I would never have gone onto gain paid employment without that support at the beginning. I love to think that the extra help I bring to the nursery staff and children makes a difference.” Natalie’s naturally caring nature and compassion makes her perfect for her role and Karla says she has become a valued team member. “Natalie continues to provide a wonderful enhancement to our team, and she takes her responsibilities seriously. She supports the children's learning and development as she understands their interests, and will spend a lot of time and patience to work alongside a child or group of children to help them to succeed. “As we are a busy setting, having an extra person has really helped us to maintain calm environment and to meet the needs of the children.” More on the 'Building Better Opportunities' project HERE. If you have learning difficulties or know someone who has and would like to access employment please email Samantha Farrow: [email protected], for more information.