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Recent City College Plymouth graduate Lee Jezard is using the knowledge and skills he gained through his time at the College to excellent use having set up a new residential facility for some of Plymouth’s most vulnerable people.
Through his new not-for-profit venture, The Breakthrough Project Plymouth, Lee hopes to provide people at risk of homelessness with a safe and stable home that will help them develop the necessary skills for independent living and give them the confidence to take up employment, education or training. Now in charge of managing a ten-bedroom residential facility, Lee is looking forward to being able to welcome new staff to the project, who will provide support to the residents via individual activity programmes that will help them achieve the overall aim.
Describing himself as “the naughty pupil”, Lee’s goal as a teenager was to leave school and join the Navy, and he had little interest in continuing with school after his GCSEs. Now 28, Lee said he soon realised after joining the Navy aged 16, that it wasn’t the career for him, and after working in a number of unsatisfying jobs, he decided he wanted a career that focused on helping others
Lee said: “I worked in a call centre for a little while and it was all about meeting targets and making sales. It was a lot of pressure with no job satisfaction whatsoever. It was then I decided that I wanted a career that would actively improve people’s lives in some way. After studying a course on supporting people recovering from substance abuse, I got a job with the Salvation Army and it was then I decided to return to education.
Whilst I only had AS levels, I spoke to a member of the health and social care team who said that my experience with the Salvation Army meant I could skip the Access course and I could start the Foundation Degree. I think it is brilliant that they take work and life experience into consideration from applicants.”
Thanks to a combination of studying the right subject and the way the course was taught, Lee discovered his love of learning and said it just “made sense” to do a top-up year to give him a full honours degree.
“The lecturers are the best thing about City College,” Lee said. “They are extremely knowledgeable, and they have a lot of experience in the health and social care sector, but in addition to that they are also really helpful. Even now, even though I have graduated, they are so supportive with The Breakthrough Project. Just as I was preparing to open the house, they helped with a donation of food for the residents to get us going. The flexibility of the course is really good, too, and it meant I could continue working full-time while I did my degree, and that I could use the time spent at work to count towards my placement hours.
“We have only been open for about six weeks, but I’m already seeing improvement in the residents. That feeling reaffirms that I have found the career for me.
“Some have had truly awful experiences – and all of them have been homeless – but it is great to see them engaging in group activities and chores and just generally looking happier than when they came here; these are all things most of us take for granted, but for some, it is the first step towards living independently.”
Lee added he was hugely grateful for the support he has had in setting up the project and wished to thank the people of Plymouth for their donations of household items and furniture.
“There is a lot of kindness in Plymouth, but it has its challenges, and I hope this facility can be one of a number of organisations that is helping our most vulnerable residents to get back on their feet and enjoying their lives.”