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Antonina Mendola talks access to work, the power of laughter and guitar rock gods

Posted by Julie Cole PA to Head of Oxfam Cymru

19th Dec 2012

Cardiff Boutique

Antonina Mendola is Oxfam Cymru's BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Lone Parent Access to Work Project Lead. Find out about this innovative project , why she loves laughing and what she would love to share with a guitar rock god!

In one sentence how would you sum up the BME Lone Parent Access to Work Project*?

That would be impossible - can I have three?!


The aim of this project is to make positive interventions into the lives of BME lone parents who have been affected by new benefit legislation. This pilot project is currently working with 22 people.


Research shows that this group of people already experience high levels of poverty and disadvantage amongst other social barriers to being able to fully sustain themselves and their family.


1. Intensive mentoring support on a 1:1 and group basis in order to get people closer to the work place, particularly focusing on confidence building and dealing with issues and barriers which people experience.

2. Volunteering placements in 3 Oxfam shops in Cardiff and Newport to gain work experience (placements are flexible to accommodate child care needs).

3. We have created a retail skills qualification which gives 3 credits towards NVQ level 2. The project funds those who wish to take up the qualification. Participants undertake the qualification whilst on the job training up to deputy manager level.

The project uses Oxfam's tried and tested Sustainable Livelihood's Approach (can put link here)

What has been its main achievement so far?

In just under 2 months 2 people have found paid employment but also importantly the whole group are gaining in experience and confidence and are feeling able to take control of their destinies.

But this should really come from one of our participants:

"Since coming on the programme I now know what I want to do with my life and my dreams are coming true. I have made the decision to run my own clothing and tailoring business." Saima Abbas, Cardiff

Saima has also become the volunteer administrator for the project and will be mentoring other volunteers in gaining their retail skills qualifications.


What has made you laugh during the project?

Some of the personalities are really shining through as we've got to know each other - whenever we meet we are always laughing.

What has it been like working with the Oxfam shops?

There are always challenges when you set up new projects; however we have worked through these in a positive way. We could not have got this project to this point without the shops, particularly with star managers like Becky Mann in the Oxfam Boutique.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Juggling a number of roles within the project but I just love the people!

How would you like the project to be remembered?

I would like the project to carry on and broaden. It would be great for all volunteers in Oxfam shops to be given the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst gaining work experience.

What motivates you to get up in the morning?

My lovely ladies and watching people grow and develop.

Who would you most like to share a chocolate muffin with?

Jimmy Hendrix!

If you could change one thing to make the world a better place what would it be?

Teach more people to find the laughter in their lives.

*This project has been funded by: Job Centre Plus - flexible support fund and Unilever.

Blog post written by Julie Cole

PA to Head of Oxfam Cymru

More by Julie Cole