Saima is a true all-rounder. She quickly embraced online opportunities during the pandemic, improving her digital skills on our Learn to Learn courses in Bradford. She is now a Community Digital Champion, recruiting learners and helping them to enrol. The confidence she has developed as a student is now being passed to others. 

I first got to know the WEA through sewing classes at the local community centre. We started with an introduction to Asian dressmaking. Sometimes, we all followed the same techniques – on others we could focus on our own designs. I really enjoyed it.  

I had struggled with ill-health for three years previously and taken time off work. So, I wasn't around a lot of people socially. You lose those communication skills. The tutors were always so welcoming and encouraging. And the atmosphere in the class really picked me up when I needed it. Learning with the WEA has helped me regain my confidence and feel more like myself – who I was, as a person. I’m now doing things I normally wouldn't have had the courage to attempt. 

When lockdown happened, I read about how all the major universities had closed down, so I imagined it would be ages until small community centres would get courses back on track. But within a few weeks, I received an invitation to join an online taster course on upcycling face masks. It was a good opportunity to see if I liked it – and it was really good. So I signed up for more courses.  

I already had digital skills, such as sending emails and shopping online. The Canvas website was confusing at first, but the Learn to Learn (L2L) tutorial was helpful and I soon began to help others find their feet. You have to go right back to basics sometimes and explain things you wouldn’t normally think twice about. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but I’ve learned to put instructions in the simplest terms possible and see things from their perspective. We usually get there in the end.  

As well as becoming a WEA volunteer, I’ve started a WEA online Personal Development course, taken up exercise to improve my health and enrolled for the initial assessment on a WEA Community Interpreting course. I’m now considering taking a Level 3 Award in Education & Training. In the future, I would like more independence and paid employment.  

That’s the dream.  

“In Bradford, our students are among the most disadvantaged in the country – many lacking both digital skills and language skills. We devised a programme that would support potential learners to get online, called Community Digital Champions. Saima embraced the opportunity, rapidly improved her digital skills in Learn to Learn (L2L) and was soon helping others to study or enrol. Saima is a superstar. It’s amazing to see how far she has come on her personal journey. There has been so much hardship from COVID-19, but it has also helped people like Saima to flourish and make a real contribution. Her story is why we do the job we do.” Elizabeth McPherson, course organiser, Bradford WEA.  

Share this page:

Elaine Wilkie head of region WEA Yorkshire & Humber
Image overlay triangle
About the author

Elaine Wilkie

Head of Region: Yorkshire and Humber

Head of Region: Yorkshire and Humber