Shaletta’s story: From service user to social entrepreneur

Shaletta, Coin Street Community Builders

Shaletta, mother of three, started using Coin Street family & children’s centre services in February 2010. Since then she has turned her life around through education and determination, with the help of Coin Street’s parental support services. She has gained a strong education and now runs her own social enterprise while her children are thriving at school.

When I first heard about Coin Street I was living in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey in temporary accommodation having fled from an abusive relationship.

My daughter Naima was four weeks old at the time, Jamal was fifteen months old and Djon was 4 years old. Djon was on School Action Plus and it was suspected that he was on the autistic spectrum. Jamal has Autistic Spectrum Disorder as well as global development delay.

A support worker for Look Ahead Housing, knowing I was moving to Lambeth, got in contact with Coin Street. When I moved to my flat Hommie (Family Support & Outreach Manager at Coin Street family & children’s centre) came to see me for a home visit. I remember Hommie being warm and supportive. Hommie helped me with some initial difficulties at school.  She conducted a Common Assessment Framework which helped me access services. I also had a student social worker.

I attended a Stay ‘n’ Play session at the time. It was hard to manage Jamal, who was running up and down – particularly as I was constantly breastfeeding. I recall one time in particular when Naima had been screaming and I had to leave the centre. Jenny Deeks introduced herself to me in the street – encouraging me to keep coming to the centre. Around this time I was given a place for Jamal at Buffer Bears nursery– Coin Street didn’t have a space but I was encouraged to go to Buffer Bears.

Coin Street Family & Children Centre

Activities in our family & children centre

When Naima was three she got a place at Coin Street. I then started college – I did Business Studies Level 2 with Maths and English. I then did Programming and Web Design as well as Accounting Level 1.

When Jamal started school I had difficulties getting his needs met by the school. I was suffering from stress and had a poor diet – my iron levels were really low. I also felt physically drained and had no confidence. Hommie and Jenny at Coin Street family & children’s centre helped me to get information and support to work with the school for Jamal.

The Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities parenting course really did it for me. I had purchased a book called “The Wonder Years” or something and when I mentioned this to Hommie she invited me to come along to the course. She said that a free lunch and a crèche would be provided and I jumped at the chance. When I was there I met Heidi – while we were talking I found out she was my next door neighbour! I had never met her.

When the course started I was prepared to change my life and my parenting. I was ready for it – to dig deeper into myself. The course starts with the foundations – your ethnic, cultural and spiritual roots. I was able to look at things – to see who I am today. The big thing was taking responsibility for my life – to reflect on how I reacted to things. If you don’t take responsibility for yourself you just keep blaming others and end up stuck.

Seeing parents now and recognising what stages they are at is easy because I recognise it in myself. You have to learn it for yourself, take your time going through each stage and keep focused on reaching your goal.

I used to think – “the world is coming to an end”, “you’re a failure”, but life keeps going. You can wake up to the opportunity to do better than the day before. When I look back to when I first came to Coin Street I see a young woman, isolated, scared, exhausted and uncertain of anything. I hated myself.

Now, there are so many differences.

At the end of the course I had the opportunity to train as a Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities Facilitator. I have co-facilitated two courses with Coin Street and Peabody. I have also set up my own social enterprise – New Transitions (newtransitionse@gmail.com).

I became Vice Chair of the Parents & Carers VOICE! and attended Coin Street advisory board meetings. I volunteered for Coin Street during my Strengthening Families Strengthening Communities training and now I get paid to run courses. I felt so good when I finished the course and started working.

My kids are amazing and they are doing well at school. The relationship I have with the school is respectful and their needs are met. Naima is a feisty diva – like her mum, Jamal is cuddly and affectionate.

As for the next steps – I don’t focus that far ahead, I take every day as it comes. I want to live in the moment – not thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

Find out more about our family support services and activities at Coin Street family & children’s centre.