Friday, 2 September 2016

Food for thought

In her regular column for the Waltham Forest Echo Link4Growth volunteer Debra Oakaby visits a community café helping vulnerable people.

The new community café at YMCA East London, Forest Road is open seven days a week from 7.30am-7pm, Monday to Friday, and 7.30am-2pm at weekends.

For more information on YMCA East London:
Call 020 8509 4600
In her regular column in the Waltham Forest Echo highlighting local projects, charities and services, Link4Growth volunteer Debra Oakaby visited WAVE (Walthamstow All Voice Ensemble) community choir.

No experience is necessary. The choir meets Wednesdays 7.30-9.30 in the Melody Room at Harmony Hall, 10, Truro Road, E17 7BY. The first rehearsal is free, then it's £10/£8 per session.  

For more information contact Virginia on 07813-116505. To sign up, contact Jo on 07930 636678.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

YMCA Health and Wellbeing Centre Launch

It is a very exciting time for us at Forest YMCA as we approach the completion of our new Health & Wellbeing Centre. In order to mark the occasion, on the weekend of Saturday the 24th October and Sunday the 25th October from 10.00am to 4.00pm we are holding an event to showcase the new facilities, along with an unveiling of our new name and brand!

Throughout both days there will be a variety of free activities and taster sessions that people of all ages and abilities can take part in, from therapy sessions to gym challenges to food demonstrations. The Mayor of the LBWF, Cllr Saima Mahmud, has kindly agreed to officially open the new Centre on Saturday 24 October at 3.30pm. You can click here to see more details of what’s happening on the day.

We hope that you will be able to join us at some point during the weekend and check out our new facilities – or failing that pop along when you have the time. We also have an amazing new sports hall and studios, all of which are for hire.

We want as many people as possible to come along, and we would be very grateful if you could print off the attached poster and display at your place of work, or alternatively email on to your contacts and networks.

PDF version

We look forward to welcoming you to the event.

Best wishes


Kat Fisher
Community Development Officer

0208 509 4600 (ext 4668)

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Link4Growth NE London, on the road again in E17!

On 17th September, Jane Walker and I were heading for the Adult Learning Centre in Queens Road Walthamstow, laden down with pull up banners, flyers, and everything else we needed to exhibit Link4Growth at the borough’s annual jobs fair.  The day started well with someone giving us a helping hand along the way and the weather was promising too, the sort of day when you’re itching to be out and about, much different from the day before. 
This year the fair had been moved upstairs and we had no idea where our stall would be, especially as we were a bit different from everyone else, in that we didn’t have any jobs to offer.  We were pleasantly surprised to find our stall was in a large and airy room with plenty of light, a far cry from those pitched up in the corridor outside the disabled toilet!
So far, so good.  We were warned that there would be hundreds of people descending on this part of town and any time soon.  It seemed a bit hard to believe that this was going to happen.  Then at 10.00am the doors opened and the room filled up and it was pretty much like this until 3.00pm, when the event finished.  Thankfully Beverley Burke, one of our subscribers arrived in the morning and helped us out; we couldn’t have wished for a better and nicer ambassador for Link4Growth.
With two groups that meet regularly in Walthamstow, there was a lot of interest in what Link4Growth was doing locally.  I met so many interesting people on the day with a huge array of talents and skills, from plumbing to supporting mentally ill patients.  
People seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing and when we said we were volunteers this seemed to reinforce our message. Maybe, after being exhibitors at a number of community events in the last year or so, we are now better able to articulate the value of talking to other people, and establishing connections with others who could potentially help now or in the future. 
You know what it’s like if you’ve been out of the workplace for some time or you’re struggling to get your first job, after a while your self-esteem and self-confidence can get knocked.  That’s why it was humbling when someone chose to share their story with me.  I do hope these people come to one of our events as they’ve got so much to offer and we will do our best to help them.
I had the privilege of delivering 2 business based seminars to a large number of people who wanted to work for themselves.  It goes without saying that I promoted the value of Link4Growth for improving inter-personal skills and for starting a business.  Yet, the greater value is in belonging to something that’s much bigger than you are, which is pretty much free to join in and where you get to feel good about yourself.  Let’s face it, these opportunities are few and far between. 
As a coach taking action is an essential part of what I do and profess to others who want to make progress in their lives. When I realised that we had had over 100 people actively join our mailing list from this event, I knew we had been in the right place at the right time.  Someone recently told me that she believed people come into your life when you need them most, and I think this is true for Link4Growth too.  I’m looking forward to meeting some of these people again, and soon!
Debra Oakaby

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Anyone for tea?

Kindly photographed by Phil Dockerill
We recently enjoyed our Annual Link4Growth Afternoon Tea with friends and supporters and some new faces too, 28 people joined in.  The event took place in my local church hall at Christ the King Chingford.  Working as a team, Fiona, Richard, Alex, Jane and yours truly, managed to transform the hall into, a pleasant and welcoming space with bunting and balloons galore and of course our Buy Local table.

Despite the tube strike some people made long journeys to get to us and this was greatly appreciated.  A big thank you to our cake makers who did us proud, with not a shop bought cake in sight.  As the tea flowed so did the conversation.  

One guest said, “The buzz greeting me when I came through the door was really tangible. What a friendly group of people, who were clearly trying to help each other.”  

Here's some video feedback that we recorded with Karen during the event:

Our District leader, Jane awarded Alex Burton with his new L4G badge, so he is now a fully-fledged member of the crew and Chris Ogle, the founder of L4G said a few words too.  Then it was time for a group photo in the garden and the sun really did shine!  It somehow felt as though we had arranged this too!
Last year I went to a royal garden party attended by the Queen, but it wasn’t half as much fun as this one.  Why? It was like being on a film set, people seemed more interested in appearances rather than conversation.

By contrast our Chingford tea party goers got chatting from the off, and soon the room was buzzing.  I managed to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for a while.  We had a cross section of people in our midst, some unemployed, others were small business owners or freelancers and we had some children too. 

If you want to see more events like this one please let your friends know about Link4Growth NE London and come along to one of our meetings – held in Chingford, Walthamstow and South Woodford.  

Hope to see you soon!
Debra Oakaby
Career and Business Coach


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The jewel in the L4G crown

It was 9 July 2015 and we were taking part in the Business Lab’s Supplier’s Showcase in the Stratford Centre.  As we made final touches to our stalls, Glen Addis, the man in charge gathered us together for a motivating pep talk before counting down and lifting up the shutters to unsuspecting passers-by.  The Business Lab had been transformed into a high end market place of goods and services, vibrant, colourful and talkative.  Everyone did their business proud.
Exhibiting Link4Growth NE London was an opportunity not to be missed.  Our aim was to let more people know about the benefits of coming to one of our meetings and judging by the number of people who joined our mailing list it was a very successful event.
In spite of the tube strike there was still a good turnout.  I met lots of new people and spotted some familiar faces too.  There were also some comical moments such as sharing a joke with Ade about his office in Paris, but that’s another story.  And the woman looking for ‘eggless’ sweets as she was allergic to eggs!  When you’re working with people you have to be prepared for the unexpected and with uncertainty comes excitement!
Alex Burton helped me set up the stall – it looked great - before checking out the catering and some hot sauces on display at the front of the Lab.  Indeed, he had one or two Italian moments when he discovered that our fellow stall holder was an Italian restauranteur.  You couldn’t have planned it better, two foodies together!
Fiona Flaherty, Community Leader NE London set up her ‘surgery’ behind us sharing her wisdom on all things health related that was much appreciated.  At about midday, the cavalry arrived in the form of Jane Walker, our District Leader and Tony Cohen, Community Host Walthamstow St James Street.  Jane didn’t waste any time talking to camera about the virtues of Link4Growth NE London, whilst Tony helped to get some more sign ups.  It truly was a team effort!
When I got the chance I had a look at the other stalls and spoke to quite a few small business owners.  What struck me was their passion, self-motivation and strong belief in what they were doing. I was so impressed at the array of goods on offer and the skills and talents of the people behind them.  The sum of all these parts was potentially huge; if only I could bottle such enthusiasm I would be wealthy indeed.  Being part of a collective activity like this event, got me thinking that when people come together for a common purpose it creates an energy or buzz that is somehow infectious as well as powerful. 
As Stephen Covey said, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”.
I haven’t mentioned the jewel in our crown yet and I must.  It’s our Afternoon Tea on Thursday 6 August 2-4.30pm at Christ the King Church Hall, 455 Chingford Rd E4 8SP.  Quite a few people took photos of our poster advertising the event.  Like us they’re looking forward to having a chat over a decent cuppa and homemade cake in a pleasant and friendly environment.  Mary Berry we salute you for making this simple occasion so popular again.  
If you haven’t booked in yet please register here so we can make sure we’ve got enough cake for everyone!  And why not bring someone with you too?  Maybe a family member, friend, colleague or favourite customer? Children are welcome to come along too.
If we can do more to raise the profile of our communities and promote the importance of the local economy at the same time, then we must.  That’s where you come in.  Let’s be inspired by Mary Berry’s revival of home baking and see what we can do to restore our communities by working together.  Here’s a photo from last year’s event.
But we can’t do it on our own and we need your help.  If everyone on our database told at least one other person about Link4Growth NE London, we’re talking about more than 1,000 people, all potential contacts with a phenomenal range of skills and knowledge.  Now that would be useful, wouldn’t it?  
See you soon, Debra Oakaby, Community Leader NE London
Debra Oakaby July 2015
Tel. 07906 007613 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Get Set for Growth

Get Set for Growth Business advisor Lee Hazzard gave an informative presentation on the services that their programme offers as part of the new 'Link4Knowledge' slot at our Chingford Link4Coffee event.

Lee is a seasoned entrepreneur of 15 years and has spent the last ten years creating and assisting start-ups and small business in business plan writing, marketing and investment readiness. Lee has organised professional annual conferences, breakfast meetings and forums for many business sectors and has helped raised over £300,000 for entrepreneurs in the last 18 months.

Get Set for Growth aims to help support East London based SMEs (Waltham Forest, Hackney, Newham, Islington and Tower Hamlets).

Get Set For Growth is a Business Support initiative funded by J.P. Morgan for East London. Their specialisms are helping existing SME's become Investment Ready as well as assisting them to develop marketing strategies that are fine tuned for the purpose of accessing customers - they strongly believe the two go hand in hand - 30 years of experience and success has validated these beliefs.

They are a highly collaborative company with a strong social ethos; over 50% of their business is non profit and many of our projects are aimed at uplifting socially disadvantaged groups either through direct job creation through their start up programme ( or directly supporting particular cohorts (

The Get Set for Growth project they are running in East London has already been successful in helping growth SME's in Bournemouth and Cornwall and they will be launching additional Projects in other parts of the country.

The services they will be providing for SME's via Get Set for Growth are fully funded.