My Unite: Mary Chapman

My Unite: Mary Chapman

21 January 2014

It’s never too late to learn

Mary ChapmanI became a Union Learning Rep in 2009 because I wanted to make a difference. I expected to help other people - I never imagined that the person who would benefit most would be me.  

I had already rediscovered the joys of learning, so I began in the new role by recruiting people to our workplace learning centre here in Norwich. Over the past few years, more than 30 people have gained qualifications through the centre.

One high point was an International Day I organised to celebrate the diversity of our workforce at First Bus in Norwich, which includes some 20 different nationalities. Almost 70 people came along, many bringing their country’s traditional dishes to share.

We had displays from Spain, Portugal, Iran, Vietnam, Lithuania, and Hungary and one guest wore her traditional Lithuanian costume. I organised a quiz on an international theme and a raffle.

At one point during the afternoon, a Spaniard, an Englishman, an Albanian, a Lithuanian and someone from Portugal were all sitting round a table laughing, joking, sampling each others’ national dishes and talking about their countries. For me, it was a memorable moment.

Last year, I registered as a maths champion so I could help people to improve their numeracy. I came up with the idea of using the card game, cribbage as a learning tool, since it requires players to use plenty of simple arithmetic. I also ran a maths competition, using questions set by a tutor from Norwich City College.

I have achieved so much as a ULR, but I would not have achieved anything without the support of  Maxine, my partner, and also Orlando Martins the RLO, based in Norwich.

I am stepping back, but only so I can work as a project worker, still concentrating on learning and education. I am now helping to set up learning centres in Lowestoft and Ipswich.

Becoming a ULR has developed my confidence and helped me to fullfil the potential which lay hidden within me. I’ve gained a string of qualifications in the past few years – more than I ever did at school. They say you’re never too old to learn and now I know just how true that is.  

Mary Chapman
Union Learning Rep at First Bus, Norwich

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