Unite learning organiser Carlos Cruz picked up the Community Worker of the Year at the Latin-UK Awards (LUKAS). The award recognises his achievements in spearheading the Union’s United Migrant Workers Education Project (UMWEP) since 2007.
The LUKAS is the only annual award ceremony to recognise the contributions of one million Latino residents to British life. Carlos won the Community Worker award for his outstanding success in supporting Spanish-speaking workers in the cleaning and domestic services sector in London. The honour comes after two months of public voting and the verdicts of expert judges.
The United Migrant Workers Education Project is also chosen as the Community Project of the Year.
Carlos helped to establish the project after Unite ran a campaign to recruit Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American cleaners to the union nine years ago. Very few of the new recruits spoke English. Carlos started the project with just one tutor offering weekend English classes to 15 students. When funding for tutors dried up in 2010, he turned to volunteers to continue the service.
UMWEP is based in Faraday House in Holborn. It has around 20 volunteer tutors, providing a range of weekend learning opportunities for around 180 students. As well as English as a Second Language (ESOL), the project offers training in IT, numeracy, drama, art, creative writing and employability skills. Nine in ten students are Spanish-speaking and most have come to the UK from or via Spain.
UMWEP also helps vulnerable workers learn their employment rights and stand up against workplace bullying and harassment. It supports them in accessing other services like medical care and schooling for their children.
Carlos came to the UK from Colombia in 1991 where he had been a teacher and columnist. He says the project is growing every year adding: “Many of our students came to the UK with not one word of English, no knowledge of their rights, no possibility of getting a better job. Their employers may abuse or take advantage of them. Things are really difficult for them. This project makes all the difference.
“I didn’t expect to receive this award. It’s recognition for all the people who have been involved in this project for a long-time. The dedication and solidarity of our volunteer tutors is amazing. Many are young and give up their time over the weekend to help people. This award is for them and I am really happy for them.”
The LUKAS is now in its third year. Tens of thousands of Latino residents and other Latin culture fans vote in seven award categories marking contributions to music, sport, dance, food, the arts, business and community. 1,200 individuals and organisations were nominated this year for one of 56 LUKAS awards.
LUKAS Director Amaranta Wright said: “The United Migrant Workers Education Project is a life-line for Latinos and others fleeing economic or political troubles and seeking a better life in the UK. The whole country benefits from their hard-work and is reinvigorated by their cultures. Carlos is an inspirational figure in the Latin community who has given hope to thousands of workers and their families over the years. He richly deserves this award.”
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Notes to editors
Runner up for the Community Worker of the Year: Camilo Menjuro (LOL Choir).
Runner up for the Community Organisation of the Year: Mexico Lindo y Querido.
The LUKAS Awards were founded by journalist, writer and social entrepreneur Amaranta Wright and Latin DJ, producer and promoter Jose Luis Seijas. The event is organised by Latinolife, the UK’s leading Latino lifestyle magazine. For information visit www.thelukas.co.uk