Oldham’s Inspiring Women

Inspire Women Oldham is a centre that helps to connect women to support and empower each other through involvement in activities and events. The organisation helps to bring together a community of women who share their stories and help each other write new ones.

Here three women share their experiences of Inspire Women Oldham and their journeys from using the services themselves to volunteering to support others.

Claire Barrow was born and bred in Oldham – where she grew up with her parents and brother. During her working life, she has been a teaching assistant, worked with adults with learning difficulties and worked at Tesco.

While working at the supermarket, Claire became poorly and ended up having major surgery for a benign brain tumour, which left her with deafness, short-term memory loss, and epilepsy. Through this, Claire lost confidence and became very low and it was recommended she attend Inspire Women Oldham. Now, aged 55, Claire says she has grown as a person, writing poetry and children’s stories, public speaking and helping to run a creative writing group and supporting others. She said: “As soon as I walked through the door, I knew I was going to be safe, one of the ladies smiled at me, and I thought this is where I need to be.

“I have been able to deal with lots of things in my life through Inspire – can’t and won’t became can and why not. I got hope back, and it helped that I was not the only woman feeling like that, I have had many enlightening times here.

I like to be positive and have a sense of humour – my confidence has been rebuilt and I now help other women to do the same.

“Anybody that comes through the door at Inspire will be welcomed and will find skills and self-belief that they never knew they had.”

Shamim Akhtar, aged 51, is originally from Bradford but has lived in Oldham for 28 years with her husband and four children. She attends Inspire Women to enjoy the company of other women and she also volunteers by putting on Quran classes for older women. She said: “My children are grown up, so I think, I have got my health so I can go out and enjoy myself and I enjoy coming to Inspire. I think I have grown in confidence with age and am a positive person in general.

“My religion has become more important to me with age. As a young person, you learn to read the Quran but not always fully understand it. Part of the teaching is to believe in the hereafter and you have to work towards that and I want to help others to do that too.”

Pauline Potts, 70, who is also Oldham born and bred, came to Inspire to help rebuild her confidence after having two breakdowns – now she volunteers to help others through complementary therapies. She said: “I took part in a 12-week programme called Finding

Me – it built me up and gave me more confidence and explained things to me which made it clearer as to why I was the way I was.

“I love walking into Inspire where you can always get a smile and a hug, and I started laughing again. It has been great to make connections with other women and now I help others, I can be sitting doing someone’s nails and they will open up and can get upset but it is like a therapy session.”

For more on Inspire Women Oldham go to: www.inspirewomenoldham.co.uk

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