Advice & Career GuidanceStep UpJob ClubCoursesOutreachDig DeepHealthy Hub


New BBO Strive Virtual Support & Healthy Hub Launches Next Wednesday

Wednesday 16th September is the first day of our new virtual BBO Strive & Healthy Hub, supporting local people to create CVs, get advice on finding work, accessing mentoring and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Open from 10am to 1pm, the hub is accessible initially by appointment only, using the contact details listed in the poster. The hub will regularly feature events and talks from other community organisations and from the 9th October, a 5 week live cookery demonstration of creating tasty, healthy dishes.

ASCEND Isolation Blanket starts Hertfordshire Tour

We are delighted to announce that the wonderful ASCEND Isolation Blanket is currently on display at The Marlowes Shopping Centre in Hemel Hempstead until 31st August. We very much hope that it will be inspiring and thought provoking for everyone that sees it. The blanket will then hopefully be on view at Watford Museum during November (dates to be confirmed) and at Watersmeet, Rickmansworth in December. For more information about the Blanket Project and to watch the accompanying video, please click on the link at the top of this page.

New Autumn 2020 Course Brochure Launches today!

ASCEND continues to offer the local community some fantastic course in partnership with HAFLS.  These include basic skills, Maths, English and IT as well as employability and arts based courses.   At the present time, our courses are being delivered remotely by Zoom and Google Classroom due to the Covid-19 pandemic but we are regularly reviewing the situation and we hope to run some sessions face to face, in line with Government advice on social distancing.   For further details and to book, please ring Jane on 07483 104910.

ASCEND Launches “reCoVer 19” Appeal

ASCEND today launched its “reCoVer 19” appeal, in order to raise funds to support the increasing demand for our services due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  ASCEND has been working within South Oxhey, Watford, Three Rivers and adjoining areas for nearly 24 years, supporting those furthest from the employment market to move forward in their lives.   As the UK comes out of lock-down, ASCEND is preparing for a big demand in its back to work, training and well-being services.   Commenting on the appeal, CEO Christine Wyard said, “ASCEND has a policy of never turning anyone away.   If for some reason, we cannot directly help, or a client needs multiple areas of support, we have a wide partnership network of organisations that we can refer to, some of which are based at our Step Up well-being hub.  Our appeal is all about supporting community members when they most need it and we very much hope that people will consider a donation, either via text or our website, so we can help as many members of the community as we can in these difficult times.”


ASCEND Community Blanket Project

Under the guidance of inspirational tutors Sian Fenwick and Ekky Archibong, over 40 ASCEND learners are currently crafting pieces to reflect what self-isolation means to them, using media such as stitching, journaling and painting/drawing. The completed pieces will be attached to the blanket to create a community piece, but with a border to represent self-isolation. ASCEND’s jewellery group will be making wire jewellery bridges to join the pieces to signify communication. It was decided to create a community blanket because of the meanings of comfort, warmth and soothing associated with blankets. In addition, a film will be made of the blanket project and the process of creating the individual pieces, and will be displayed, together with the blanket virtually during the Summer and when permissible on tour around Hertfordshire.

Supporting Our Learners

As we all submit to the changes in our lifestyles,  it is even more apparent that we need to keep connected and support one another during this pandemic.  Staff at ASCEND are doing their part to support our learners through this situation as we are aware that many people will be feeling stressed and anxious.

ASCEND’s jewellery courses have been popular over the years, not only through the development of skills and techniques, but also because of the impact it has on well-being and isolation.  Our learners have become friends, sharing and exchanging ideas; and sometimes even attending external craft fairs and events together.

Ekky Archibong tutors this class.  As an artist, creative entrepreneur and tutor for our jewellery classes, she is a strong advocate for creativity as a pathway to well-being.   This is why she is currently working with ASCEND to ensure that we continue to support our learners with free online jewellery projects and networking with one another, until we are able to get back face to face again.

So yesterday (Thursday 26th March 2020) our jewellery class met up virtually to look at Bangle Making using Mandrel, Hammers and Anvils.   A ring or bangle mandrel is a large, tapered tool made from steel or wood.  It is used to form and shape metals and also for creating wire wrapped rings and bangles.  They also looked at anvils and bench blocks and how to use them to provide a secure work surface for cutting, drilling, filing and hammering/shaping metal.  Their challenge is to design a Bangle using 1.0mm or 1.2mm jewellery wire and we will be creating a Facebook gallery of all their efforts.

In the meantime, if you are interested in the sort of jewellery our group are making, you might like to visit the following…     or   to see examples of what can be done.


Staying Well When Social Distancing, Self Isolating and/or Remote Working

From ASCENDs CEO – Christine Wyard

The Government has now advised that if you have an underlying health condition(s) or if you are aged 70 or older, you should be social distancing for up to 12 weeks. This means staying in your home and having no physical contact with anyone.
We know that during this period it’s really important that you look after your mental and emotional well-being as well as your physical health.
Below are some tips and general advice that will help.
Firstly, it’s important to highlight the need to avoid additional sources of anxiety, especially if this is something that you are already challenged by in normal daily life. Lines are going to become blurred as routines shift and we have to create new structures which take time to settle.
Secondly, it’s key to reduce or remove sources that could trigger you and quite understandably be upsetting. These sources would be the media and even friends, family members, partners and neighbours. The ten tips below will greatly help towards reducing anxiety and reduce any fears you may encounter.
It’s worth pointing out two key sources of stress that we need to become aware of.
A. Limit News and Social Media time. It’s important to stay informed, especially in these current times, however it’s important to maintain a balance. Consider watching the news such as on the BBC once a day and looking at Government official sites once a day only. Avoid regular tabloids and associated websites. If you do read them make sure you get confirmation from an official authority before accepting what you read or hear. Consider turning off notifications and alerts on your phone so that you control the stream of information.
B. Limit gossip and hearsay about the virus and related topics. For all our well-being it’s important to stay connected and in touch with friends and family. However, we can easily be swayed with false news or hearsay. Therefore it’s especially important to be vigilant about we what we hear and take in and what we pass on. Stick to the facts and use common sense. If you don’t know, don’t say or if you are not sure ask.

10 Tips to adopt while social distancing
1. Establish a daily routine.
Routines provide structure and purpose.
For example avoid watching the news in the late evenings and consider mid morning once a day instead. This will help to regulate yourself and process any information, but give you time to focus on the day.
Consider having a change of cloths. If you are doing work change into work type cloths and then casual for the evening. This again can break things up and differentiate your day.
2. Balance your weekly routine so you have a good mix of work (activities that have to be done), rest and leisure.
3. Think about the regular activities that are most important to you.
What are the important elements to these?
Can you adapt them to carry out in your home?
4. Set daily goals to provide purpose and a sense of achievement.
This might include working through that list of the things you keep meaning to do, but never get round to!
These unusual times can be a great opportunity to focus on tasks that you have neglected at home or start a project you have been meaning to do for so long.
5. Identify the triggers that make you feel low and look for ways to reduce or manage them. Remember to limit exposure to negative or distressing news and friends or family members who may feed off the negative environment.
6. Talk with family, friends and neighbours to help them understand how you feel and how they can help.
– Can they talk you through using apps on your mobile phone, for instance?
– Can you help them reduce their stress and worry? How might you do that?
7. Take care of yourself.
Eat and drink healthily with plenty of fruit, vegetables and water, to help boost your immune system and energy levels.
8. Avoid staying still for too long.
Exercise and regular movement will maintain fitness and strength.
If you are working from home, take breaks and eat away from your “desk”.
Ideally, if you have the space at home create zones for different activities, so that you are keeping things varied and different. Pack things away (such as laptops and files) after your work day if you only have one area to both work and rest in.
9. Have a good sleep routine.
If you are struggling, try avoiding tea and coffee in the late afternoon and evening, take a bath, using blackout curtains, listening to gentle music or deep breathing exercises.
10. Keep in touch and support each other.
Arrange to speak to someone most days on the phone or via the internet. Speaking to others will help with anxiety and is a good opportunity to share support. Avoid discussing the current situation or the latest news bulletins. Unless it is critical.   Avoid hearsay about the virus or related topics. If you don’t know don’t say or if you are not sure ask.
On the upside
To finish – it’s important to remain positive. As was mentioned in the tips above.
This can be a very productive period, if we choose to be pro-active and look after ourselves and our loved ones.
You can tackle those projects around your home that have been crying out for some attention. Even start an exercise routine you haven’t tried before. There’s a YouTube video for just about anything! Like Yoga or Pilates.This could be an opportunity to learn a new skill. Join an online course. Start a new art project or a new hobby. Write that book you have always wanted to start, but never found the time.
Most of all stay safe and remain supportive towards yourself through using these tips above and those close to you.

Step In Cafe – the Community Love It!

Our Step Up Cafe has been running for 4 months now. The whole idea behind the café is to bring those together, who are mainly over 50, to help combat loneliness in South Oxhey, particularly at the weekends when loneliness can be at its worst. Here is what some of our visitors have been saying:-
“I don’t do anything so I’d be out shopping or at home, but wouldn’t be talking to people. It’s a safe place to meet people.”
“It’s company, friendship, you get to know people. I looked forward to coming today.”
“I get to interact with people, otherwise I’d be at home bored.”
“I feel very relaxed, brings everyone in community together, gets me away from my household.”
“It’s company, I have a laugh, it’s very enjoyable, a chance to do different activities, there’s a good variety.”
“It’s enjoyable meeting people, and gets me out of the house, gives me confidence.”
“It means a lot, I just like all the company. We all have a laugh here.”
Our next cafe is on Saturday 14 March from 2pm to 4pm, when there will be a bonus talk at 3pm given by Andrew Scarth about bees and honey – which we no doubt will be able to sample with a scone.