Time to Talk: the power of small

Time to Talk Day took place on the 4th February 2021 and was an opportunity for us at PiP to open up the conversation around mental health and how the power of small can make a huge difference for both staff and students.  Time to Talk is organised by Time to Change and is a campaign to change the way people think and act about mental health problems.

During the event, we reflected on the challenges we’ve all faced during the coronavirus pandemic and what hidden gems have helped to bring joy and support to us during this time.

At PiP, we understand the value of having time to talk. Many of our sessions already focus on health and wellbeing. We have a weekly Social Wellbeing group, as well as weekly Women’s and Men’s groups which gives students the opportunity to discuss emotional and mental wellbeing in a supportive peer group.

Our Time to Talk event started by reflecting on the challenges of 2020. What has been hard for both staff and students is the uncertainty. We can’t predict when lockdown will end, or when we can go back to face to face services. Student Rep Shardonnay shared that she misses the energy that she gets from the other students “I miss seeing the other students. They are a crazy bunch but I like them!”  Pam misses working towards the annual Drama performance. She most misses “helping out and welcoming people”. Lydia misses her closest friends and had some great ideas for keeping in touch and reaching out to her friends to support them and herself. 

We all agreed that appreciating the small can help us get through – whether that be NOT bingeing our favourite TV programmes but spreading them out over the week, rediscovering our local park, or using this time to learn new things. One thing is for sure, looking after our mental health at this time is something that is important for both staff and students. Thanks so much to PiP students Pam, Lydia and Shardonnay, and PiP staff Naomi, Karina, Claire, Cheski and Sam for sharing their thoughts and feelings.

For more about how to support yourself and others at this time, you can find helpful tips on the Time to Change website and MIND website.

A day in the life of Lauren, Fruitful Trainee and Makaton expert

This week we had the pleasure of chatting to Lauren, who has been at PiP for 10 years. Lauren told us all about herself, her experiences at PiP and what she has been up to on what is arguably the best day of the week – Friday!

Hi Lauren! Thanks for chatting with us today. We’d love to hear a little about what a typical day looks like for you as a PiP student. Can we start by talking about your morning routine?

Lauren: Hello, every morning I get up at 6am. That’s when my mum wakes me up. Once up, I get ready, have breakfast and then travel into PiP for 10am.

Great, and what did you do first today – once you got into PiP?
Lauren: Today began in employment. We were making plans for Fruitful.

Amazing. Fruitful wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful if we didn’t have hard workers on the team planning for future events! As one of the original members, you must have a favourite juice flavour? Lauren: Yes, my favourite flavour is orange and carrot.

Delicious. How long have you been working with Fruitful now? Lauren: I’ve been part of the Fruitful team since their first year. I’ve worked on the stalls many times, which I really enjoy.

After you spent some time planning for Fruitful, what did you do next?
Lauren: I had lunch. Today I had a sandwich, yoghurt, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Sounds healthy! And what did you do after lunch?
Lauren: After lunch I went to a Makaton session. I’m trying to get better at it.

We know you are already very good at it!

Lauren: Sometimes I teach my friend from primary school some Makaton that I have learnt at PiP.

Sounds like great practice, and I’m sure they appreciate it! What do you do after Makaton?

Lauren: I have free time next. I will probably listen to music with my headphones. After free time I will be going to a Living Skills session.

What do you learn in this session?

Lauren: I learn skills for being independent.

That’s super important. What kind of independence skills have you been learning lately?
Lauren: I’ve been learning how to get transport by myself. I live fairly close to PiP but I still need to get a train and a bus. I can do this by myself now – it takes about 30 minutes.

That’s great – definitely a valuable life skill to have. So, tell us – what is your favourite PiP session?

Lauren: My favourite session is Fruitful.

We’re not surprised! It’s pretty popular amongst all the students.
Lauren: Yes, I’ve been at PiP for quite a long time – and Fruitful is still my favourite.

Thanks Lauren, this has been a really fun chat. Before we go, why don’t you tell us what you’re up to tonight (Friday) and the rest of the weekend? Lauren: Tonight I will probably have tea and then relax. This weekend I will see some of my family.

Thank you Lauren!

To find out more about Fruitful and our work, check out www.fruitfulproject.org.uk

Hello from Narjis, one of PiP’s top Fruitful trainees.

For anyone who is unfamiliar, Fruitful is a mouth-watering initiative from Pursuing Independent Paths (PiP). It provides a brilliant way for our students – adults with learning disabilities and autism – to gain super valuable life, vocational and communication skills – whilst getting actively involved in the community.

Fruitful follows a structured training programme designed to give trainees experience in customer service, hygiene, juice preparation, marketing and money skills. It’s a fantastic way for PiP students to showcase their talent and prove to the world that they can be a valuable asset to any organisation as a paid employee.

Meet the Trainees

Today, we got the opportunity to chat with a member of the team. Narjis has been at PiP for six years and she kindly fit some time in her busy Friday schedule – in between Fitness, lunch, Makaton and a Student Social! – to fill us in on all things Fruitful.

For Narjis, Fruitful is all about raising money for PiP and learning new juice recipes (her favourite is a classic apple). She’s learnt lots about preparing ingredients for juicing – including safe ways to chop fruit and veg.

As part of her Fruitful training, Narjis also learnt about what flavours work well together. Fruitful introduces trainees to new recipes, ingredients and processes, so that they can create popular products at NYGoodHealth that sell (and keep customers coming back for more…!)

Narjis is a big fan of the outdoor markets Fruitful attends. She particularly enjoys handing out leaflets and chatting to passers-by – as this provides an opportunity to make conversation and bring in more funds for PiP.

A key element of Fruitful involves learning to handle money responsibly. This means being able to confidently give the correct change and use the credit card machine. Narjis explained that working with money was something she particularly enjoyed about Fruitful – as she likes knowing that she’s making lots of money for PiP!

In the future, Narjis can imagine working in a job that involves helping people. She likes being out and about – maybe working in a market or a café – as this would combine her people skills with her knowledge of juice making and flavours. Like us, Narjis is keen to get back out into the community with Fruitful as soon as we can.

Thanks so much for your time Narjis!

Fruitful is always on the move – serving thirsty customers at offices, workplaces, community events, street markets, business events and parties. It’s a bit harder to do right now but we have some COVID safe ways of working. If you’d like to find out more about Fruitful or book one of our popular trolley services or pop-up stalls, get in touch with a member of the PiP team today!

Our student rep Shardonnay’s view during the lockdown

1.What is it like for you not being at PiP during the lockdown?

When the virus was first announced, and we went into lockdown it was upsetting as it happened so fast. PiP then sent out a letter to say that they would be closing too. This meant that the drama show would be postponed and some other events like the London Marathon. Thanks to technology, many events can be done online. Right now, many charities are doing activities on social media to raise money.

For me being stuck at home during this pandemic is hard especially as my sister had to come back home from Leicester University, which meant going back to sharing a bedroom. My café job has stopped for now but that has been good in some ways because it has given me more time and the opportunity to work on some projects that I had been putting aside for a while.

2. What do you miss about PiP?

Things I miss most about PiP is the students and visitors, which gives me the chance to lead tours of the building and explain about PiP and my role as Student Rep.

Many fundraising events have been postponed like our annual drama show and the London Landmarks Half Marathon, which I was really excited about as I haven’t been to this event before! I was upset that the drama show was cancelled as I had booked the day off work. I had also invited some friends that I had not seen for ages and family.

The online sessions for me are not the same as being at PiP where we use worksheets and can take part in practical tasks. I like being on my feet twenty-four seven! I do like meeting volunteers though so I enjoyed meeting new people from Adobe at a special session we had online. Here is a nice screenshot of all of us together!


To most people running seems to be quite boring. There is no ball you can play with or a competitor you can play against. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other. For me though, running is not just a sport; it’s time for myself. It’s time to think about a lot of things that worry me and to let them go by – metaphorically running over them and just to turn off my head. I even think that running teaches you things you need in your life like resilience and perseverance. So, to me it’s not just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s so much more. I’d always wanted to run a half or even a full marathon and the London Landmarks Half Marathon is one of the best races in town. What could be better than taking part and supporting a fantastic organisation like PiP where I was volunteering as a Support Worker for young adults with learning disabilities. You could say that something like a dream came true! 

From the moment I had my place confirmed, I started to practise. Because I am quite ambitious, I set myself a target time: 21 kilometres in just two hours! I was not too far away from that and in training in January and February I managed to run 18 kilometres in two hours. I received a lot of support from PiP for which I’m very grateful. Everything seemed to be going perfectly… 

It was going perfectly until the Coronavirus stopped me in my tracks.  It forced me to stop my volunteering service with PiP and head back home to Germany in March. The London Landmarks Half Marathon was then postponed! My dream was over before it really started.  

A few days after I returned home, I received an email which raised my hopes again: the LOCAL Landmarks Challenge. I can run the half marathon at home and send them the results! Perfect. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Due to the government’s advice, I had to stay at home for the first two weeks after my entry to Germany. How can I train now? I simply had to wait. 

As soon as my two weeks indoors isolating were up, I started running again but haven’t quite got back to the same level as three weeks ago in London. Yet. Since then, I’ve been running regularly and improving my endurance. I want to finish what I started.  Not just for myself, but also for PiP. I’m not going to allow this virus to take away my chance of running a half marathon and fundraising for the young adults I loved working with. I’m very thankful to PiP that made this chance possible. Thank you! 

Thank you Jan! Follow Jan’s fundraising journey and here – https://justgiving.com/fundraising/jan-k-mmel

See Jan in training with his PiP trainers here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3BnWFyprpo

If you want to get involved with supporting PiP like Jan and set your own Local Landmarks Challengeget in touch with Claire, our Community Fundraiser, on claireg@piponline.org.uk  

Who let the zombies out? Huh, huh, huh?


Run for your life, the zombies are on the loose!

Plastic limbs are lying around, blood stained coats are draped over chairs and the reception area is constantly filled with parcels with the show costumes. We nearly thought that Father Christmas was early this year. One can really tell that “A Dead Big Adventure”, this year’s Drama Show, is just around the corner.

For those of you who do not know about our annual drama show, every year students and staff work together on creating an original play, from the script to the sound effects and also composing background music, organising props and creating costumes. It is just amazing how much effort and passion everyone puts into it.

For the last couple of months, the Music Group has been working on getting the score and the sound effects ready for the big day. We have kept ourselves busy composing motifs for the goodies (inspired by a whip-flicking adventurer) and the baddies, an Egypt-theme and our version of a famous rockabilly song…not saying any more, I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Stock up on your anti-zombie and join us on 28th March at the Tabernacle for an unforgettable experience!

Tickets are available online here or via 020 8960 4004. 

A Grinch who learned to love Christmas now wishes you a great year ahead!

Having been at school for the last 12 years meant that the festive season had always been the busiest time of the year for me, but not in the good I-have-to-bake-cookies-and-buy-presents-way.

For us students, who were sitting at the wrong side of the desk, it felt like the teachers wanted to torture us by squeezing as many tests, exams and presentations as possible into the weeks leading up to Christmas.

No wonder I could not enjoy advent as much as I would have liked to. I would even say that the experiences during those years had brought up my inner Grinch, meaning that I could not listen to songs that included the sound of sleigh bells without pulling a face.

Not necessarily the best condition for Christmas in London, is it? Especially since people here start celebrating it the minute Halloween has passed. Suddenly you are surrounded by cheesy plastic decorations, illuminated pink glittery trees, polar bears wearing Santa hats in shop windows and by far the worst of them all…the check-out counters in some supermarkets that impersonate Father Christmas.

But here at PiP I am really enjoyed the Christmas season. Which wasn’t hard regarding all the fun activities we have done, like decorating the Christmas tree while rocking around it, dancing, sing-alongs and watching films.

And then there was of course the Christmas Carol singing at the German YMCA Christmas market. We were given the chance to perform a good mixture between traditional carols and modern classics. It was so cool to see how enthusiastic and energetic the music students were. I dare to say that all of us, or like Marcio would say it “EVERYBODY”, had a great time singing and performing.

But the highlights for a hangry person like myself definitely were the Christmas Lunches! For me these were the perfect opportunities to learn more about British traditions and at the same time fill my stomach with lovely food. And I really like the idea behind gravy: if you do not like something on your plate (or even if you do enjoy everything on it), just drown your food in this fabulous brown sauce. And voilà, problem solved. Now everything looks homogenous. You Brits really are inventive!

Ativan helped relieve anxiety because it made me sleep. I found that prior to taking this medication, I could not sleep and that I was not eating properly. My overall health was suffering. It made me so sleepy and sluggish that I could not function properly the next day. While it did resolve sleep issues, it led to many other issues.

Now at the beginning of a new year, it is the perfect time for me to say thank you to everyone at PiP for making me feel so welcome. Though I struggle to get up in the morning because I am and will probably forever be a true morning grouch (ask anyone of my friends and they will confirm), I look forward to coming here every single day. You are an amazing team and I am so grateful to be part of it!

I wish everyone a great year ahead, full of fun activities! I can’t wait to find out what volunteering experiences at PiP this year will bring me… – Magdalena

Meet the new student reps!

Until a few weeks ago there was only one topic the students would talk about – who is going to be the new student rep? The whole process was very emotional, starting with the application which was quite stressful for some students up to the day when the results were finally revealed. Tears of joy were shed, and people were literally jumping around. It was so great to see how much the students care about PiP and how eagerly they wanted to do their part in making the organisation even better.

But how did the students apply for the role? What are the responsibilities coming along with this job? Let’s find out from the two people who know best, the new student reps Rashedul Miah and Shardonnay Roseman. Read their interview here.

Rashedul Miah

Shardonnay Roseman

Hi, my name is Magdalena. I am the new full-time volunteer from German YMCA

“Hi, my name is Magdalena. I am the new full-time volunteer from German YMCA. Nice to meet you”

I must have said this exact sentence or slight variations of it around 80 times during my first week at PiP. While introducing myself to students and staff members, I was desperately trying to remember what names and faces belonged together. I didn’t have much success, I must confess. The moment someone told me their name the previous one was already gone! To avoid embarrassments, I had no choice but to spend my free time starring at the board in the reception, where everyone’s picture and name was pinned on, and mutter to myself.

On my first day, during Leisure Programme, we went cycling in Finsbury Park. I was very nervous as I was when first entering the building, not knowing how my year as a volunteer would turn out. As soon as the students started chatting and riding bikes with me, I had a feeling that I was going to have a great time. It seemed to me that they were genuinely pleased to meet me. Though I cannot be sure, since even after spending more than five weeks in London, I still struggle to see the difference between someone being friendly and someone using the shield of famous British politeness. 😉

My feelings did not deceive me. The rest of the leisure programme was just as much fun as the beginning. An absolute highlight for me was the annual PiP Summer BBQ. Eating delicious food, drinking juice, spending my pocket money on merchandise, chatting with staff, students and parents and shouting “HUH, HAH!” during the Tai Chi session, it was pure delight.

Learning new skills

Though Leisure Programme was a good way for me to slowly get acquainted with staff and students, I only really got to know PiP when the autumn term started. Since then I have constantly been developing new skills.

First and foremost, social skills. Since I have gotten here six weeks ago, I have become more patient and polite and I improved in detecting people’s mood by getting to know the students’ personalities. Additionally, I am getting better in figuring out when and how to provide help for the students, so that they can profit the most from their session, and for the Development Workers, which can mean simply accompanying a student to the kitchen. Sometimes that includes working with someone 1:1 on the computer or to help them with their spelling. It depends on the session, the students and the general mood of the day, because even though every day is similar, they are also in a way completely different. And that makes my job so exciting!

Besides that, I can benefit from the content of the sessions as well. Makaton really helps me to communicate with the students and Working Together and Cooking teaches me valuable household skills like cleaning, cooking, washing and tidying up. And to be honest, I need that extra exercise.

When the sessions finish, I head upstairs to either help Claire and Fernanda with fundraising, Social Media, office work or to write blog posts, like I am doing in this very minute.


Cultural experiences

Working at PiP means being surrounded by many native speakers and I appreciate this chance to learn more about London life and to deepen my knowledge of the English language. Now I know some not-so-daily-words like “mirror-reversed” and “seizure” and I got lessons in “How to survive autumn in London”! By adding my own experiences to the warnings, I feel I am now in possession of precious knowledge.

Rule #1: It rains. A lot.

Rule #2: Be careful getting off the bus! Otherwise you could be washed away by the river that had emerged along the sidewalk. Or you could drown in the enormous puddles. Serious guys, that is not normal.

Rule #3: Always have an extra layer warmth with you. British architects are no fans of insulation.

Though not having been here for a long time I already feel comfortable and like being part of the team. That is due to this great mixture of familiar and professional atmosphere at PiP, where everybody respects each other.

I’ve suffered from androgenic alopecia since I was 20. My hair started to thin out at the temple level. I decided to defy the genetics and try Propecia (Finasteride). Different drug and natural remedies, but nothing helped.

I can only say that I am really enjoying my time here and I cannot wait to see what will come up for me this year.

P.S. Notable mention: Lunch time is always around 12:00. Some might think that is pretty early, but as a person who struggles with being hangry (hungry + angry), I can assure you, it is perfect!