Bridgend Communities First helping to transform lives – read Jeni’s story

Published on Tuesday, 2 February, 2016

Bridgend Communities First is helping to transform the lives of people in Bridgend. This is Jeni’s story.

Listen to Jeni’s story here >>>

Jeni Emment beckons me in from the rain and into the warmth of her living room. I’m immediately struck by the air of calm in her candle-lit home in Cornelly, Bridgend which she shares with her five year-old daughter Lily – very much the apple of her mother’s eye.

She is one of a growing number of people who are taking advantage of courses funded by Bridgend Communities First to empower them to fulfil their potential – strengthening important life skills in areas such as health, education and financial prosperity.

I’m treated to one of Jeni’s sugar-free cranberry and cinnamon muffins which send my taste-buds into overdrive.  If only all interviews were this pleasurable.

The kitchen, which doubles up as her workshop, is an assortment of brightly coloured gems, beads and buttons.  She is putting the finishing touches to her latest bespoke necklace and is keen to tell me about her new business venture.

If success was measured purely on drive and enthusiasm, Jeni would already be over the finishing line.  She is confident and has a clear vision for what she hopes will provide her and daughter Lily with a secure future.  But it wasn’t always this way.

“Free spirited are the words that best- describe my character”, says Jeni.  “Unfortunately, when I left school I found myself in a number of jobs that neither challenged nor inspired me.  They certainly weren’t conducive to my personality.  I’ve always been active and a great lover of the outdoors and travel.  The nine to five routine of office life felt stifling at times and went very much against the grain of my nature but, as is the case for a lot of people, the necessity to earn a living to pay the bills prevented me from leaving.”

In 2004, Jeni decided enough was enough, and took the bold decision to up sticks and head for Australia and a new life. Staying with relatives initially, Australia provided the vast open canvass she needed to give expression to her creative and spiritual needs. Here Jeni was also able to develop her skills as an artisan specialising in bespoke jewellery. I really found myself in Australia, and discovered meditation. In many ways the move away gave me the space and time to grow”.

After nine long years away and with her mother now in poor health and expecting her first child, Jeni returned to Wales.  “This was a difficult period of adjustment for me” she said.  The weather was cold; I had no money, no car and was living in my parents’ spare bedroom.   But then Lily was born – all the inspiration I needed.  The first couple of years were a struggle but I was determined to provide a good life for my daughter.

“Somebody told me about Communities First and a number of free courses they were providing that that could help me develop my plans for a new business combining, meditation, holistic therapy and jewellery-making. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. In many ways, these courses including, Indian Head Massage, Cake Decorating and Food Safety gave me the confidence and perhaps greater focus to move forward with my plans which I’d perhaps previously dismissed as wishful thinking. But sometimes when you’re starting out you need a bit of a leg-up; some help and structure to allow you to move forward with confidence.

“Since then, I’ve got together with my friend Tracy and we’ve proactively taken our business out to the community and the response so far has been promising. Porthcawl Football Club for example kindly agreed to give us access to a stall at their ground as part of a drive to bring more community activities to the club.   Word of mouth is so important in building a strong client-base so we’re determined to make the most of opportunities like this.

“It’s going to be busy year for me and it’s a nice feeling to able to say that.  The next phase in developing the business is to get our website set up and some business cards printed.  It really feels like things are coming together and in no small part I’ve got Bridgend Communities First to thank for that.”

Jeni’s passion and determination to pursue her dream is an inspiration to others and my meeting with her leaves me in little doubt that she will succeed – that perfect combination of creativity and energy.

To find out what Bridgend Communities First is doing in your area and how we can help you, visit our what’s on section