When Cecilia Reinoso came to this country from Ecuador in 1992 she couldn’t speak any English. For the first five to seven years after she and her husband arrived her only concern was survival. Unable to speak the language, she took cleaning jobs in offices because that was the only work she could get.
“I came to the UK to work. Even the money paid to cleaners was better than I could earn at home,” she says. “The idea was to stay for just a couple of years and then return. We were hoping our country’s economic situation would stabilise in that time”
Initially the idea was to save and then return to Ecuador. But the couple settled, found they liked England and started a family. Cecilia enrolled on an ESOL course (English for speakers of other languages) at Ealing Hammersmith and West London College, to learn English, then progressed on to an Access to HE Diploma in Business, accredited by OCN London.
“I found the Access course very tough. It meant studying in the evenings to try keep up as best as I could, but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity,” she says. “I was working part time and raising my family as well. But I knew this was a fantastic chance to improve myself and that it would be better for my children if I had a good education.”
Access to HE courses are challenging. Cecilia knew that she only had once chance to succeed. But encouragement from the tutors and fellow students made a big difference. “We all supported and helped each other,” she says. “It was a great atmosphere and I had a lovely time, despite all the hard work. It was definitely worth it.”
Cecilia did well on the course and was offered a place at the University of Westminster to study for a degree in business. She now runs two businesses with her husband. The first is a cleaning company. After spotting a demand for people who wanted to send items to Ecuador, they set up a specialist courier and packaging service as well.
How did the Access to HE and business degree courses help her to run the two businesses?
“The courses definitely helped me to open my mind, see opportunities and build my self esteem. This gave me the confidence to develop my business and talk to customers,” she says. “I also learned about accountancy, marketing, creating websites and how to run a small business. Most of my fellow students in both courses were working part time and we all helped each other. Like me, many of my Access course classmates have improved their lives as a result and found that the course has opened up so many opportunities.”