Tia | UK

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Battling Generational Poverty and Chronic Illness

Tia was raised by a single mother who worked four jobs to put food on the table for her children. When the gas and electricity got shut off, Tia describes the entire family gathering in one bed, under every blanket in the house. “The women in my family are hard workers. The kind of people who haven’t sat down in like, ten years,” she described. 

So for Tia, hard work was a given. She wasn’t able to finish university, in part because of the impact of two chronic illnesses that had yet to be diagnosed. She plunged into the workforce, taking whatever job she could land: “I didn’t have the qualifications for a good-paying job. I was working in retail and coffee shops.” 

The jobs she could get were menial and physically taxing, requiring heavy lifting and being on her feet all day. Eventually, given her conditions, she collapsed and landed in hospital, losing her ability to work. For a period of about five years, she was mostly unemployed despite some ad hoc work she secured here and there. “The only thing I could focus on was staying alive,” she shared. In the pandemic, her husband also lost his job, worsening their situation. 

“When I say I was on the breadline, I mean, literally hand to mouth,” she described. 

But for Tia, coming from a family of hard working women, an inability to remain at work felt like a moral failing. “The amount of self-criticism that came with not working: It felt like I’m of no use to anyone anymore. If I can’t physically do anything, what am I good for? If I can’t get up and help someone, I’m of no worth to anyone.” 

A Local Job Center Makes the Connection to Generation

Once Tia had a diagnosis for her conditions and had her health a bit more under control, she eventually made her way to a local employment center in her area. At first she was skeptical that she could find work that didn’t require physical labor, but when they showed her the course offerings at Generation, a spark lit up for her. She marveled at the diversity of courses available and that all were well-paying desk jobs that didn’t require a university degree. Generation UK’s Sustainability Project Officer program spoke to her immediately. 

“I’ve always been interested in the environment. Mother nature is a beautiful ball of wonder and I think we don’t treat her well enough. This affects everyone. It isn’t fair to our children’s children to have our fun and leave them with nothing,” she told us. 

This interest, paired with a very supportive environment, fueled her journey to a new career. As the course progressed, Tia’s mental health improved dramatically as well. “More often than not, Generation’s instructors and mentors were telling you what you were really good at and what they wanted to encourage you in. And of course, if you were struggling with something, there was always that unconditional support.” 

A New Life Begins

Today, Tia works as a Project Administrator at YES Energy Solutions – an award-winning UK-based small business in the green retrofitting industry. 

She is doing something she is extremely passionate about – helping people of very little means get out of fuel poverty while saving money on their energy bills and improving their quality of life. This, all while making a positive contribution to the environment. 

She loves her colleagues and spoke extensively about the accommodations made for her at work to ensure she can do her job and manage her health. Small things like having a more ergonomic chair, a radiator next to her desk, and being able to work from home when needed have not only improved her well-being but made her feel extremely cared for and valued. 

“Financially speaking, I don’t have to worry anymore. Now my husband and I can live comfortably on my salary alone, if we had to.” She never has to borrow money from family anymore if she runs out of coffee or sugar midweek. And best of all, after years of marriage, she and her husband are finally planning their honeymoon. 

Compared to the girl that sat in the corner of her couch, just kind of wallowing in self-pity, I am miles better than I was. That course feels like what the fairy godmother was for Cinderella. It is honestly a massive turnaround. Generation changed my entire life!” 

Tia looks forward to continuing her career in the retrofitting industry for many years to come.