Cleaning service already employs 15 newly arrived people

New business to give refugees work and hope proves a success

A ground-breaking enterprise launched by the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC) just months ago is already proving a big success.

Spring Action, a social enterprise which offers a cleaning service to businesses, was set up in April to provide work and new hope for refugees and migrants who would otherwise struggle to find jobs.

Now seven months later the enterprise is already beating its initial targets. Big contracts are helping it generate far more revenue than was hoped, and it is providing regular work for 15 CRMC clients, who are among the most vulnerable people in Coventry.

A delighted Mike Gabriel – a former bank manager – who is now Spring Action’s business co-ordinator, said: “I think that as an organisation we have exceeded expectations.

“We projected revenue of £30,000 in the first year and we are on schedule to exceed that. But although that’s important, it’s not the main point.

“We have created work for people who would otherwise not have work. We have 15 members of staff, some of whom regularly work 20 hours a week, and others who are available for work as it crops up.”

The cleaners are all women from sub-Saharan Africa, although there is one man on the staff, and a woman from Japan. They are paid the living wage of £8.45 an hour, which is above the national minimum wage of £7.50 an hour for over-25s.

Spring Action has landed a number of contracts at offices in the Fargo complex in Gosford Street, and another of their main clients is Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau, based in Little Park Street.

On top of those are a host of other customers such as the Voluntary Action Coventry, WEC International – a Christian charity – Vineyard – an evangelical church – and a vicarage in Bell Green, Coventry.

Moira Stephens, Operations Manager at WEC International said: “Spring Action has offered us an exceptional standard of cleaning services. They are friendly, approachable and efficient. I have found the staff flexible, reliable and accommodating, and always keen to provide value for money. Our cleaner is punctual and dependable, willing to fit in with our office schedule. I recommend this business wholeheartedly.”

Jo Truslove, Marketing Manager at Fargo Village added: “Spring Action provides a very efficient, professional and friendly cleaning service.

It’s great to support local social enterprises and help people find work.”

Mike said: “The feedback has been overwhelmingly good.  We never lose sight of the fact that although the main point is to help refugees get back on their feet, we must also provide a good service and the price is competitive, and we arrive on time; all the basics of running a business.”

Spring Action was the brainchild of Jan Malatesta, an employment advisor at the CRMC, and her colleague Faruk Norat. They were helping refugees apply for advertised jobs, which they could easily do such as cleaning and warehousing. They were being turned down but the jobs were still being advertised.

Refugees face an uphill battle to find work because often they can’t prove their qualifications or point to previous experience, and they don’t have references. Poor English is also a handicap.

Jan’s solution was to create a social enterprise employing CRMC’s refugee clients and Spring Action was born.

Faruk said: “This isn’t just about work. This is giving people self-respect, a sense of pride, belonging, and confidence. Their English improves and they are integrating into society. It gives them an opportunity to contribute. That’s good for them, and it’s good for the community.”

Mike, who had started at the CRMC as a volunteer, was asked if he could use his business expertise to help get the enterprise off the ground and is now employed three days a week.

He said: “I wanted to help refugees. It was never my intention to work here, but I find it very rewarding. Hardly a day goes by without hearing people’s stories that move you to tears. You hear about people struggling to get here, and when you meet them they are just human beings and you want to help them.”

Mike is now looking for more business for Spring Action, to provide more work for refugees. He said the key message to potential customers is that the enterprise combines a competitive business with philanthropy.

He added: “There must be a hundred cleaning businesses in Coventry. Why not choose one that provides a good service, and does some good as well?”

Anyone interested in finding out more about Spring Action’s services can email Mike at michaelg@covrefugee.org or phone him on 07917 624765.

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