Elena’s Story

“If I hadn’t come to the Centre I wouldn’t have had the chance to gain work experience at the University of Cambridge.”

Elena lived in the Centre’s Hostel for homeless young people for just over one year. She was fiercely independent throughout her time here and truly determined to be able to stand on her own two feet. By the end of her time in the Hostel she had completed Levels 2 and 3 in media production at college, finished a two week placement with the University of Cambridge Communications team and found herself a part-time job with a London hotel. Despite the hardships Elena has faced in her life she has been incredibly determined to make the most of the opportunities which have presented themselves to her, and she is a great example of what can be achieved through perseverance.

“Elena was always very eager to make a better life for herself,” says Sarah Quinn, Elena’s Hostel Support Worker. “She was an ideal resident because she was very engaged and got involved in a lot of things. We allowed her to be as independent as she wanted to be and we were there for her when she needed someone to talk to.”

Elena’s difficult family background meant that she found it hard to adjust to being in new surroundings and was extremely nervous when meeting new people. But the support network at the Hostel offered here a lifeline. “One of the best things about living in the Hostel is that you’ve got people around you,” says Elena, “and you’ve got your support workers so that whenever you need help you can just go and talk to them.”

As her confidence grew Elena was invited to attend a number of events being held by the Centre, where she was given the opportunity to network with people working in business and media. At the CEO Sleepout (2014) at Wembley Stadium she got talking to one of the Centre’s supporters, Paul Mylrea, who had previously worked for the BBC and is now Director of Communications at Cambridge University. Paul was impressed with Elena and after their meeting he arranged a two week work placement for her with the Communications team at Cambridge.

Elena was very excited about the opportunity and she adapted to the role really well. Jonathan Settle, Film and Multimedia Manager at the University, was impressed by Elena’s ability to work in such a high pressured environment, saying:

“Elena acted as the camera assistant and sound recordist on four different shoots, including one with Stephen Fry. Her technical ability with sound recording was very good, but her real strength and heart was in editing and telling a story.”

Elena completed the placement in June this year and is hopeful that it will improve her chances of getting a job in media production in the future.

In the meantime she has successfully moved on to her own flat, with help from Natalie Smith in our Housing Advice team. Having a place to call her own has been a real turning point for Elena and she is extremely grateful to everyone at the Centre who helped her to get there.

Now that Elena is living on her own she is working on her media CV and looking for more opportunities to gain the experience she needs to get her dream job in media production.

“I feel much more independent and I feel like I’ve made a step forward. If I hadn’t come to the Cardinal Hume Centre I would still be living in a hostel and wouldn’t have had the chance to get that amazing work experience at the University of Cambridge.”