For some, their stories have many twists and turns. But for Venera, the experience of a better life through our Skills/ Startup Training Empowerment and Practice (STEP) project is a pure and simple testimonial: She is a young lady of 24 years, whose relatives told her that we had some kind of vocational training program happening. She was already married with a 3 months old baby, but her marriage was in difficulties with financial and other stresses. Venera was shy and insecure, but nonetheless, she had a dream. She started to attend the STEP program and chose the hairdressing track as she had always been interested in becoming a hairstylist. Even though she didn´t understand Macedonian and lacked confidence, she committed to follow through and attend all classes. She managed the business track which was in Macedonian with some help and translation support from Albanian staff.
From the start, Venera had potential. She was still shy and closed, but she pressed on to succeed in the vocational training track, graduating with a diploma from the prestigious hairstyling academy. She succeeded to be chosen as a paid intern with the training academy OPM were outsourcing to. By this stage, Venera was already feeding back into the practice or incubator phase of the STEP program. Venera was pregnant again with the baby who would become the second of her two daughters. Life was expanding on a number of fronts now and her confidence was boosted. Following her practice phase, she located a shop space and started her own hairdressing business. Not only Venera, but also our staff were so encouraged to see this success and new joy in her life.
We are still finding ourselves in the Covid-19 pandemic, yet, Venera now is receiving a high volume of customers. In her work space, many women are coming to have their hair cut, styled and colored. Venera is using all the skills - business, vocational and personal - she has learned from our course. She is even employing another woman who was a STEP participant and has taken on a student she is teaching. So, Venera has one employee and one student! Thanks to the STEP, Venera is shining as a great example of development work in the north side of the capital which is building hope and capacity. Venera came to us as a fearful and somewhat lost young lady who was expecting to be dependent on finances from her father or husband. Now she is owner of her own business, she is making a living, and her marriage problems are reduced. Our staff are very proud of Venera who represents not only a success story through the STEP project, but a source of inspiration and hope for others struggling in the tough northside of the capital.