United Living GEM’s head to Belfast for the latest GEM Shack
National contractor United Living are proud supporters of the GEM Graduate Programme, a 12-month training scheme that provides those on it a chance to build a career in housing by direct exposure to the industry.
The company currently has its third intake of graduates as part of this programme; Xavier Saha-Cook, Jack Whetton and Donjeta Sejdiu, who are each taking on a varied role within United Living.
Recently the group attended a GEM Shack in Belfast, one of many sessions held nationwide that are dedicated to providing an insight into the world of housing and the challenges it faces.
Xavier Saha-Cook said: “The latest GEM Shack was themed on ‘Equality and Community Cohesion’ which was of particular interest to myself as I sit on the O4A steering group at United Living. I had never been to Northern Ireland before, so it was fantastic to experience yet again different parts of the UK.
“I was able to witness first-hand the challenges to achieving equality, evidenced by the various peace lines and murals reminding visitors and residents of ‘The Troubles’ and the conflict experienced not so long ago in Northern Ireland. We learned about how the NI Housing Executive overcame barriers to inclusion through innovation. I’m hoping to use what I learned in those two days and apply it in my latest assignment and my work here.”
Donjeta Sejdiu said: “The GEM Shack in Belfast was an interesting experience, being put into the heart of the issues we face in housing and learning first hand from the community and leaders is something unique about the GEM programme. Learning about the work the community advisor does with murals around Belfast was incredible and the great amount of commitment required to change these to instead show positive imagery. This demonstrates how sensitive the housing sector is and the dedication that goes into the industry prior to building was inspiring to see.”
Jack Whetton said: “Due to ‘The Troubles’ across Northern Ireland, past and present, Belfast was a suitable location to make the talks of the GEM Shack more tangible. I had previously learnt about the ‘The Troubles’ during my GCSE’s; however, I had never visited to see the context of the Roads and Peace Walls that divide the communities. It was a great opportunity to put some context to previous studies and also expand my knowledge of how housing can impact the equality and diversity of our neighbourhoods.
“A lot of emphasis is often put on building ‘new’ communities, whereas in Belfast, there are a number of building and social projects focussed on improving existing communities to improve them as attractive places to live.”