Big-hearted students put on a music concert to raise funds and donated presents to bring some festive cheer to disadvantaged children this Christmas.

Students at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) organised the show to support The TOY Project and encouraged staff and students to donate toys.

The TOY Project recycles unwanted toys for children in the UK, India, Africa and the Caribbean, and also runs Lego, art and storytelling workshops.

The Islington-based charity was co-founded by Angela Malloch, the wife of former Neighbours star and 1980s pop icon Jason Donovan who is the charity’s patron.

Most of the songs were performed by students completing Music Performance and Production Diplomas at Level 1 and Level 2 at the college’s Tottenham Centre.

Silvia Bortolotti, 25, opened the concert with a cover of Amy Winehouse’s hit Valerie.

Lheyla Esono Engo, 18, and Emil Vasilev, 20, sang a duet of James Smith’s Tell Me That You Love Me, and Sarah Delobette, 19, performed Jess Glynne’s cover of seasonal soul classic This Christmas.

There was also a DJ set by Ramon Pazos, 47, a poem read by Hairdressing student Blessing Anyaegbunam, 28, and a performance by guest singer Maalik Robinson.

There were also performances by Isabel Palma Gomes, 17, and Cathleen Farrell, 38, which included the Christmas carol O Holy Night.

Cathleen said: “Children all around the world are directly affected by social and economic issues and circumstances that bring about poverty. Sadly, many experience a Christmas each year without the gifts and toys that bring us all joy in the festive season.

“We hope that by putting on this concert and making donations to The TOY Project many of them will have a happier Christmas.”

The concert’s finale featured all the singers performing Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano’s 1970 festive hit Feliz Navidad.

The TOY Project helps children in schools, nurseries, hospitals and hospices, those in care or with complex needs, migrants and refugees as well as homeless and other underprivileged families.

Jane Garfield, who founded the charity with Angela in 2013, said: “Thank you to everyone who took part in this fabulous concert raising funds and donating toys to those most in need this Christmas.

“After such difficult times more families than ever are struggling to provide for their children, and being able to give toys to the children lifts the worry and stress over the festive period.

“We are so grateful to have been part of your celebration of music and wish everyone a very merry Christmas.”

Sharon Wallace, Curriculum Manager for Creative Media and Music, said: “It was wonderful seeing and hearing our talented students perform for such a good cause to make Christmas that extra bit special for so many children.”

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The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has been praised by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for its success at fast-tracking people into work.

The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP gave her support when she visited the college’s Tottenham Centre to mark the first anniversary of the Plan for Jobs, a multi-billion pound Government investment to help millions of people in Britain find new employment and gain new skills.

The Plan for Jobs included boosting the number of Sector-based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs), which help jobseekers claiming either Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

Last year nearly 65,000 people were supported to switch careers through a SWAP, with 80,000 places made available this financial year. Since September 2020 nearly 2,000 people have enrolled on a SWAP with CONEL, the majority looking for careers in construction, healthcare, warehousing, security, events and the civil service. SWAPs last up to six weeks and comprise employability and work skills training at a college, followed by work experience with an employer and a guaranteed job interview.

A sample survey of those who completed their SWAP at CONEL found 95 per cent had been for at least one job interview, 80 per cent were now employed and three quarters had found a job within three months of completing their programme.

During her visit, the minister met students currently undertaking a SWAP with Graham Construction, which also included an introduction to brickwork, CSCS card and health and safety training and a paid work placement. A CSCS card proves that the holder has the appropriate training and qualifications for the job they do on a construction site.

She said: “I am really impressed with the relationship CONEL has with its students, employers and the Department for Work and Pensions in delivering SWAPs. To hear that 80 per cent of people on these programmes get a job is amazing and really good news for this part of London. The college is clearly very well set up and committed to helping people of all ages get new skills to fast-track them into employment. The kit is here, the enthusiasm is here and people are learning very quickly and getting into work, so all credit to CONEL.”

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the unemployment rate in London was at 6.5 per cent – the highest in the UK – in the three months to April. Around 485,000 people are currently claiming unemployment benefits in London with Haringey recording one of the highest claimant rates in the capital at 11.4 per cent.

Adelina Lourenco secured a job as a Document Control Manager with global civil engineering company Sixense in March, a few weeks after completing a SWAP.

She said: “I was working for Skanska and my contract came to an end as the first COVID lockdown started. I found it hard to get a job and it was a worrying time. The pandemic meant the future was very uncertain and I didn’t know if the situation was ever going to change. I started at the college in November. It helped me improve my CV and build up my confidence. I was able to speak to people while on placement and get their tips and advice, which I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to have done.

“When I got a job, it was such a relief. I was happy to be back working in the construction industry because it’s what I know and love. I’m so pleased to be getting my career back on track.”

Glopet Iziduh gained a job as a Project Planner with engineering company Dornan two months after enrolling on a SWAP in November.

She said: “I’ve always had a desire to work within construction or engineering, so I embarked on a career change by completing an MSc in Project and infrastructure Management, but then COVID happened. People were losing jobs and I did not have much experience in the construction industry.

“I did a short course to get my CSCS card and with the help of the college and Women into Construction I gained a placement with Multiplex who referred me to Dornan. After a series of interviews, I was offered a role with Dornan, which has been fantastic.”

CONEL works with 20 job centres across nine London boroughs to run SWAPs at sites in Tottenham, Enfield, Islington, Canning Town and Barking. Students are referred by Jobcentre Plus and continue to receive their benefits during their training. They can also receive help to cover travel costs to get to college and placements and childcare.

Shiv Emmimath, Head of Employability and Trade Union Education, said: “At CONEL we’re committed to supporting people in our community to get the skills and support they need to get into work. SWAPs are a fantastic way to help improve people’s job prospects and for employers to find new workers with each programme aligned to actual job vacancies.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been helping people from a wide variety of backgrounds who have been looking for a career change or have lost their jobs due to COVID, many of whom have now gone on to gain full employment. Through the SWAPs, we are boosting people’s employability skills, introducing them to employers in their chosen sector and giving them the motivation to succeed in getting a job.”

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