The Remarkable Story of Ian Karten MBE
The Remarkable Story of Ian Karten MBE was published in 2010 to mark Ian’s 90th Birthday. Ian personally provided much of the information about his life in a series of interviews with Ceri Hibbert who was the Karten Network Manager back then. The booklet produced indeed tells a very remarkable story. Sadly Ian died in 2011 but we wanted to include this story as he told it. Since Ian’s death, his generosity has continued to impact on the lives of thousands of people. So much has changed in the 10 years since the story was written. The Ian Karten Charitable Trust has ensured that Ian’s legacy lives on and we hope to showcase some of the organisations and initiatives that have been supported by the Trust over recent years bringing us into 2020, Ian’s Centenary Year.
Since 1997 there has been a quiet revolution. Founded by the Ian Karten Charitable Trust, a network of over 100 IT centres has enriched the lives of many people with disabilities, and opened doors which had previously been firmly closed. These centres are in the UK and Israel. They provide Computer-aided Training, Education and Communication for people with a wide range of physical, learning and sensory disabilities. Known as CTEC Centres, they vary widely in size and in focus, but are all united in the Karten Network.
CTEC Centres are the brainchild of Ian Karten MBE, a visionary man who saw the difference technology can make to the lives of disabled people. His passionate support for the right of disabled people to have access to the world of work and to lead independent lives: to be active, engaged citizens, has enabled the Karten Network of CTEC Centres to come into existence. Thousands of people’s lives have been enriched by their attendance at a CTEC Centre.
So who is Ian Karten, and what has driven him to establish the Trust and Network?
Background to the Karten CTEC Centres
Ian will tell you that it all started with a smile….. The smile on the face of a young man who used chin switches and an on-screen keyboard to write his first letter on his own. Ian had been visiting the organisation this man attended, and realised how much it meant to him that he could now take control of his correspondence. Ian took that idea to the next level: with the right training and equipment, what else was possible? That look of achievement inspired Ian to enable thousands of other disabled people to have access to the assistive technology that was right for them, so that their independence could be improved. We owe that young man (who is not so young now!) a great debt of gratitude — I wonder if he ever knew what he started?
From that simple moment, 103 centres have been funded. The very first was at Ravenswood in Crowthorne in Berkshire in 1997, and the latest at Landmarks near Worksop. The Trust does not prescribe what equipment an organisation needs: it has to be right for their organisation and their clients. All that Ian insists is that the end product must be something that both he and the clients can feel proud of. Over the years Centres have been set up all across the UK and 1 in Eire, and also 10 in Israel. The centres in Israel were some of the earliest to be set up. Ian had been on holiday in Israel, and started having discussions with representatives of Yad Sara, one of the large organisations providing care for disabled people, and with government representatives. This culminated in 10 centres being set up over the years — all very different, in different parts of the country. These meet the needs of people with different disabilities (some centres specialise in the needs of specific groups), and serve people from the Jewish and Arab communities, providing support in their own language.
All of the Centres are unique: some focus on IT skills, others on business administration, printing, media, broadcast TV, radio stations, performance, call centres, assessment — the list isn’t endless but is very long. As someone who has the privilege to visit ali the centres, all I can say is that I leave each and every one humbled and inspired by the work that is being done. I frequently tell Ian that I have the best job in the world: i am the interface to the Trust for most people, so receive the appreciation that rightly belongs with Ian and the other Trustees, and I get to see hundreds of enthusiastic, talented people doing amazing work. What is there not to enjoy?
Growing up in Germany
Ian Karten was born in Vienna on December 14th 1920, the oldest of 3 children. When Ian was aged 3, the family moved to Duisburg in the Rhineland, about 10 miles north of Cologne, where Ian’s father set up a business. Lots of Jewish people had settled there, and for the next 10 years of his life, many things were perfectly normal. Certainly things were no worse for Jews in Germany than in most other parts of Europe.
It is important to understand something about the situation in Germany at that time. After the First World War, there was huge unemployment, economic crises throughout Europe and considerable political tensions. By the early 1930s, there were 5 million unemployed people in Germany and support was growing for the National Socialist German Workers Party, known as the Nazi party. The SDP were the main opposition. Political life in Germany at this time was intense and highly polarised. The old Kaiser was in exile in Holland. The Head of State was General Hindenburg but he was old by this time. In the 1932 election, the Nazis won a majority of votes, and in 1933 Hindenburg asked Hitler to form a government. Very early in 1933 they passed their very first law: to stop Jews going to University. Institutionalised anti-Semitism became official German policy. Ian remembers men marching in the streets carrying flaming torches and singing of a future when ‘Jewish blood drips off our knives’
Ian attended an elementary faith school in Moers, then at the age of 10 moved onto high school. Children who were academically able followed the Gymnasium education system, which included the study of Latin from Year 1, French from Year 3 and later English from Year 5 or 6, leading onto the equivalent of A-levels and preparation for University at the age of 18. Ian was the only Jewish student in his class, and life became increasingly difficult after the Nazis came to power when Ian was 13. Most of the teachers were rabidly anti-Semitic — or were forced to act as if they were, in order to protect their jobs. Eventually, Ian’s father took the decision to transfer Ian to a faith Gymnasium in Cologne, 20 miles from home.
Ian started at the new school when he was 16, in 1937. The Director of the school, Dr Erick Klibansky, had the foresight to transform the curriculum. He felt there was little point in following the standard syllabus, as Jews were prohibited from attending University in Germany. So he introduced the Cambridge School Certificate syllabus, which exempted students from UK University entrance exams. Ian was assigned to this class on joining the school. All instruction was in English and was very formal. So a young Cambridge graduate was employed to teach conversational English. He was very different from the very formal German teachers. Ian still remembers his first lessons from this relaxed — and clearly engaging – young man: they learnt the songs ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor?’ and ‘Oh my darling Clementine’! But following this syllabus meant that Ian had the qualifications to gain entrance to a UK University — as well as a grounding in conversational English.
But what became of the Director whose actions enabled a number of young men to progress to University? He, his wife and their children were rounded up and murdered.
Moving on – University
It was becoming clear that Jews should leave Germany while they could. Ian’s uncle (his father’s brother) left for America. His father was worried, but initially was reluctant to uproot the family again — and it was already difficult to get a visa. He also had faith in the basic humanity of the German people, and believed the fierce anti-Semitism was just a phase: ‘The Germans are a cultured people and this will pass’. Because of where they were born, they had a choice of Austrian or Polish nationality. Ian’s father opted for Polish citizenship: a fortunate choice for Ian, as it meant he was not interned in England during the war.
In the summer of 1938 Ian was successful in getting a student visa, and came to England to find a place to study. There was very little time before term started, but Ian was accepted to study Mechanical Engineering at a college in Battersea which was later to become the University of Surrey, but was then part of the University of London. Only skilled people could get visas: Ian’s parents weren’t able to get visas, and his sister could only come to England as a domestic servant, which she didn’t want to do. So at the age of 18 Ian came to England alone. The foresight of Dr Klibansky, and Ian’s commitment to learning meant that he was able to escape the Nazis to study and live in England. Communication with his family was strictly controlled. For 2 years Ian wrote to them every month. All that was allowed was a postcard, written in German on one side only, delivered by the Red Cross.
Ian started at University in the autumn of 1938 — the year before World War 2 started. In spite of strict foreign currency controls in Germany, Ian’s father was able to send a small sum each month. This enabled Ian to pay his fees and keep afloat. In the summer of 1939 Ian went to visit his family, but there was talk of war with Russia starting imminently, so Ian’s father urged him to return to England. Ian was on the last boaC across the channel before war broke out. Ian’s father gave him good quality binoculars end a camera to bring with him to sell to fund his 2 n year of studies.
However, in the 3rd year, Ian had no money for fees, and was worried that he would have to leave University. But the Trustees gave him a free place and a small scholarship, which enabled him to complete his course. Despite all the challenges Ian faced whilst at University, he completed his course with a First Class Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Ian was more conscious than ever of the importance of education, and the difference it could make to individuals. This led Ian in later years to establish his Charitable Trust, which has granted 3000 scholarships over the years.
On completing University, Ian joined the Air Force. Despite having Polish citizenship, Ian did not want to serve in a Polish Unit, and sought special permission to join a mainstream unit. Ian was posted to Bomber Command Headquarters, with a man he had graduated with, and was able to use his engineering knowledge as a technical adjutant to an Air Chief Marshall. They dealt with failure reports on engines and power plants. Ian travelled all over the country, working as assistant to the gentleman he joined with. Ian was mentioned in a Dispatch for Distinguished Service. As the end of the war approached, it became clear that the services needed to be prepared. The Air Force set up special units to wind up the war in the air with the Luftwaffe.
At the end of the war, Ian was assigned to one of these special units, an air disarmament unit which was set up to take over German airfields. They were to take charge of staff, but specifically, to find out if they held any atomic weapons. As a native German speaker, Ian was felt to be well suited to this role — but he was very concerned that he had hardly used any German at all for 7 years, and was less than fluent! Ian was sent to Denmark, which had just been liberated. There was a great shortage of interpreters, so Ian wasn’t assigned one, and managed on his own. He had to interview the Chief Technical Officer to find out what sensitive work had been undertaken on atomic weapons. Ian drove round the site with him, asking ‘Was ist das?’ whenever he saw unfamiliar equipment. Fortunately, ail the equipment was for excavating trenches, rather than something more threatening! Ian worked on this assignment for about a year, being demobilised in December 1946 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
Back in Germany, Ian’s family had been rounded up. They were told to pack a case each and go to the railway station. At the end of the journey the men and women were separated. Ian’s father was taken to Buchenwald, and the women were sent to a camp further east, but his brother was too young to be taken with them. The last message the family received from him indicated that he was soon to be rounded up. He wasn’t heard from again. Ian’s father had made his mother memorise the address of the brother in New York: he wanted them to have a way of getting in touch again when they were released. Ian’s father died in Buchenwald. His mother and sister survived the camp, but his sister died on the Long March from the camp following its evacuation: the German officers wanted to be captured by American forces, so marched everyone to the American zone, with little food and water for the evacuees. Ian’s mother and sister had both developed typhus, but his sister had been weakened by lack of food, and died in their mother’s arms.
When Helen, Ian’s mother, was free, she saw an American soldier, and asked him to deliver a message to her brother-in-law in New York. Amazingly, he did this. The brother-in-law had died, but his 2 children were by then adults. They were the only family members who knew that Ian’s mother had survived the war. The son was awaiting demobilisation from the American army. He got himself to Europe, commandeered a jeep, filled it with as much chocolate and as many cigarettes as he could, and went in search of Helen. They got a message to Ian, who at that time was in Denmark, We can only imagine the emotion at finding his mother was still alive. Ian took leave, and travelled to Germany to find her. He used his position as a British Officer to do what was necessary to locate_her. Helen was living in a small house in the grounds of their old home. The home itself had been lost when a law was passed forbidding Jews from owning property. Sadly, Ian missed his cousin by a couple of days. But the goods in the jeep had been put to good use as alternative currency to make Helen more comfortable. Ian’s mother returned to England with him, and she lived with him until her death.
After being demobbed, Ian started looking for work, and was fortunate to join Multitone Electronics Ltd as a junior executive. Multitone employed about 150 people, and manufactured hearing aids and electro-medical products. At that time the company was struggling, and was about to be handed over to the receivers. They introduced very careful control of expenditure, and many of the more experienced staff left in the first few weeks. Ian was the only graduate remaining, and was given an enormous amount of responsibility. In his initial responsibility for production, Ian transformed the company’s manufacturing from a pre-war craft basis to modern techniques. These included printed circuit boards and automatic placement of components by ‘pick and place’ machines. Because of his language skills and overseas experience, Ian was soon looking for opportunities for the company abroad, which helped the company to thrive.
From no exports when he joined, it eventually exported 75% of its ouput, and won the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement. In 1955 the company developed and produced the first transistorised on-site radio-paging system. This was so successful that the development of ever more sophisticated systems for sale worldwide became the company’s sole business. Ian thrived too, rising from junior manufacturing engineer to manufacturing manager, to head of export, to joint managing director and finally to Managing Director and Chairman and CEO in 1978.
Once on the Board, Ian had the opportunity to buy shares at the market price, so sold his house to buy as many as possible. Over time Ian bought small packets of shares as others wanted to sell them, and eventually owned 49% of the company. Ian had worked at Multitone for 46 years when the company was finally sold in 1993.
Ian and Mildred
Ian had devoted much of his time to looking after his mother and building his business, but in the early 1960s he attended a meeting organised by the Anglo Jewish Association, who brought speakers in on a variety of subjects. It was here that Ian met Mildred Hart. They married in 1968. They lived in London when they were first married, and later moved to Ripley in Surrey.
The Ian Karten Charitable Trust
Ian is very aware of the key role education has played in his life. It enabled him to escape the Nazis, he was fortunate in obtaining a scholarship to complete his degree, which in turn enabled him to build a successful business life. He feels passionately that he had educational opportunities which are denied to others, and wants to help others to benefit from education too. This led to Ian establishing the Ian Karten charitable Trust in 1980. It is a grant making trust, and at first focused on scholarships. Over the years it has awarded over 3000 different scholarships to students of many different disciplines from medicine to music a major achievement in 30 years.
Ian has been ably supported over the years by a group of fellow Trustees: his wife Mildred Karten, Tim Simon and Angela Hobbs.
Ian’s contributions have been recognised officially a number of times. The most significant was in 1999 when he was awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for ‘services to charity’ following a ten year programme for more than 2,000 scholarships. Ian was presented this by the Queen. Also, in 1989 Ian was elected to become a member of the Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, London. Established in 1824, prominent members have included Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling to name but a few. It is extremely difficult for a person to be elected a member of this exclusive club.
In 1998 Ian received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Southampton in recognition of all the support he had given the University. And in May 2000 Ian received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Haifa.
University of Southampton
Tony Kushner, Marcus Sieff Professor in History, and Director of the Parkes Institute, has great respect for all that Ian has done.
Here he tells of the relationship between Ian and the University of Southampton:
The relationship between Ian Karten and the life work of James Parkes goes back a long way. Indeed, it origins were when Ian first came to England as a refugee from Nazi Germany where he resumed his studies. James Parkes was perhaps the first person in this country to realise, as early as the mid-1920s, the threat that Nazism posed to the Jews and to the world as a whole. Thereafter he fought against all forms of hostility against the Jewish people and did his utmost to combat prejudice. He was a practical man of action as well as an intellectual and throughout the 1930s he helped many Jews escape from Greater Germany. Many refugees stayed with James Parkes in his home in Cambridgeshire and it was here that Ian met James Parkes when he was invited for afternoon tea and dinner. The privilege of meeting James Parkes stayed with Ian for the rest of his life and on many occasions he remembered with a mixture of awe, humour and affection that summer’s day — an introduction to the very best of English eccentricity and non-conformity. Here he also saw James Parkes’ library — one that had literally taken over Parkes’ house and would be the basis of the Parkes Institute in the future. Who would have thought in 1939 that it would be this young refugee who would do more than any single individual to help realise James Parkes’ vision of creating a centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations that would become world famous?
Once Ian had retired and had set up his charitable trust in the 1990s it was not long before the link between the Parkes Institute was made. Whilst James Parkes had died in 1981, the University of Southampton had taken most seriously its obligation when it had agreed to take his Library in 1964. This was to be a growing resource and a live institute dedicated to teaching, outreach and research. Parkes did not want research that spoke only to itself — he wanted to make a difference to the world outside. In 1986, I had the privilege and good fortune to be appointed as the Parkes Fellow at the University. In the early 1990s, the Parkes institute was proving itself successful and we wanted to expand its activities. As I had been promoted to a permanent lectureship, our hope was to renew the Parkes Fellowship and this was where Ian first came in. Through Ian’s first astonishing act of generosity, and matching funding from the University, we managed to create in 1995 not one but two temporary Karten fellowships, one of which was awarded to Sarah Pearce, now the first Ian Karten Professor at Southampton.
Alongside this generous endowment, from the late 1990s Ian Karten also supported MA studentships for our flagship programme in Jewish History and Culture. Now a whole generation of students have benefited from that support, and many have gone onto successful careers inside and outside academia. I am in touch with many of them still and they are inspired by the example of generosity that Ian had provided. It was not simply the financial support — it was also the vision that Ian had of encouraging those in the way he was helped in Britain when he first arrived.
The relationship between Ian Karten and the University of Southampton has been built on mutual respect and close cooperation. It is exemplified by the matching funding that enabled Ian’s second endowment in the late 1990s – this time for the Karten Lectureship — which again created two positions both of which flourish today.
More recently we have combined together to create the Karten Outreach and Teaching Fellow, a post occupied by Dr Helen Spurling. The work Helen is doing is simply remarkable and I know it would have inspired James Parkes and I hope it has given Ian the pleasure it deserves. The idea of this post was very much Ian Karten’s and it shows again how our vision and his have gone hand in hand.
Ian Karten donated in excess of £l million to the Parkes Institute. It is by far the most generous contribution made by any benefactor to the University of Southampton. We now have a world class and unique Institute that is the envy of many with a superb library and archive, eleven academics and a rich programme of teaching, outreach, research and publications. Without Ian’s support none of this would have been possible.
But as someone who has witnessed all this expansion of the Parkes Institute, I think my greatest pleasure has been to witness how much it has meant to Ian Karten himself. When Ian was given an honorary doctorate by the University in 1998 it was the most joyous and moving moment of my career. It was truly wonderful to see Ian, with Mildred and his closest friends at his side, getting the recognition he so richly deserved. Ian has told me he has always felt at home at the University of Southampton. To me, a Mancunian exile, he has made Southampton seem like home. Ian’s friendship and moral support has been as encouraging as the magnificence of his financial generosity, Ian Karten and the Parkes Institute were meant for each other and we thank the role of serendipity in bringing him into a chance encounter with that great man in that ominous summer of 1939.
Centre for Jewish Christian Relations
In 1996, Ian attended a lecture at Southampton University, delivered by Dr Ed Kessler.
Following the lecture they had a discussion, which was to have long-reaching effects.
This is how Dr Kessler recalls it: “I first met Ian in 1996, when he attended a lecture I delivered at Southampton University. At the time, I told him about a vision to establish a Centre for the Study of Jewish Christian Relations and to harness the best of scholarship for the service of inter-faith understanding. He offered his personal encouragement and the support of the Ian Karten Charitable Trust. He told me that he had lost his father, brother and sister in the Holocaust; that he was keenly aware of the need for interfaith understanding and tolerance and was very conscious of the overwhelming importance of education. For that reason Ian supported the Centre from its conception, through to the present day.
Two years later, Centre for the Study of Jewish Christian Relations was founded and has since then broken ground in Jewish-Christian relations. From field-defining publications, to historic meetings of major religious leaders and from cycle rides across deserts to the first University of Cambridge Masters degree in the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations.
In 2006 we established the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations and also expanded our Publication Education Programmes. Without the personal kindness of Ian and the support of the Ian Karten Charitable Trust none of this would have been possible. The Trust continues to support our scholarships 12 years later and I will never forget how Ian helped me turn an idea into reality.
Ian always says it was a smile that inspired him to set up Karten CTEC Centres. Many people become interested in disability issues because of personal circumstances: they have a family member or friend who is disabled. But for Ian it was when a friend invited him to join him on a visit to a Kent charity. And there Ian met a young man who was quadriplegic, operating an on-screen keyboard with chin switches and who became the inspiration for the network of Karten CTEC Centres. Ian saw that, despite the painstaking effort involved in writing the letter, the sense of achievement was palpable.
Ian was amazed at the difference that technology could make to the lives of disabled people. Since 1997, the Trust has funded 103 centres for disabled people. The support is very focussed: the Trust works with an existing organisation and funds the capital costs of hardware, software, assistive technology, networking and furniture. Ian’s aim has always been to have a good geographic spread across the UK and Israel. The initial target was to have 50 centres in the UK and 5 in Israel, with a total of 1000 PCs, being used to provide training for thousands of people with disabilities, enabling them to access vocational training and improve their quality of life.
Ian knew he wanted to work with existing groups and charities already working with disabled people, but needed partners who shared his passion for the use of assistive technology to improve people’s quality of life and independence. He knew that disabled people deserved access to high quality facilities which gave them appropriate training, and so the search for partners began. Ian knew that we need to provide for people with a range of disabilities from mental health to physical disabilities to learning disabilities. His vision was to establish a family of CTEC Centres which would let people with disabilities study at specialised training units. The centres would provide:
- Intensive specialist support
- The skills and the confidence to go onto inclusive environments such as colleges and universities
- Realistic work experience
- Access to qualifications
- A simulated office environment where they can practise skills
- A supported environment where they could do real work for external clients
- Computer training
- Training in business skills
At first things were a little dispiriting. Ian discovered that what charities wanted at the time was different from what the Ian Karten Charitable Trust was offering. Charities were becoming conscious that there were many downsides to institutions: people become institutionalised in every sense and were at risk of becoming inflexible, stuck in a rut and with little need to communicate beyond the basics.
Charities were looking to rebuild on a more human scale with smaller houses and more sense of community. They were hoping for money for building accommodation, but that was not what the Trust was providing. Similarly, some centres just wanted money for equipment, but were using volunteers with no computer expertise themselves. Ian knew that high quality training was essential: staff needed not only to be good with learners, but also have computer and assistive technology knowledge and the ability to impart it to others. Quite a combination! In these early days Mike Smith, then CEO of Enham, provided much needed support and encouragement to Ian, for which he remains grateful.
Once the Trust identified a suitable centre, it provided generous funding for all the equipment, software, assistive technology and furniture for the Centre, in return for an undertaking by the organisation to establish and operate the Centre on a basis acceptable to the Trust. This included using trained staff, and being part of the Karten Network to share ideas and good practice. There is now enormous diversity within the network. The first centre was set up in Crowthorne, Berkshire in 1997, and comprised 15 workstations and assistive technology. Since then there have been media centres, print centres, a mobile assessment unit, a broadcast TV centre and a multi-sensory environment. Organisations do still need and ask for a bank of accessible PCs, but often want to use technology in more innovative ways. So there is no such thing as a typical centre. But they are all united by a belief in the enabling impact of technology — and by a sense of gratitude to and affection for Ian.
The Karten Network
The Karten Network is a separate charity from the Trust, but works very closely with it. The Network comprises the family of CTEC Centres. There is an annual conference, and termly newsletters. It is seen as the vehicle by which good practice can be best shared. A Network Development Manager is employed part-time, and the aim is to visit all UK centres annually. The Network is chaired by Dr Graham Jowett, and has a Board which meets four times a year. We will always welcome new Board members from the Network either staff in the centres or host organisations, or a centre client. A recent development has been to employ an intern to maintain and develop the website www.karten-network.org.uk, with the aim of giving someone who has attended a Karten Centre the opportunity to gain real experience of work and a meaningful addition to their cv. David McGrath, the first intern, has made a wonderful contribution, and is hoping to continue studying web design with the intention of working on a self-employed basis.
We try to keep up to date with technology developments: the website has a blog, and the network will be making an appearance on Facebook shortly.
Ian’s altruism has impacted on the lives of thousands of people. Here are a few:
In 1991 a young man approached Ian for a scholarship grant in order to enable him to study medicine at the University of Dundee. He was extremely grateful to Ian and the Trust and has kept in touch with Ian ever since. He is now a senior consultant surgeon at Guy’s Hospital specializing in breast cancer and has five private practices in other London clinics.
Sue worked as a wages clerk for 10 years within a local company until it was forced to close, leaving both her and her husband unemployed. Partially sighted from birth, Sue was left wondering how she would get back into work without support and further qualifications. The impact of this left Sue devastated until her Disability Employment Adviser referred her for a visit to Portland College.
Six months after being initially made unemployed, Sue started her IT course in the College’s Karten CTEC Centre, with the aim of improving her skills in Microsoft packages and SAGE specifically.
Sue’s time at Portland has resulted in her achieving qualifications including Levels 1, 2 and 3 in Accounts, together with Microsoft Masters; a total of 6 exams. Sue has also learned how to complete online applications and search for opportunities online, which greatly increased her chances of gaining employment. Six months into her time here, Sue applied for and was offered a position as Finance Assistant at Leicestershire Police, who ca%ed her application ‘first class’.
Further to the qualifications offered through Portland, Sue was supported in a variety of different ways to help with her disability. The team at College provided a larger VDU and AccessApps to magnify items and text on-screen, and the College has given Sue a copy of these applications to take to her new job. Her tutor also went “above and beyond” by supporting Sue once she had left College by keeping in touch and providing both advice and information. Sue was also made aware by Portland staff that through the DWP she could have access to financial support for travel, which is vital to Sue as her disability makes mobility difficult.
Sue says, “l have been encouraged and supported by the College throughout my course to do things I didn’t think were possible. Losing my job turned out to be a blessing in disguise as coming to Portland has made me more confident and given me a range of new skills. I have even enrolled at night school to further my education!”
‘l started at St James House, Karten Centre as a student in March 2004. At the time, I was low in confidence and had no structure to my day. I also found it difficult to talk to people and participate in other projects that were going on at the time because of my short attention span. My aim however was to increase my confidence and develop work-based skills.
I was inspired by my tutor, Ryan Tebbit, at St James House, The way he taught me about IT was a revelation, and it was Ryan who encouraged me to take up the role of teaching in the mental health sector.
As time went on, I found that my confidence grew and I was able to help other people who were on the same IT project. Not only did I find satisfaction in learning the syllabus, but also in interacting with others and sharing my knowledge and skills.
Later on when I had finished the IT project, I was asked if I wanted to join the IT team as a Permitted Work Placement. I saw this as a great opportunity to pass on what I had learnt to other students, and to constructively utilise my new skills and confidence.
While undertaking the Permitted Work Placement at St. James’s House, I also studied for the ECDL qualification and the City and Guilds in delivering learning. These 2 courses were vital for me to progress into teaching but it was St James House which gave me the real inspiration I needed to become an IT trainer.
During my time as a Permitted Work Placement, I had the opportunity to take part in some exciting projects. One of these was the “Internet Roadshow” — an innovative project in which we would take laptops to a day centre and support service users to access the World Wide Web. We also established a project called Club Internet where we supported service users to utilise the internet for fun and everyday means, such as setting up an email account, booking a holiday, downloading music etc.
Three years on, I am now delighted to say that I have been employed as an Assistant It Trainer at St. James’s House. Thanks to the support of the staff team, the resources donated by The tan Karten Charitable Trust and being in the right place at the right time, I have been able to make my dreams come true. In the space of three years I have come full circle from Trainee to Trainer, doing what I love the most utilising and teaching IT!’
These three examples could be repeated many times. Many people’s lives have been changed by Ian Karten MBE and the Ian Karten Charitable Trust. On their behalf, thank you Ian.